Beliefnet
Mindfulness Matters

I recently heard a new acronym: FOMO
(fear of missing out). This is a panic that runs through our culture. It
permeates, if we are not mindful, every bit of our psyche. FOMO account for one
large portion of the variance of our suffering. Another portion can be
attributed to a new acronym I just coined: FOGWINE (fear of getting what is not
expected). Together these comprise the vast majority of what the Buddha called
dukkha. Dukkha, often translated as suffering, is more aptly translated in on a
broader canvas as “pervasive dissatisfaction.” What are we
dissatisfied over? FOMO and FOGWINE. If you watch television, you are inundated
with messages about what you might be missing out on. If you don’t join the
Army, you’ll be missing out on glory, pride, and advancement of your career. If
you don’t drive this car, you’ll be missing out on excitement, status, and the
best bargain of your life. If you don’t get this drug from your doctor, you’ll
be missing out on strengthening your marriage, great sex, and fun. The
opportunities to miss out are endless. We keep watching television programs for
fear of missing out on something big that everyone else will have seen and will
be talking about. We stay at the party later for fear of missing out on that
something special that might happen, that Kodak moment that will define this
instant in time.

FOMO is the representation of what I call the “deprivation
mind” in my book, Wild Chickens and Petty
Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness
.” Are we really missing out? And
what is it exactly that we are missing out on? This is a problem that besets us
when we look outside of ourselves for fulfillment. The desire that underlies
FOMO is endless, a bottomless pit that can have us chasing our tails in
pointless pursuit. FOMO keeps us on the wheel like a hamster never reaching
that place of satisfaction (at least the hamster is getting exercise). Like
everything that arises in our minds, FOMO can be examined as a mental object.
We can see it as a production of our brain and not a reflection of ultimate
truth. We can challenge it too. What would be so terrible if we did miss out on
something? Why is it so important to have EVERYTHING? There is an episode of
South Park that features Cartman pacing in front of a game store awaiting the
release of the new Wii. Unfortunately for him (and everyone around him) the Wii
won’t be released for another three weeks. Cartman grunts, “Come on … Come on …
How much longer …” He bemoans his fate, “Time is slowing down, It’s like
waiting for Christmas, times a 1000” Certainly we don’t want to resemble
Cartman in any way, shape, or form. So we can look at FOMO as it arises
throughout our day and try to touch it with mindful attention. We can breathe
into this fear and see what happens. 

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