Have you ever suddenly felt like getting away after seeing a super-cool Instagram photo? Do you think people who like to “backpack” are more interesting? Are you feeling uninspired, listless and bored because life is not a constant GoPro adventure? Are you under 35 and want to really “live” before you settle down? You, my friend, may be suffering from FOMO, known more technically as Fear Of Missing Out, and you’re not alone!
Though chronic FOMO is not a new phenomena, our constant connectedness through various sites and apps has exaggerated the symptoms. As we scroll through Instagram, Facebook and Twitter feeds we are constantly reminded of all the things we are not doing or wearing or eating. These images are almost always an altered projection of a fake existence. We all buy into the propaganda and it ignites in us an urge to rack up experiences and always be on the move.
Of all the apps and media, Instagram is the most responsible for the increase in FOMO amongst youth With deceiving filters and hashtags like #liveauthentic, #wanderlust and #yolo that remind us of all the places that we aren’t, it’s easy to understand why we feel like everyone is living it up but us. Life appears a constant party and we want to attend. We seek thrills, adventure and exotic tastes of other people’s cultures. We think to ourselves, “If I just get an image of myself in front of The Taj Mahal or Great Wall of China, then, I will be complete! Then, I can settle down.”
We belong to what I like to call the Eat, Pray, Love generation. I whole-heartedly blame this book and other likeminded literature for the whole mess of people who now think that they can purchase enlightenment abroad. Fearing they are missing out on life, and under the guise of being adventurous, many Westerners use travel as an excuse to leave everything they’ve ever known behind, don a backpack and set off in search of a new personality in some distant land. These individuals then come back with beads in their hair and hand-woven crafts for all the unfortunate souls who could not join them in their galavanting. They preach of their exploits and berate the rest of us with all the reasons why we “simply must travel!”
As a young girl, I often dreamed of traveling. Growing up in Canada, I’ve been taught romantic notions of exotic lands and architecture. You know what I’m talking about – how we’re taught that we are incomplete unless we’ve “seen the world.” Travel brochures, commercials and billboards seem to beckon us away from our current state and into a land of carefree adventure, delicious food and enlightenment.
Such thinking is naive and misguided. Most of the people I talked to who partake in such adventures are the opposite of complete. They are lost, they are searching and they are desperate to make sense of their place in the world. The cure to your FOMO is not borrowing another culture.
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But we all play the game. Like fools, we flock to Instagram feeds, Facebook albums and Vines as though they are some new bible on how to live “authentically.”
We take these false, filtered and insincere images as visions of some truth we want to be a part of. I suppose the pressure to have interesting travel documentation is understandable, because the other option would be to admit that one wasted their time in search of something that could have been found in their own back yard.
Being of the first generation in my family to be born in the West, I am often reminded of the irony that I have yet to visit Asia. It peeves me to no end when someone comes back from a world tour with a preachy and superior manner as though they are now enlighten beyond the rest of us. Assuming that the reason I have not visited Asia is because I am ignorant or don’t care about my culture is insulting.
My assuredness should never be confused with “playing it safe.” Choosing to stay put for now does not make me afraid, it makes me secure. When a person is actually secure in who they are and what they believe, they have no need to jet-set simply to feel more interesting. I am sorry that you must purchase your sense of self from airlines and other cultures, but I don’t. The benefit of being first generation and having parents who carry the culture with them, is that I don’t suffer from FOMO at all since, I literally have the best of both worlds. I know my culture and who I am and I don’t need to “prove it” to anyone.
And don’t get me wrong. I am in no way promoting ignorance to culture, but I am condemning the exaltation of one culture over the next. The East is not more enlightened than the West. If you are going to travel, first question your motives. Is the motivation to “see the world” coming from you? Or are you simply reacting to a photo you saw @NationalGeographic?
Ever wonder why you don’t have a picture of your purest moment? It is because you were actually experiencing it. Your makeup wasn’t perfect, your hair was a mess and you probably don’t remember what you ate that day, but you lived. So live. Live here and now and find out what is wonderful about the country you are already in first. Adventure doesn’t end when you settle down, it begins. Then, when you finally visit Europe or Asia or South America, you won’t have to scurry about like a mad-person collecting evidence of who you are and where you were. You will already be complete.