This week, as I was scrolling through Facebook, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. One friend from high school announced that she was following her passion and moving to India to teach yoga. Another quit her ho-hum job, packed up her life in a New York minute and moved to New England to open a bed & breakfast (where she plans to perfect the art of the gourmet morning meal for her guests and long, dreamy walks along the beach for herself). Three more friends sent their kids off to prestigious colleges, another gushed about seeing his fourth Broadway show in one month, and yet another posted photos from a swank, Venetian costume party – IN Venice. And while I poured over the photos of yet another friend’s fitness competition (Yep, she lost 40 pounds AND managed to become a hard body in the process) it occurred to me: I had developed a nagging case of FOMO.
If you have kids or a smartphone, you probably know what FOMO means. If you don’t, let me enlighten you. FOMO is Internet slang for the “fear of missing out.” It’s that nagging feeling that you’ve somehow missed the boat, that other people are living more interesting lives and are generally happier and more fulfilled than you. FOMO’s nothing new. After all, they didn’t coin the phrase, “keeping up with the Joneses” for nothing. But now, thanks to social media, FOMO is running rampant. We’re faced, daily, with a constant barrage of real-time posts, photos and tweets about what all of our friends are up to, and one glance at your Facebook wall can easily tell you that your life pales by comparison.
The question is, does it really?
When you stop to think about it, social media posts are just snapshots of people’s lives. They’re highlights, carefully phrased accounts of what people are willing or eager to share. In other words, while your old college roommate is guaranteed to share her excitement about the promotion she just nailed, it’s not likely she’ll post about her marital troubles or the fact that she feels like a failure as a parent. The truth is, we all face worries and the mundane existence of day-to-day life. Hell, we’ve all spent months wondering where each day went, entire weekends on the couch in our pajamas, and hours looking for lost car keys and cell phones. We’re just not going to tweet about it. Neither are your followers. It’s human to envy your friend who just met the man of her dreams, built a successful, rewarding business, and is now taking her fifth trip (with said hunk) around the world. It’s pretty likely, though, that there are also parts of her life that you wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. When you’re nursing a massive case of envy inspired FOMO just remember, the grass may be greener on the other side of the fence, but you would still have to mow it.