Saurabh Srivastava | ibcoder.eth
IBCoder | Saurabh Srivastava

IBCoder | Saurabh Srivastava

FOMO: The Fear of Missing Out

FOMO: The Fear of Missing Out

The enquiry into the essence of fear

Saurabh Srivastava | ibcoder.eth's photo
Saurabh Srivastava | ibcoder.eth
·Sep 5, 2021·

10 min read

Subscribe to my newsletter and never miss my upcoming articles

FOMO is nothing but a leaf of the big tree known as FEAR which has deep roots in the fertile soil known as MIND

What's the best way to start a blog article? How many times have you pondered over this same thought as a writer? Perhaps as many times as you sat down to write that future viral peace. So, how many times have you questioned to yourself, 'Why?' At this point, as a reader, you might be wondering, 'What that has anything to do with the FOMO?' The answer has 2 parts:

  1. As a writer, you are living in the fear of missing out on the response of the reader. What if no one reads it? What if there is some grammatical error? What if...?

  2. The second is that this article is a personal enquiry into the essence of FEAR itself. And the example of the writer is just one of the millions that you'll find out there in the world.

If I have to summarize the fear of missing out in one sentence then it would be like, "FOMO is nothing but a leaf of the big tree known as FEAR which has deep roots in the fertile soil known as MIND".

A Little personal Story

My daily routine was quite simple - wake up, exercise, spend time on mobile, lay down through out the day, eat, sleep, and repeat.

Last year, in the month of July, I gave my resignation letter. I had no idea what I want to do next, but I was sure that it isn't this job. I served a notice period of 2 months and finally quit on August 31, 2020. There was some serious health related reasons due to which I quit my job. The physical reason disappeared itself after a complete month of no job. September ended and I was lying there, knowing nothing as to what I am suppose to do next.

My daily routine was quite simple - wake up, exercise, spend time on mobile, lay down through out the day, eat, sleep, and repeat. I remember feeling like how I felt during the 2nd year end of my college. In case you want to know how I felt during that college time, here's a snippet from the book I started to write back then. Trust me when I say this that this snippet you are about to read is the most upward moment of the entire written story. It only a downward spiral from this opening. The book is still being worked upon. The name of the draft was "Despair". How I tackled this phase of life back then is perhaps a story for another time. Despair

I didn't stop, I wrote another peace and shared it in my then pen name in my then social media account in Facebook Death-1 Death-2

Since there was no anger this time, there was no creativity. No writing. Just absolute boredom. The silence was frightening and serene at the same time. I liked it. I truly loved that feeling. However, the fear of survival started kicking in with a month of career gap. It was a feeling of FOMO while the others were marching straight ahead. It was also the time when I began pondering again about a lot of things - fear, job, life, death, and all sort of other things. And finally, I came to this one question, 'Why?'

The Answer to WHY?

The problem with this knowledge is that it's never ending. What is never ending, has a tendency to make its receiver, live in the constant state of FOMO.

Late Physicist Stephen Hawkins back in 2015 while speaking to Google’s Zeitgeist Conference in Hertfordshire said, "Philosophy is dead". The irony was that in itself was a philosophical argument. But leaving the irony aside, perhaps it's because of the lack of a philosophical urge to question why something is the way it is, that our times are seeing a great many people who are just lost.

Right information at the right time is the sole currency of any era in human history.

Hawkins further said, "Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge". The problem with this knowledge is that it's never ending. What is never ending, has a tendency to make its receiver, live in the constant state of FOMO. In short, information today has become a cause of fear which people experience as if they are missing out on something big in life. So, does that mean the solution of this issue at hand is to stop the flow of information? Not really. Because right information at the right time is the sole currency of any era in human history. Moreover, making large amount of information as the root issue of this "fear of being left behind" is only looking at the leaf of the tree once again. In other words, this isn't the real answer of that "Why?"

How about the lack of focus? Maybe that's the reason why we are suffering from FOMO! Let's say that you suffer from this issue and you are unable to focus on anything at a time. Your mind is wandering a lot from one big thing to another. You are constantly watching what made other's successful, get that "dream job", made them the "next crypto billionaire", and as someone who lacks focus, you are trying everything. And somehow, you got lucky and 2 of the 3 things worked out for you and you made it big. You got everything you wanted. Now, here's a question, "Would you still suffer from FOMO?" Most probably, you won't. In essence, the root of FOMO is again not the "lack of focus". Because if it would have been the case, then regardless of outcome of your actions, you still will be suffering from the same amount of FOMO that you suffered before you made it BIG! But you don't. That FOMO has become less with your success and yet, you still don't have the skill to focus!

The Final Answer

All fear is nothing but the fear of losing something that the ego (mind) considers its own

As I moved forward in my quest to find the answer, I went back to reading philosophy. My favorite being Advaita Vedanta. The way I read books is to read few lines and then spend the entire day trying to adjust what I learnt into my life. If it works, great! Otherwise, discard it. While going through the books, I started extracting the essence of this feeling. And I came to arrive at this similar conclusion, in a novice and rudimentary manner that, "All fear is nothing but the fear of losing something that the ego (mind) considers its own".

Let's look into most fears you all have in your lives:

1. Fear of death: You are afraid of dying. I am no different. During the corona, my lungs were damaged around 56% and my oxygen got around 91% SPO2. The survival required Methylprednisolone 16mg. Then came black fungus fear which just took me over as I clearly overdosed on the above mentioned drug even when prescription was from a doctor. 3 ENT Surgeon visit and still nothing works to elevate that fear of dying. For 3 months and more, the anxiety attacks came all of a sudden. Nothing helped. This all happened this year in the month of April, May, June, and July. Till last month, and even today sometimes, during the day, I get this sudden anxiety issue. I went through all that knowing the reality:

Life is not something that you own, including your own life, and hence you are afraid of losing it. If you think otherwise, try negotiating it with Death.

2. Fear of being alone: People are not your property, you don't own them. Yet, you act as if you do own them. Rather, you go one step further to make sure that you give good impression to the others. You don't want to be alone. You don't want to miss out on something that you feel is important to your existence. Again, I am no different.

3. Fear of failure: Most of you don't own the definition of success you are chasing yet most of you are afraid of failure. In essence, you are more afraid of being alone and rejected by the society. The question is, do you own that failure or success in the first place if both of them are defined by others in this society?

The reality is that most people are not afraid of 'failure' but what this society has defined as a 'failure'. Most people don't aim for 'success' but what this society has defined as a 'success'.

4. Fear of being cheated in a relationship: Do you own the other person? The answer is again the same. Yet here you are, afraid of being cheated in a relationship.

5. Fear of teachers and less marks during school: This one is unique. It tells you that you were engineered from your childhood to behave in this manner. You were engineered to fear all things this society deems a failure, and chase all things this society deems as success. Never once stopping to question, "Is this definition of success and failure even mine? Is this marks even relevant? If it is, in what framework is it relevant and do I even want to live in the confines of that framework in life?"

6. Fear of losing a job and money: Do we own our job and money? This is the big brother of the above indoctrination. Nothing else.

The pattern that is emerging here is of 3 kinds:

  1. You fear losing what you is not yours in the first place.
  2. All the things you fear losing, is given to you by the society, and thus can be taken back by it.
  3. You value the definition of success and failure that is decided by this society and hence have chained yourself to the fear of losing them if ever go against the society.

So perhaps now it is clear that the root of all fear is the desire to own something that isn't yours in reality; that makes you feel successful in the eyes of the society once you have it. So, now the question is, "What's the solution?" The answer is so simple yet frightening, isn't it? It's the age old answer of "Let it go".

But you don't want to let it go. You like the misery that comes with indulging in the desire and playing with this fear of yours. So what's the solution for you then? Truth be told, all you have to do is realize the root of fear and then simply observe your mind when it gets devoured by it. Once you know how things work, it gives you an edge over the situation in some manner. You are not left defenseless like before. What you want to do with that realization is totally up to you, be it you want to see it through till the end, or you want to indulge in the desire before you embark on that realization further, or you simply use it in your daily life without doing anything big with it. It's all up to you in the end.

Lastly, I want to say that knowing something and living it in experience are 2 completely different things. Knowing that my life isn't my own, didn't help me at all with experiencing the fear of death. Not one bit. That's because I simply lacked the understanding. Understanding is a long term process that requires the knowledge at its first step. I took that first step and I am sharing it here. Even this first step was hard to take. Whether to embark on the journey of understanding is now up to me. But for now, even this much is enough to keep moving forward without much distraction in life. This much is enough to not live in the constant state of FOMO.

Saurabh Srivastava

Share this