Life Envy: The FOMO

 

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I want to be living that life. By myself, late at night, sitting in the dark of the back yard with my phone, the dog, and a drink, I actually heard myself say this out loud: I want to be living that life. It’s crazy, I know, but looking sometimes at pictures of people on Facebook doing things you would like to do, having experiences you would like to have, you get this feeling, an inescapable feeling that you are missing out. We call it FOMO. I must admit that I have experienced the FOMO. I try as best as I can to massage my FOMO into something like happiness for the person in the post: I am so glad they get to have this experience. Then, I take it a little bit further by thinking that I am so glad they decided to share this moment with their friends, of which I consider myself one. Then, the conclusion of the exercise is to think or actually say out loud how grateful I am for the experiences I have had, the luck, and the privilege. I know, in these moments, I have had experiences that some of my friends have never had, and I know that I am super fortunate because of that. In 95% of my waking existence on the planet I would not trade my life for anyone else’s. But on this last occasion, when I caught myself expressing the FOMO out loud to no one in particular, to the trees, to the dog in the yard, to the martini I was sipping, to myself, I panicked for a moment. What is it about this that I desire? The person in question may be beautiful. It may be that they seem extremely happy or content. In all likelihood, they are in a place I have always wanted to go, seeing something I have always wanted to see, learning something I have always wanted to learn, successful at something at which I too would like to succeed, or doing something I know I would enjoy but find I have not yet had the opportunity to enjoy. It is ridiculous and ridiculously human, a tendency we have always had, to be envious of others, but now exacerbated by social media because we are not only hearing ABOUT the experiences of others, we are seeing them in photo, or seeing and hearing them in video, ALL THE TIME. And that pushes the buttons of desire and envy. But . . .

It’s like meditation. You don’t beat yourself up when your mind wanders. Instead, you simply notice its wandering, you pay attention, and then you come back to the breath or the mantra and you continue. Maybe that’s why I said it out loud: I want to be living that life. I was paying attention. It was kind of an alarm set off by my internal brakes to the wheels of envy and desire. This is better than what I suspect a lot of people do: they see their friends and acquaintances living a great life and they begin to feel anxious and sad without being aware of the connection. And we have to remind ourselves, don’t we, that our facebook personalities are self-curated. Some people select only the happiest moments and ignore the trauma and sadness, others, in an effort to be authentic, balance the joy and the suffering, while still others use social media to essentially suffer in public. While the middle way seems most admirable, none of these strategies are inclusive of a life. They’re still just snapshots. Judging me from my facebook posts, it might seem like the only thing I ever do is play the drums and listen to music and that I am an extremely cheerful guy. Only partly true. There are things that make me fearful or anxious; there are issues that need attending in my own inner and outer work; I sometimes question, as William Stafford does, if “what I have done is my life.” It is pointless to haunt one’s self with What If questions. If one is haunted by a What If question, perhaps some action is necessary. But if one is suspicious, self-reflective enough to recognize the FOMO for what it is, sure, go ahead and say out loud, I want to be living that life. In the next moment, though, allow the gratitude to bubble up for this one–and then put your phone away, write a poem or read a book, or have a drink outside with your dog.

6 Comments

Filed under Culture, Self Reflection

6 responses to “Life Envy: The FOMO

  1. druekberg

    Well, we just finished watching _Moonlight_, and it made feel a lot less worried about FOMO for a couple of big reasons. Not that I’m immune, by any stretch. It’s why I like great literature and film. To wake me out of my FOMO delerium.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moonlight_(2016_film)

  2. The way your post began reminded me of this poem by Rumi:

    Late, by myself, in the boat of myself,
    no light and no land anywhere,
    cloudcover thick. I try to stay
    just above the surface, yet I’m already under
    and living within the ocean.

    And I got to thinking about how we’re all little fish in this immense ocean of consciousness and we’re all trying to create significance, specialness out of our individual lives, when the truth is, our little human lives are less then a blink of an eye or a flash of lightning when viewed from a cosmic perspective. I also think about how most of us are operating most of the time from unconscious programming and reacting to the stimuli of our days from our reptilian hind brains, how infrequently our choices are made consciously.

    And your comment about our “curated” Facebook personalities made me think about how little we really know one another, or even ourselves, when all is said and done. I couldn’t begin to tell you what my FaceBook feed would say about me, because I am so rarely on FB…I do hop onto Instagram sometimes, but it’s such a time suck that I only go on when I feel like I really want to post something.

    Thank you for the thought provoking post, for sharing your process and your practice. I appreciate you—and your life!

  3. Alison Moore

    Planning on drinking with my dog this very evening !

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