FOMO, an acronym
We tend to refer to anything that has been reduced to capital letters as an acronym. Technically this isn’t correct. An acronym is an abbreviation formed from the initial letters of other words and pronounced as a word.
For example, ATO (Australian Taxation Office) and FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) are not acronyms because they are not pronounced as words. Instances like this are properly referred to as ‘initialism’ (not abbreviations – that’s another matter entirely.)
Amongst those who are into these finer details of language or literature there is an on-going debate about whether it is ok to call initials that are not pronounced as words acronyms. Personally, I like to make the distinction!
In our ever more rushed lives and with the advent of technology and specifically with limitations on some of the technology platforms (eg the 160 character limit of Twitter), we have taken to the frequent use of abbreviations, initialisms and acronyms.
We’ve all become familiar with the initialism of LOL, although it took some of the older generation a while to figure out it means Laugh Out Loud instead of lots of love. Then we easily embraced BTW as a shortened version of saying By The Way. Now we have ATM meaning At The Moment (not Automatic Teller Machine) reminding us that we must translate initialisms depending on context.
Initialisms have become so accepted that many of us no longer know how they were derived or what words they actually stand for, but we know what they mean. A classic example being RSVP. Do you know the origins? It’s French but universally understood to mean that we must reply. (BTW, it stands for ‘répondez s'il vous plait’ = ‘reply if you please’ or ‘please reply’ said in an English format).
Some can be pronounced as letters such as A S A P (As Soon As Possible) or it can be an acronym when pronounced as ‘a sap’. Another example being A W O L (Absent With Out Leave) which can be pronounced as ‘a wall’.
Acronyms are now part of our language. One record reports the year 1895 as the introduction of the acronym with the word SCOTUS, (Supreme Court of the United States). Today POTUS (President of the United States) and FLOTUS (First Lady of the United States) are used daily in newspapers.
Most of you will be familiar with NIMBY = Not In My Back Yard. Fast forward to 2019 where there is a new acronym popping up as I write. The one that has caught my attention lately and the real reason for this blog is the acronym FOMO.
I have seen FOMO but I hadn’t bothered to investigate until I had a friend write it in a text message to me recently. In that moment I needed to know the meaning because without it, I couldn’t really understand what she was saying in her message. It turns out it was important! Now that I know what it means, it seems to be popping up everywhere.
I heard FOMO (pronounced foe-moe) used twice at the Byron Writer’s Festival this year. I wondered how many in the audience knew what it meant. Do you?
FOMO = Fear Of Missing Out
And further to finally embracing this new-to-my-conscious-awareness acronym, I now see it playing out everywhere I look.
These past few weeks, I see exhausted people attending one more event - because of FOMO.
I see people asking for recordings of meetings that they can’t attend in real time – because of FOMO.
I see people spending endless time on social media – because of FOMO.
Often there is a sense that people are joking when they use the FOMO acronym but, I’m not sure. There is also a sense that they really do have a fear of missing out.
This has me ponding on whether FOMO is a psychological issue affecting our society and effecting our mental health, in a negative way. Based on the definition of fear (an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat) we can see that the problem is in a belief.
Beliefs are intangible. Some beliefs aren’t even ours. They were handed down to us from our parents, or from our culture, or from our nationality, or from our religion. It is worth examining which beliefs are actually ours. Beliefs can come and go. Or we can choose to hang on to beliefs for a lifetime. Beliefs are easy to let go of, if we choose to do so.
Now in the case of FOMO, our fear (or belief) is that we will miss out – on something. We may not even know what it is we are going to miss out on. We just don’t want to miss out. As I have been pondering on this phenomenon, it occurs to me that if we are feeling whole, full, or complete, however you want to say it, then we can’t be missing out on anything. Many people today feel an emptiness inside that they try and fill with SOMETHING: food, alcohol, drugs, material stuff, realtionships, work, events and on it goes. But none of this will fill the emptiness. The emptiness is us not being whole within ourselves. I’m not alone in suggesting that the emptiness is felt because of our disconnection from our divine origins. You don’t have to call it God. I often refer to it as living from my Soul. For you, it might work better to call it Nature, or the Universe, or the Stars.
Once we are whole, everything else, everything outside of us becomes a bonus, sort of the cherry on top. So, there is never any possibility of missing out, we already have everything. The events we attend, the people we share a meal with, the meetings we are able to make all enrich our life but we can easily live without them. FOMO doesn't arise when living Soul-fully.
15/8/2019 08:03:16 am
Is it possible whether people are aware of it or not these acronyms and speaking with the initials of titles are demonstrating how much everybody feels pressured thinking they don't have enough time to be able to even express fully. Is it possible when we begin to verbalise to each other in this way that it is in fact a shutting down of our expression?
15/8/2019 03:20:03 pm
Great observation Deidre. Thanks for sharing your insights with the blog readers.
15/8/2019 10:13:59 am
Thank you for explaining FOMO Gayle. I hadn’t heard or seen it until reading your blog, and I do feel that this fear of missing out is an underlying anxiousness that drives us to do or want more. Could one reason be so that we can engage in conversations with a degree of confidence and not feel that we are being left behind? It feels quite competitive, and it can never be satisfied. I really enjoyed your way of explaining that the antidote is to feel full and complete inside ourselves.
15/8/2019 03:27:14 pm
Hello Bernadette Your mention of the Fear of Being Left Behind took me back to school days (decades ago) when I used to really experience the fear of being left behind. I wonder how many of us are still living with this fear instead of putting it down when we did our school books. We bring so much 'stuff' along with us as we grow up - that no longer serves us. We need 'take stock' days where we can examine and discard any beliefs or motives that we don't need. haha
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Gayle Cue loves writing about life, reflecting on every day miracles and pondering on the big picture.
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