The Only FOMO to Fear

Missing the boat, missing the bus, missing a spouse, missing a promotion, missing a stock tip, or missing a date with friends — we have all experienced missing out. And that's why the fear of missing out (FOMO) is a universal experience in the human condition.

And our phones don't make the situation any easier. Social media is a constant refresh of our comparisons with others, and a constant recharge of our fears of missing out.

I suspect many of my worst phone habits are borne from FOMOphobia. FOMO and social media go hand-in-hand, even down to the new Oxford English Dictionary entry ("FOMO — n. colloq. fear of missing out, anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website").

We want to know, we want to see, we want to Tweet. We don’t want to be left out of a "cool kid conversation." We want to be "in the know," we want to hear the beeps and pings, and we want to refresh our feeds to make sure we aren't missing anything.

The truth is that FOMO is neither unique nor modern. It predates the acronym coined in 2004, it predates wifi and our always-connected phones, and it precedes our fast-typing opposable thumbs. FOMO is an ancient phobia with a backstory that reaches back in the human experiences of yore.

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