The Fear of Missing Out, or FOMO, is hands down, the curse of our generation.
This perpetual state of striving for greener grass is ruining lives today, all over the world.
Perhaps you think that I’m being overly dramatic?
Sadly, I don’t think I am.
Our population is constantly being fed a poisonous cocktail of unachievable so-called “aspirational” propaganda, which is having a genuinely toxic effect on all who experience it. The effect is, in my view, at its most potent among parents.
Let me explain. FOMO is a phenomenon that feeds into all the worst elements of humanity: competitiveness, jealousy, status-obsession, narcissism, materialism, and self-indulgence.
As a kid, my family used to go on package holidays. These two-week jaunts to the more exotic parts of Europe (compared to my hometown of Wigan) were the highlights of our year. For months, we’d pore over glossy brochures of the hotel my parents’ had chosen—imagining what it would be like to spend a few days in such decadent surroundings.
However, excitement would change to tension when we finally arrived abroad, and the coach trundled from hotel to hotel dropping off tired tourists.
“This isn’t our place is it?” I’d say to my dad, seeing a drab hotel that looked nothing like the well-thumbed pages of the sales pamphlet.
“That’s what the tour guide said,” my dad would reply, optimistically.
It was always the right place and reality never lived up to our expectations. The next few hours would become a tired process of coming to terms with the disappointment. The brochure would be produced and we’d see that an artful photographer had framed out a grotty-looking area, masked crumbling masonry, and hidden faded paint. The first night of the holiday would usually end with a decision that the hotel was “all right” and an agreement that when we got home and spoke of the holiday to others—we’d play up the positives.
It’s the same with parenting. It’s not glamorous, exciting, or even relaxing most of the time. The reality is that, no matter what the book told us before the little bundle of joy arrived, life can be a bit of a drudge.
Today, however, unlike in the 80’s and 90’s when my family holidayed together, we have the technology to instantaneously disseminate our spin on what we experience with everyone we know. These days, we’ve no need to wait until we get home to propagate the lie that our hotel was luxurious, aspirational, and stylish.
And the reach of this information would go much further than those who could fit into our living room to watch a holiday slideshow. Social media, smartphones, and high-speed internet have combined with the FOMO generation to cause a perfect storm. We’re constantly trying to upgrade our experience in order to impress our followers.
Every day each of us is bombarded with images of perfect family life, passed on by celebrities, friends, acquaintances, and a whole host of third parties. The FOMO element in our heads kicks in and we’re made to believe that their parenting grass is so much greener than the dried up patch up turf we’re experiencing.
As a result, we become obsessed with not missing out, with giving our kids the experiences we feel everyone else is having. Our status, or success as adults, is intricately bound up with this—or so we’re told. Soon we’re faking overly positive images of our own lives—just to prove we can keep up in the misguided race to perfection.
The problem is that all of it is fake. The idyllic images that stimulate us to stress and strive are driven by a FOMO reaction in the person who took them. They’re staged, to make sure nobody thinks they’re missing out either. Everyone’s stuck in the same cycle of deception. Essentially, we’re all in disappointing hotels, but we’re obsessed with sharing shots that make them look 5-star, as we despair that they’re not. If only we could all agree our hotels have some good points and some bad. The collective relief would be amazing.
The issue is what if one person is honest, and nobody else is. Then that person is left out in the cold. That, sadly, is how FOMO works.
It’s ridiculous, isn’t it?
In the meantime, we parents, who have enough on our plate, are beaten with (metaphorical) sticks. Trending hashtags, focusing on parenting perfection, tell us we’re doing it all wrong. Instagram images of perfectly dressed, puke-free, angelic children make the rest of us sick to the stomach as we battle to dress our toddlers without World War III breaking out.
LinkedIn profiles that show parents simultaneously looking after kids, pursuing an amazing career, charity work, an interesting hobby, and maintaining great hair—make the rest of us feel like crap.
So what do we do? Do we stand up and tell the truth? Of course we don’t. We fake and distribute our own FOMO propaganda. If only, like in the “Emperor’s New Clothes”, one of us could shout “He’s naked!”
In the meantime, check out my Instagram account for a lovely selection of pics of me struggling with this parenting lark.
Make sure you do!
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