Daisy on the fear of missing out

Daisy on the fear of missing out

By Daisy Stella Baldwin 12/09/12

Do you always feel like you're missing out on important cultural events? You're not alone. Our columist, Daisy Stella Baldwin, explores her own issues with "fomo" – the fear of missing out...

It’s four am.

The hosts crashed out hours ago, in their own or other people’s bedrooms. The neighbours, placated or played-out, have stopped hammering half-heartedly on the wall. In the kitchen there remains two or three warm bottles of beer, the ice long since melted; a questionable foreign liqueur; several untouched bottles of Shloer… and me.

I suffer from serious fomo. For the uninitiated (which, until Sunday was me) that’s faux-ironic shorthand for “fear of missing out”. The feeling that you have to be present, that the one time you aren’t something amazing is bound to happen and then, hello regret! 

The rise of fomo seems to be associated with uptake of social media, presumably because it allows us to see exactly what it is we are missing out on. If we decide not to go to an event we can then still spend the evening reading about it on Facebook and Twitter, scrolling through stagey Instagram pictures of everyone having a wonderful time.

Of course, critics would say that those who spend a significant amount of their time updating others are missing out too. Kirsty Logan has written before about the importance of disconnecting from social media and allowing yourself to just be still. While events can be inspiring, more often it’s those empty in-between times that actually harbour ideas; walking to work, cleaning the flat, half-watching TV or queuing at the post-office: that’s when things usually come together for me.

The last couple of months have been especially full for a fomo-afflicted soul. There’s been the Jubilee, the Olympics, the Paralympics and the various events of the Cultural Olympiad. As a Prestonite I also managed to nip home for the Preston Guild last week – dating back to 1179, it takes place only every 20 years and is billed as a “once in a generation celebration!” 

Back in London this Sunday, a group of us headed to Embankment to watch the Paralympic Marathon go past then caught the boat to Greenwich and had a picnic in the park. It seemed the sort of thing you ought to be doing in such sunny weather and the plan was to carry on to the Thames Festival, with its Night Carnival and fireworks display.

As it got to late afternoon, though, I found myself not really wanting to go. In fact, I found myself wanting to go home and not do very much at all, thank you. Cautiously, a friend expressed the same feelings. We looked at each other guiltily over the hummus. It might have been a bit of sunstroke, or just sheer exhaustion, but it felt like cultural burnout. I’d had enough. Enough of trying to process once-in-a-lifetime events, enough of helping lost tourists find their way on the Underground, enough of debating the relative merits of media coverage or trying to decipher the antics of Boris Johnson. If I were London right now I’d be turning up the lights, turning off the music and making noises about an early start in the morning. 

So, I’d love to tell you all about the Night Carnival, with its fireworks, parade and live bands, but I can’t. I can’t because I stayed in and made tacos, watched Doctor Who on iPlayer, and contemplated getting a fringe. And honestly, it was unmissable.


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