We humans have always been prone to wonder: What if I’m left behind? What if I’m forgotten? What if I blew my only chance at success? Why is everyone else having such a great life?
Now we have an easy descriptor for this below-the-surface panic that shapes our behavior, thoughts, and prayers. It’s Fear Of Missing Out, or FOMO. Now in my 50s, I’m more inclined than in earlier years to experience the rear-view-mirror corollary, which I’ve dubbed Fear Of Having Missed Out (FOMHO).
We learn FOMO/FOHMO early. “But Mom, everyone else is going!” a fifth-grader wails after a parent says no to a mall trip. My mother’s stock response in these instances was usually, “If everyone else was jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you follow them?” The question was meant to warn us about blindly following the pack, yet I remember thinking to myself, I probably would. I can swim! Jumping seemed far less scary to me than being excluded.