The fear of missing out

Caught myself this morning getting out of bed on the way to the bathroom, grabbing my phone and reading my emails on the toilet. I do that sometimes. Not always. And it always involves a diversion to the charging station. So it’s not a simple automatism. When I do things like that, I always ask myself why I do it, or usually why I did it. This morning was no exception.

Yes, I am a curious person. And maybe I wanted to read my emails because I was curious. It could have been that I inherited a few million from Africa again. Or something like that.

But maybe it’s not (positive) curiosity that makes me read my emails and check social networks first thing in the morning. Just like many other people seem to do in the morning – if I believe the media. But rather something like a habit or simply the fear of missing something. Or both. I don’t believe it’s a habit at this point. I do it too rarely for that. I can still remember a thought from this morning: “What you have, you have”. I sold reading my mail on the toilet this morning as a good deed and a sense of duty. Yet this sense of duty is probably not the real reason, but only the pretended justification. Possibly, meaning: I don’t know exactly, possibly I am actually afraid of missing something. When it comes to social media, I sometimes feel a kind of inner pressure to check my inboxes again. Checking my inboxes is not the problem. It’s the inner pressure.

When I read about people who (can) do without social media altogether, I envy them a bit. I think to myself: I want to be able to do that too. Meanwhile, I have the feeling that I could do that too. But I don’t want to. Because I would lose too much. Yes, I would also miss too much. The price for this renunciation would simply be too high. Or in other words: the benefit, measured against the cost, would not be high enough. Because just to be able to tell someone that I don’t use social media any more, it doesn’t really seem to me to be a gain. Regardless of Covid19, social media has become an important place of exchange for me. Sounds a bit socialist when I call social media a “place of exchange”.

No, I think what happened this morning was in fact a fear of missing something if I don’t check my emails and inboxes. I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. To put it another way: is it good or bad if I feel I’m missing something if I don’t empty my letterbox every day? Because I go to the letterbox every day and sometimes have a feeling of curiosity. But often the feeling that I have to do it because otherwise I’ll miss something. Do without? Some people do. They are then called mentally burdened or even sick. In the social media, however, people no longer go to the letterbox, and even more: unscrewing the letterbox is celebrated as heroism in the media. Well, bills are still very rarely sent via Facebook messenger. But sometimes they do. Government mail doesn’t come via Instagram DM, that’s true.

But is the fact that there might be an “important letter from the office” really the difference between what is commonly understood as the duty to empty the letterbox and also read(!) the mail and what some portray as heroism, namely unscrewing one’s own letterbox altogether?

I think we are deluding ourselves here. No one would think of unscrewing their letterbox and then be celebrated as a hero because they do without this old social medium “mail”. Why then should I celebrate those who do without modern letterboxes? Exactly.

Back to my thought this morning: the more I think about it, the clearer it becomes to me: I was afraid of missing out. No, I am not one of those people who expect phenomenally important mail every day. Neither in the physical mailbox, nor in my inboxes. This feeling of missing something has more to do with belonging to a group. It has to do with wanting to belong, to be liked, all that stuff that a social being like a human being has to deal with. Yes, just yesterday I wrote about the ego issue: to a certain extent, perhaps an ego issue, this “wanting to belong to the group”. But what would be the alternative? To break away from the group in order to be independent. But for what? For myself. So that I am independent of others. Isn’t that much more self-centred?

Now I’m in a quandary: on the one hand, it seems to be my ego that wants me to belong to the group. On the other hand, it is my ego that would want me to be independent. If I wanted to be.

But maybe it’s not a question of egocentricity if I want to belong to the group (and connected with that: to be liked). Maybe it’s just my nature as a human being, my nature as a social being. This fear of missing out would then be part of my human nature. Would be bad if the group had left me alone in the cave when they escaped from the bear. I’m afraid I’m talking myself into it a bit. Because there is probably a bit of self-centredness here too, in our very nature. Just as the instinct to preserve the species is and must be self-centred. Only in the sense of the human race. And I probably have to accept this: there will always remain a residual ego. I don’t have to give in to it. I can accept it as still existing and still overcome it. I didn’t find my fear of missing out on something burdensome this morning. Just a bit strange. Good, no one saw me do it 😉

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