The fear of missing out (FOMO) is a blight on London life. It is why your mate is checking his iPhone under the table every five seconds; it is why you agonise over what to have for dinner; it is probably why you have a Facebook account, too. In Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life (Hamish Hamilton) psychoanalyst Adam Phillips formulates an elegant argument about why what we don’t do is just as important as what we do do. Frustration is fundamental to satisfaction; regret is nourishing; not getting is good. I would have found it comforting if I didn’t have a hundred other books I could have been reading. (Richard Godwin, Evening Standard, 30th May 2012)
It was towards the end of last year when I first heard the term “FOMO”, or “fear of missing out”, and I’ve been meaning to write a post about it ever since. As soon as I heard the term I recognised it as the way I have been feeling not just since I’ve been back in London, but also while I was living in Japan. There’s just always so much going on, never enough time in the day, and no way I’ll be able to do everything no matter how organised I am and how many post-it notes I use (and believe me, my world is wallpapered with post-it notes!). Today, with the Jubilee weekend almost upon us, I seem more full of FOMO than ever.
In the same issue of the Evening Standard there was an article called Should I Stay or Should I Go? in which two writers were asked if the Jubilee holiday was a cause for celebration or a great chance for a four-day getaway.
Nirpal Dhaliwal responded saying that like many thousands of other Londoners he would be celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee this weekend. He pointed out that it was a good time to get to know your neighbours and have a street party, and to celebrate being British (something people often regard as “somehow backwards or even sinister”). I agree that it would be nice to know the names of the people on my street but, as far as I know, no one is planning a street party (we could actually, and it would be lovely, as I live on a dead end street). If there were a street party going on I would no doubt pop down and join in, but I somehow can’t see it happening.
The other side of the argument in the article comes from Jasmine Gardner, the “Jubilee Jetsetter” who has worked out that this Jubilee weekend offers a “17 for the price of nine annual leave deal”. She has no qualms about leaving all the bunting behind and going off on holiday somewhere fuss-free, and I can’t say I blame her. If I had the money, I would be packing my bags for the airport to catch a flight to anywhere-but-here.
Sadly, I don’t have the money, which leaves me in London for the weekend. I’m sure if I was abroad somewhere, a little part of me would be wondering what I was missing out on back home, but I would be too excited by being in another country to really care. However, I’m here in England with no real distractions, left with this feeling of obligation that, seeing as I’m here, I really ought to join in. If I don’t do something for the Jubilee, will I regret it on Wednesday morning when I get back to the office and everyone is talking about what a jolly good time they had with their families and friends, or how amazing the flotilla was, or how many cupcakes they ate in the vintage village fete they attended? Will it haunt me forever that I wasn’t part of this historical event?
The fear has set in. I’m scared I’ll miss out on something good if I don’t join in some jubilee shenanigans, but actually I would love to have a quiet weekend at home catching up on blogs, tidying my flat, uploading photos, etc.
The next hurdle I stumble at is, if I do go out and do something, what should I do? Squeeze in with the rest of London (and half of the rest of the world, or so it seems) to watch some boats go along the Thames and hope for a glimpse of the Queen. Surely I’d get a better view (without the leg cramp) if I watched it on telly. Have a picnic with my friends in Hyde Park and watch the concert on screens? Er… isn’t that just like watching telly in the park (and it will probably rain…). The only event that might actually tempt me out of my cynicism is the event at Boxpark in Shoreditch, but only if the weather’s nice.
So, what are you doing for the Jubilee weekend? Do you have your bunting and Pimms at the ready? Have you already left the country? Will you be down at the Thames or in Hyde Park? Or are you going to hide from it all and just watch a bit of telly at home? Do let me know… because I’d hate to miss out on what you’re doing too!