Is FOMO killing us?
I exist within a demographic that would suggest the greatest threat to my life today is the crippling burden of my own unbearable thoughts. I have no fear of hunger, nor war, yet the inescapable emptiness of existence proves so terrifying in its persistence that for any Australian under 45 it is the single greatest threat to their life.
How did we get like this? We spent generations building a world in which our bodies can now enjoy luxuries once only reserved for kings, we feast on fruit from every corner of the earth, we ride the wave of technological advancement that ensures our comfort has never been felt before in the history of mankind… yet we find it insufferable.
“God is dead” as Nietzsche so poetically proclaimed, and only those capable of their own delusion may revive him back to life to bask in the certainty of his affirmations. But for the rest of us, we remain clutching for meaning in slogans, catch phrases, advertisements, and the inspiration of social media. But within these churches of neon lights we find only temporary atonement inevitably, and unavoidably, followed by the unimaginable Fear Of Missing Out… FOMO.
FOMO is not the shallow concern of being excluded from a social event, it is the genuine terror that we have failed to adequately make use of the solitary and finite life we have been granted.
We are the only animal that is aware of our own mortality, and this is a burden that has shaped our understanding of time to differ from all other creatures; we are surely the only animal that is scared of time itself.
Exacerbating this terror is our awareness of the laws of nature that demand our bodies begin their decay decades before our death. Our prime is within the first few years of our life and we are obliged to spend the rest of our days considering how we would have changed that which is now unchangeable.
But we were once happy enough to survive, content just to enjoy our evolutionary pleasures. At some point we were convinced, it was never enough.
Social Media has showed us potential that is unattainable. A facade of perpetual happiness and excitement that bombards us with an artificial reality. The cruel unintentional default that we only seek to share our laughter because no one would care to see our tears creates the belief in the observer that he is the only one who cries, in a world where everyone is laughing.
Everyone films their adventures in a hope to convince themselves, amongst others, that they have seized the day and lived up to the mantras that make successful people, that make truly happy people.
We all play our part in the symphony, making noise so that someone might reassure us that we’re doing everything right. Then suddenly someone beside us who was playing the same tune, has fallen silent, never to be heard of again.
But happiness is not defeating time, but learning to be grateful for the privilege of watching it pass. Social Media has brought us together and allowed us to communicate as a people like never before in our history. But the manner in which it manifests means we are consuming a fraudulent understanding of the world we live in and our place within it.
Every Social Media application should open with a warning “what you are about to see is not the world you live in”. You are not lazy because you didn’t climb a mountain today, you are not alone because you aren’t with a group of friends, you are not unlovable because you are not currently in love. If Social Media allowed a transparent window into every moment of every other person’s life, our minds would be rested that we are all doing pretty much the same thing.
We cannot escape Social Media, it is too entrenched within our culture. But we must learn to understand it and view it within the caveat that it is not the life we are missing out on, it is not real life at all.
FOMO is killing us, we are so afraid of missing out on life that we are missing the pleasure of our lives. There is no natural law that your life must have meaning, so stop wasting your life looking for that meaning.
Perhaps I am telling you things you already know, maybe I’m stating the obvious; but we are killing ourselves and it has to stop. If just one person reads this and realises they are not alone in their boredom, their feelings of stagnation, monotony and fear that they failed, then for all we know, it may have saved a life.
So finally I’ll leave you with the words of biologist Richard Dawkins that I cling to whenever I feel my fear of time surfacing: "The chances of each of us coming into existence are infinitesimally small, and even though we shall all die some day, we should count ourselves fantastically lucky to get our decades in the sun."