Resiliency 4 Today: FOMO

I have FOMO. It’s terminal. I have always had FOMO and will until my last breath. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) has recently been in the news as a cause of teen usage of technology to the point of dysfunction. One study showed 13 year olds checking their social media up to 100 times a day while fearing the loss of their phones more than food or shelter. Of course it will soon become a new psycho-babble-catch-all term. Grrr. But haven’t kids always had FOMO? The desire to be fully part of whatever is going on that is alive and happening and interesting isn’t a dysfunction!!! But then again, I’ve always had FOMO; staying awake so I wouldn’t miss something, traveling, listening, reading, researching, trying new things, making huge errors, leaping off tall buildings and flying or falling on my face, putting my nose in the wrong place, speaking up at the wrong time out of an eagerness to connect or not miss something. It’s how I’ve survived, while scaring the hell out of more timid-normal-socially tidy-control freaks. I’m not an extrovert…I’m an introvert with curiosity. And I’m not afraid of falling on my face because I’ve done it so many times that I know I can get back up again. I’m resilient as hell and part of that is BECAUSE I have FOMO.

I don’t like the idea of FOMO becoming yet another diagnostic criteria for kids who have in recent years been limited to staying inside their homes because it isn’t safe to go out and play in the back yard. My granddaughter (doing a survey for school) was asking me questions, one of which was “What did you do for entertainment as a child?” I said, “I read, did music, and played outside.” She laughed. Kids don’t play outside anymore because it isn’t safe. They are house bound so run the alleys with their social media like we used to run the alleys playing hide and seek until dark. Playing wasn’t diagnostic and didn’t have an acronym. POSWTN (Playing Outside With The Neighbors) had risks but didn’t include warnings about being kidnapped by a non-custodial parent, being sold into sex trafficking, encountering countless sex offenders, drug dealers, or shooters in the classroom. All we had to do was duck-n-cover for the potential of nuclear annihilation. But we could play outside until the sirens went off.

So now major money will be spent for studies about FOMO as if it is a problem. You know what the problem is, right? It isn’t that kids like to play and connect and run and explore and be silly-hearts and move and wiggle and find new worlds. The problem is that today that kind of behavior is too often responded to with medication and control. Even well-meaning adults have neither the time nor energy to manage more chaos, so if Jonny is wiggly…medicate him. Susie is on Facebook all the time…we should get her to a counselor. I think the agenda against children being allowed to be children is extreme. And the reality is that our once sacred playgrounds, schools, churches, theaters, malls, backyards, neighborhoods are not safe. And now, social media isn’t going to be safe. So what will kids have left to do, sit in a corner and drool and rock back and forth medicated and quiet so they don’t bother anyone? Ever?

I was at a professional conference last week and one very lovely and well-meaning presenter was speaking on the epidemic of teen suicide and the general technique of guilt tripping them back to reality. You know, saying something to a suicidal kid like, “Your mother will be so disappointed in you.” Or “How could you do that to your sister?” I freaked. So a child feels like ending their life and you want to make them feel worse??? Gawd! I raised my hand and suggested appealing to their FOMO (The presenter had never heard of it) by saying, “What new video game will be distributed soon, will you miss the release?” Or what shows do you watch on TV and what is going on with the characters that you love or hate?” Or “How tall do you think you’ll be when you are an adult?” Get them engaged in stuff they would miss. Enhance their present and help them reclaim a future! I’m reminded of a suicidal kid who changed his mind when his cat jumped into his lap and he thought, “Who will feed this dumb cat?” I dunno about you, but I love my FOMO and I thank God for anyone else who does. The universe is wonderful and amazing and wild and scary and delicious and unpredictable and painful and dark and sparkly and so much more and I don’t want to miss any of it! My resiliency practice includes FOMO.

Aloha, Dr. Vali

Here are some links just in case you have FOMO and want to know what the buzz is:

Comments are closed.