What does FOMO mean?
I'll give you a hint, it's something that a majority of people feel at some point in their lives -- if not every day. In fact, it's quite a basic, natural feeling for us.
It means "Fear Of Missing Out".
Since the beginning of time, people have had this same fear. It's not a new feeling. Although nowadays, we add a new twist to it: facebook, twitter, and blogging. Our main objective: accruing followers on twitter, gathering friends on facebook, collecting readers for our blogs, etc.
I read a recent review of the book "The Shallows" by Nicholas Carr. The reviewer, Fritz Nelson, explained that FOMO is also "mixed up with anxiety about social standing. We don't want to become invisible, Carr says, so we keep sending messages. It has become a way of life."
Somehow these social networks give us a sense of self-worth, because, if we have followers and facebook friends, then we have self-worth. But it doesn't end there. We must also be active on these social networks... lest people "forget" about us.
But why is our fear of missing out so wrapped up in facebook, twitter and blogging, when our relationships online are rather flat? Back in the day, before phones or internet, people had to actually meet up with their friends in person -- that, and writing snail mail, were the only ways to stay connected with one another.
Since when is sending a quick message to a friend on facebook the same as truly maintaining a relationship with someone? Fritz quotes playwright Richard Foreman: "We risk turning into 'pancake people' -- spread wide and thin." We have 800 friends on facebook, but how many of them do we actually keep in touch with? And even then, is a quick message on someone's facebook wall the same as grabbing coffee with a friend and spending hours encouraging one another?
The review was a bit startling to me, because I often fall into this, if I were to be completely honest. It's an easy fix to message someone: "Just wanted to check in and say hi! I've been thinking about you recently, and wanted to see how you were doing." You feel good about yourself for having reached out and initiated contact. And then, maybe, you'll get a message back with a brief synopsis of that friend's life.
Again, wide and thin.