Fear of Missing Out

FOMO. It’s a terrible phrase, and an even more terrible contraction. It stands for “fear of missing out” and in the last year it seems to have wormed it’s way into the vernacular of practically everyone I interact with. Every Facebook picture, every tweet about a great night out is met with “FOMO”. It’s like YOLO’s equally mindless little brother.

And it is just plain wrong. That is definitely what winds me up the most about it. Because every time I hear someone say FOMO what they are actually meaning is “oh wow, that sounds great, shame I’m busy doing something else”. Or less frequently, “that sounds great, wish I’d been invited”. And that is where it gets annoying because that’s a sentiment I’d love to be able to get across in cute acronym form.

It’s difficult to approach the issue of being left out because the simple truth is, the likelihood of you accidentally having been left off an invite is much lower than the likelihood that you weren’t thought of, or worse, people actively don’t want you joining in. The conversation no-one wants to have is the one where you work out which of those categories you are in. In person it is awkward, but if you trust your friends enough then you should be able to just ask. But in the world of larger dissociated groups and social media, the closest we have is FOMO.

If it were up to me (and to my eternal sadness, it is not), I’d change the phrase. The “it’s great but I’m busy” team can just say that. The “wish I’d been invited” team can use SABLO – sadness at being left out. To be used sparingly, as a way of letting people know that you thought they’d have wanted to share your company and you are sad that they don’t seem to feel the same. That is the sentiment that is so hard to express because it feels very childish, and adulthood prevents us from being able to ask “why don’t you want to play with me?”

So that is settled then. FOMO doesn’t mean what it needs to. And no-one wanted it anyway. Let’s wipe it out.

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