When FOMO Strikes (Fear of Missing Out)

The FOMO is alive and kicking in Shanghai

by SHFamily | Fri, July 14, 2017

By Tatum Hawkins

The first time I heard about “FOMO” was a few years ago. My husband’s aunt was complaining about how her freshman daughter had this weird disease that was keeping her up at all hours of the night; it was making her sick with worry because she wasn’t sure if her daughter was going to make it out of college alive with this horrifying FOMO thing going around.

What in the world? “Tell me more!” I gasped wide-eyed.

"FOMO" – Fear of Missing Out – as it turns out, is not a real disease. Duh. But nonetheless, it’s killing university students. This overpowering need to be at every party, event, get-together, the desire to see and be seen – it’s exhausting them to death. To make things worse, social media elicits an uncontrollable urge to share all the awesome details with the world, inflicting FOMO upon everyone else.

So, I think I’ve caught a strain of the FOMO bug all the way here in Shanghai – no, I’m not a college student. I’m talking about the married 30-something year-old expat with two kids kind of FOMO. As you know, this city of ours has so many museums, markets (fake, pearl, flower, fabric, notions, kids, I can’t keep track!), cool restaurants, fancy stores to gawk at and so many new/odd/fascinating/heart-breaking/crazy/ frightening/exciting things that are really hard to categorize but which I am certain all my senses need to experience.

As expats, we become this tight-knit family, sort of like a mini university, where someone in the group is always going somewhere and always doing something. Being in Shanghai, you know it’s gonna be interesting. Of course, I want in. I feel the FOMO take over and it’s like a bad itch that tickles with a fear of missing out on what could be the most amazing Shanghai adventure ever. I always give in to the itch. As a result, entire weeks are planned before they even begin. I’m overwhelmed. Not to mention the time-consuming challenge that surviving day-to-day life is already.

On the rare day that I decide to lay low, I should remind myself more often not to look at my phone. Or else FOMO will strike, hard, as I see all the fun things my expat family are experiencing without me. Mindy Kaling, who you’ll remember from the American version of The Office, wrote a bestseller called, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? This sounds like a book I would enjoy reading.

In the meantime, I did a little bit of reading online about FOMO and I liked what the style editor from GQ said about fighting his own FOMO weaknesses. He suggests talking to your FOMO (disease, persona, same thing…) and saying to it: “I hear you, FOMO, but now's not the time. Tonight is [just] going to be gloriously un-Instagrammable.”

And there you have it, friends. It’s ok, really. You can afford to spend a few days being boring and dare I say “normal." it won’t kill you. But FOMO will.