The Siren Call of FOMO
Why do so many people react and allow Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) dictate their lives? There is a desperation to identify ourselves, but no original thought goes into establishing what that might mean.
In Homer's Odyssey, the Sirens were said to lure men with their beautiful voices to their death. The irresistible distraction took ships' crews from their ultimate purpose.
The goddess Circe tells Odysseus what to expect 'for they sit in a green field and warble him to death with the sweetness of their song'. How many of us are 'warbled to death' by people we've never met, by their saccharine & heavily-edited perfect lives?
How come so many of us lack a strong identity of self that we crave validation from strangers or acquaintances? Why do we feel that there is something that we are not privy to - a primaeval Fear of Missing Out?
Laurens van der Post gives a fascinating insight into why this may be:
"The Bushmen in the Kalahari Desert talk about the two "hungers". There is the Great Hunger, and there is the Little Hunger. The Little Hunger wants food for the belly; but the Great Hunger, the greatest hunger of all, is the hunger for meaning. There is ultimately only one thing that makes human beings deeply and profoundly bitter, and that is to have thrust upon them a life without meaning. There is nothing wrong in searching for happiness. But of far more comfort to the soul is something greater than happiness or unhappiness, and that is meaning. Because meaning transfigures all. Once what you are doing has for you meaning, it is irrelevant whether you're happy or unhappy. You are content - you are not alone in your Spirit - you belong."
I think that many of us have become dumb and lazy. We confuse The Little Hunger, which requires a physiological and instant gratification, with a legitimate life purpose.
We've devolved into grazing at a superficial level for purpose. Desperate to find our place in the world. However, as when we eat junk food, we're hungry a few minutes later and looking for the next fix.
Even van der Post's insight into happiness versus purpose is a perfect analogy for today's bankrupt society. 'I'll be happy when I lose five pounds', 'I'll be happy when I find the perfect partner', 'I'll be happy when...'
A continuous search for happy based upon external factors will doom us to living on a hedonic treadmill.
Meaning, however, is a fundamental emotion and purpose. It is a 'why' rather than a 'how' and comes from our very core. Having a meaning reflects our true self and those whom we hold near and dear.
When did we wander so far from tribe and fire? When did we lose where we were going, our ultimate purpose? How did other people's opinions and agendas suddenly become more important than the meaning of our own life?