When you live in a fast-moving, culturally rich environment like Chicago, you can easily be overwhelmed by the sheer number of things to do. On any given night, there are concerts, business networking clubs, exhibit openings, and many other cultural events. During the summer, the opportunities double as Chicagoans spill outside to enjoy movies in the park, club sports, Lollapalooza. It’s enough to keep you busy for a lifetime.
Moving here a few years ago from a much smaller city, FOMO (the “fear of missing out”) became an instant reality. I began struggling to stay culturally relevant, picking and choosing what I would participate in based on importance, timing, and budget. Then I got on Twitter.
Social media’s influence upon my FOMO was immediately noticeable. As I got to know more people through Twitter, I was exposed to a world of opportunities and experiences that I didn’t even know existed. Suddenly I found myself watching the activities of my newfound digital friends from afar, envious of check-ins on Foursquare at exotic new locations with interesting people. I was always one step behind the “cool kids,” and I made every effort to be there with them enjoying the fun.
And then Miles was born. And everything changed.
Having a son turned FOMO on its head. I remember the first time I left the hospital, I was struck by how the rest of the world had simply gone on while we reveled in the wonder of this human life we had created together. Suddenly what I was afraid of missing was his first steps, or hearing him laugh. All that mattered was that I was there with my family.
Anil Dash recently called this feeling JOMO, or the “joy of missing out.” He too was struck by how much joy he found in being with his newborn son. “I’d been mostly offline for more than a month, and during that time had barely checked in on anything online, and seldom even left the house. It was wonderful,” he wrote.
But in this piece he took JOMO a step further. Dash asserted that we are the ones in control over our own fears of being left out; that our levels of sociability are completely up to us, and shouldn’t be left to the whims of interruptive technology. “Being the one in control of what moves me, what I feel obligated by, and what attachments I have to fleeting experiences is not an authority that I’m willing to concede,” he said.
It took the birth of my son to rein in my FOMO. But if Dash is to be believed, it shouldn’t take a life-altering event to regain control. We all have the power to not only say “no,” but to rejoice in missing out.
Caleb Gardner is an amateur father and husband who writes at The Exceptional Man and dabbles in photography, design, and music. When listening to the cacophony of modern-day America, Caleb prefers a side of Scotch. He calls Chicago home, and in winter, less-nice things.