What is FOMO? Columnist & Luxury Consultant Nisha JamVwal share insight on how to overcome it.

Image Credits: Magda Voigt

In a fast-paced world, are we really making the best use of our time? Or are we doing more than we can to avoid missing out on things? Nisha JamVwal delves deeper on to the incessantly growing phobia of missing out

What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare. No time to stand beneath the boughs; And stare as long as sheep or cows, A poor life this is if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.

Have you heard of the term ‘FOMO’? It’s this new-age epidemic called ‘Fear of missing out’ in an inspirational, demanding age where oneupmanship and ‘getting ahead’ is a priority above all else. Where parents tell their children, “Life is passing you by, why are you sitting around? Do something with your time!” And yes, in this competitive roller coaster age, it is indeed important to make the minutes count, but at the cost of those precious moments of Wordsworthians nature trails and Davis’ ‘stand and stare’ moments that people like me grew up with. Enjoying nature trails, lakes, spending time with friends and family, watching movies on the carpet when pizzas were fairly new in India, trips to the zoo and painting exhibitions seem to be a thing of the past. It’s all replaced by the new self-promoting Instagram, Facebook, Periscope, Snapchat and thick myopic glasses.

It starts early! This 12-year-old hops into the room in kangaroo leaps, kissing an invitation card in euphoric glee and exclaiming, “I’ve been invited! It’s come! Rahul has called me to his birthday party!” He hugs his mother as he continues leaping with euphoria. The mother fervently thanks God for answered prayers. It was a matter of prayers and a fast, too! Her son had sunk into near clinical depression the past few days due to FOMO, which is present at all levels, ages and strata of society.
Husbands snap at wives and at the household. Not being called to the chairman’s intimate dinner, is eating his innards out! He’s managed to drive the home environment into a veritable hell! Being left out, being left behind, not being included, having one luxury car less or even a kitchen gadget beyond budget that the Mrs.Neighbour is preening about are just a few things running through his mind!
Certainly, this FOMO is a long road to nowhere! It’s so ubiquitous and such a driving force these days that the state of being happy is the most momentary and seemingly the most transient state existing. Mrs.Duddlani has hardly twirled in glee for having asked for the moon when it’s all turned to ashes because Mrs.Lekarao, the neighbour just got planet Venus! And this from the land that in savant enlightened times, taught the world the philosophy of contentment and travelling within. Buddha, Mahavira and all the greats preached that desire is the source of all sorrow, and here we only covet, covet and covet!

I had two friends who were the most eager to make it in society, in a hurry to succeed and make a mark. It was then that I suggested casually, “You have your whole lives? Why rush and appear too eager? It’s more important to have those three or four really close friends whom you can be you with,” and it struck home like a bullet to its target! This has been my philosophy for my whole life. To take things in life with some composure, dignity and equanimity – not thrust yourself everywhere, clamour, climb, elbow yourself into every dinner, party, soiree in that desperate urge to network and hand out your card before the other person has even been introduced to you properly!

I have a friend who absolutely had to have a large ostentatious wedding. Her company was in the red, they were in debt but ‘society’ expected it and she felt she’d fall short in front of her groups and ‘kitty’s’. Isn’t it important to celebrate special occasions with loved ones to capture memorable intimate moments than to emptily ‘showoff’? FOMO rules tyrannically it seems!
It is my belief that we can chase this FOMO thing to its inconclusive ends and work harder to plough in the means, fit in, be one better than the other, in desperate exhibitionism, Instagram, the most luxurious holidays and everything to ‘show’ ‘brag’ ‘pose’ and is one-up. In all this, we are left so depleted and discontented that even a bonhomous tankard with Jones becomes an exercise in buying the single malt in its most expensive avatar from Japan, the caviar from Iran and the wife’s gown from Milan for the occasion and then speak about it and post it on every platform. The trappings aren’t about enjoyment, but about stressful performance anxiety. The days of chatting across the fence with the apron still on seem to be relegated to history. So what happened? Was life not meant to be about little joys? Simple happiness? Spontaneous impromptu teas? Why has life become such a serious business that requires so much effort and complexity and yet misses out on the original purpose of unpretentious joys?

Every incident seems to be contrived toward FOMO! Like my friend Silky Sood, whose sparkling new Rolls Royce drove up, but her husband whispered in her ears, “Don’t sit just yet, let more people come into the foyer from the party and see us getting in?”
At a recent talk which has stayed with me, Montek Singh Ahluwalia seemed to refer to this very state that society has arrived at “the most pressing necessity for economic environmental existence has become the need to simplify, cut down and to live more austerely.” The excesses of present-day life – chemicals, pollutants, plastics, are a result of the excessive lifestyle – vandalising our environment to the extent we ourselves might be choked out of existence as water vanishes or submerges land masses. Air? It’s a misnomer for what we breathe – causing harm rather than sustenance, fossil fuels and harmful substitutes have driven fire to the status of a demon. The earth has to be forced from barrenness with factory-made materials that satiate these modern excesses – alien to its nature and harmful to us. What kind of road has humanity paved in its endeavour to live in excess and luxury? Before we arrive at a state like a movie Wally, we have to push out some of the preciously collected FOMO things that are crowding our space literally and metaphorically. To bring in lightness and laughter — life was never meant to be such serious business!

(All incidents quoted are real-life experiences and not fictitious.)



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