It's Okay to Be Boring! How FOMO Is Ruining Your Life
There's this really annoying question people like to ask around the office water cooler on a Monday morning: "So did you do anything fun this weekend?"
Call me defensive, but I used to take this as a personal challenge, like they were saying, "I think you're boring. Surprise me."
So at my last job, I spent my weekends collecting exciting stories to tell my coworkers the following week. This was a pointless pursuit—these people were impossible to please! One time I took a solo road trip to Napa, even though I don’t like wine, and an unimpressed coworker remarked, "Who goes to Napa alone?"
It was exhausting.
FOMO: The Fear of Missing Out *Cue Eyeball Roll*
Looking back, it’s clear my actions were partially triggered by a fear of missing out, or perhaps it could be rephrased as a fear of being boring. FOMO is a silly word with a pervasive presence. It made headlines in 2016 when it was added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. The Oxford Dictionaries added the word in 2013 and defines FOMO as:
“Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media.”
Regardless of how we feel about the term, we’ve all experienced its effects. You’re scrolling through your Facebook feed and see photos of your friend smiling atop the Eiffel Tower, and suddenly your own life seems dull and unadventurous. Or you’re thumbing through Instagram stories and stumble upon a video of your friends at the bar, and you wonder if you’re being a bore by staying in. The truth is FOMO has always been around. Now we just have a catchy word for it.
Is It More Important to Be Exciting, or Happy?
I don’t like alcohol. I’ve just never cared for it. And I can’t tell you how many people have shot me a derogatory, “Well, aren’t you exciting...” when I’ve ordered a non-alcoholic beverage while I’m out. Who said my goal was to be exciting? What if I wanted to be hydrated and sober instead? Is that a bad thing?
We’ve elevated being exciting above all else, but what about being happy and authentic? When did life become a competition to see who has the most outrageous stories to tell?
Back in 2014, I was planning a dream trip to Cusco, Peru. I had my heart set on that destination, and after my research, I had determined I would enjoy the culture and it would be a great place to study Spanish. “But you HAVE to go to Buenos Aires!” people urged me. They said I just couldn’t miss out on the chance to visit that city—and I believed them.
Despite the inconvenience, I added an extra leg to my trip, paid the $160 reciprocity fee Argentina required of Americans at the time, and landed in Buenos Aires in May 2014. And guess what? I didn’t like it much. I ended up returning to Cusco.
If we do things only because other people say we should, that doesn't sound like adventure—it sounds like servitude.
Fight the FOMO: How to Be at Peace With What You Have
It turns out FOMO may stem from our own dissatisfaction with our lives. A study published in 2013 found that people with lower levels of overall life satisfaction tend to have higher levels of fear of missing out, and those with FOMO tend to use social media more.
And does seeking solace in Facebook help? Probably not. In fact, a study conducted in Denmark found that taking a break from Facebook led to an increase in life satisfaction and positive emotions. I deactivated my personal Facebook account about a year ago, and I can attest to the increase in life satisfaction. I no longer have countless opportunities to compare my moments to the highlight reels of others. I am blissfully unaware of all the fun things my friends are doing on a Friday night. In short, I am learning to be more present in my own life, and to be happy with what it holds.
Let’s Live With Less Fear
The fear of missing out is ruining our lives because our lives are not meant to be lived in fear. If we’re so afraid that someone is having fun without us, if we’re so anxious about needing to check something off our bucket list, and if we’re so preoccupied with appearing exciting to others, we will never be able to enjoy what we have.
In summary, maybe two tools to combat FOMO are
- Stop obsessing over what others are doing.
- Know what brings you joy
My coworker may have found my wine-free solo trip to Napa lame, but I thoroughly enjoyed perusing the contemporary art galleries nestled within the vineyards. My friends may have been enamored with the modernity of Buenos Aires, but I fell in love with the quaintness of Cusco.
So this Saturday night you won't find me at a club partying till the wee hours with a cocktail in hand. You’re much more likely to find me at home, lounging in my sweatpants sipping chamomile tea. Sound boring? That's all right with me.