I suffer from chronic F.O.M.O. To those of you who haven’t peeked your heads out of Uris since 2006, Fear Of Missing Out describes that time you get dragged out of your bed on a Saturday night, simply because you’re anxious about what you might miss if you stay in. I realized I had a problem when last weekend, in light of an upcoming thesis deadline, I decided to spend the evening in the library instead of spending a typical Friday night out in Collegetown. As I sat, lonely, in the basement of Olin, trying to be the responsible student I know I can be (even as a lazy senior), I was incapacitated because, without trying, I was getting minute by minute updates of what my friends — the ones who had made it to Pixel — were doing. Between group texts, “Where did you go?”, instagrammed mobile uploads of CTP’s grand opening and tweets “@HDeixx, come out #loser” my most sincere attempts to do work on a Friday night were smothered by yes, F.O.M.O. I watched enviously from the library — via social media — as my friends had fun. Because I knew the intimate details of what I wasn’t doing (i.e. the mupload of the ziti slice), I was entirely aware of all that I was missing.
Now, I am no shrink, but I have a feeling that F.O.M.O. is a silent villain, infecting more of us than we’d like to admit. In fact, I would bet that F.O.M.O. is and will be the ailment of our generation, as we are thrill-seekers who need immediate gratification in all that we do.
With our addiction to Facebook, texting and FourSquare (according to The New York Times this means of communication is considered cool. If you have FourSquare and “check in” to Level B, you should be ashamed — that is neither cool nor necessary), we always know what our friends (or should I say “friends,” if you’re like me and only communicate regularly with 2 percent of your Facebook friends) are doing. When we always know what someone else is up to, we run the risk of wishing we were doing something different — something better. And, I argue, this obsession that we all — yes, all — have with technology and the interconnectedness we have grown dependent upon perpetuates F.O.M.O. We are all connected in such a way that we ironically end up feeling left out.
So, another reason technology is the worst, right? Studies have shown that we have shorter attention spans, we waste more time than previous generations and we are challenged when forced to interact face-to-face. The idea that the Millenials (a.k.a. us) are infatuated with all things social media is not new; we’re tired of hearing about it.
Josh Nesbit and Nadim Mahmud, two incredibly inspiring millenials, spoke to Kennedy auditorium on Monday evening as part of the Iscol Family Program for Leadership Development in Public Service. These two started Medic Mobile, a nonprofit that makes health care information accessible through SMS messages and reminded me why our obsession with technology may just be OK. In a recent poll done by the Pew Research Center, when Millenials were asked about priorities in life, 21 percent answered “helping others in need,” trumping “having a high-paying career” and “becoming famous.” Our interconnectedness and inability to unplug is, no doubt, problematic. However, it has also given us a critically important sense of the world in which we live. We are, as a result of Twitter, Facebook, online news sources (but probably not FourSquare), more aware, not only of all that we’re missing out on in Collegetown, but also of all that needs our attention across the world.
We now live in a world in which, it may be true, “text messaging, Facebook and Foursquare make it possible to see if a bar is worth the trip.” And if it is worth the trip, those same means of communication are capable of making us feel like we’re missing out. However, we also live in a world where information is spread virally such that we are more informed than ever. We know what’s happening in the Middle East, and we know who thinks what about it. And, at least according to Pew polls, this information has instilled a sense of responsibility. We are a generation of global citizens, using technology not only to waste our time and make our decisions, but also to inform our goals, our impact and the world we live in. While on Friday night I certainly felt as though I had missed out on the party, I rest assured knowing that I won’t have F.O.M.O. when it matters. As Millenials, we have the opportunity, no, the responsibility, given our unprecedented interconnectedness to ensure that we don’t miss out on what is most important — not the nights out in Collegetown, but the days spent improving our communities. With that said, it is instrumental to the development, not only of our nation, but also of the global community, that we, as instant gratification-seeking college students who aim to do good continue to stay plugged in — even if it means feeling left out — in order to engage, actively, in the larger world around us.
Hannah Deixler is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Shades of Grey appears alternate Thursdays this semester.