New Year’s FoMo

Even before the spread of social media, I recall being aware that I was missing out on some of the excitement of New Year’s Eve. Actually, for the first so-many years of nominally adult life, I wasn’t missing out at all. For six or seven of those year-ending nights, I was swept into something, in a place I’d never been before, among people I had not previously met. At least two of these involved physical danger; though I didn’t realize how much trouble I was courting, at first. (Never flirt with the mistress of a Thai army general!) I should think if I had been connected to social media in those days, I might not have lived to thirty.

Then came the year I decided to stay home and read. This was when the FoMo began, though it eventually subsided. In retrospect, I blame women. To this day, I find them attractive, and am more likely to do stupid things in their company than elsewhere. It is the classic male propensity towards risk-taking, for no higher purpose than to impress a pretty girl. One enters the room, spots the pretty girl in question, and an alarm sounds at the back of one’s head. “Time to make a fool of yourself,” it announces.

I do hope I am using this neologism, “FoMo,” correctly. I gather it stands for, “Fear of Missing out.” A very large part of the postmodern economy seems to depend on it. The marketing professionals know that it is easy to manipulate, and always was. The social media have radically increased anxiety among the young; but there was always something there to work with.

From a demonic point of view, social media are a godsend, or “devilsend” as it were. But the demons were hardly sleeping through previous generations, when a bit more effort was required of them. (I notice the animals have mating instincts, too, though happily for them, not the fear of embarrassment.) And Lust is not the only driver: there are six more Deadly Sins to choose from.

A significant purpose of religion, in former times, was the cure or alleviation of FoMo. To the mind oriented to a continuum, that extends beyond this world, passing events can be taken more calmly. Conversely, the fear of missing out on anything but Heaven will infallibly disorient the religious sensibility. It is more effective than the fear of Hell (the fear of God is quite a different thing), or the perfectly material fear of death, which can itself be negated by that fear of embarrassment. I should think many acts of heroism owe their lustre to the desire to avoid shame; though others are rooted in the call to sanctity.

There are many dimensions to the “here and now” that asserts itself each New Year. One’s location in time is seldom so apparent. One makes New Years’ resolutions in acknowledgement of the fact. They will mean nothing — the unaided human will is powerless against temptation — but the sense of a new beginning stirs briefly within.

Fifteen years have today passed since, on the Eve of anno MMIV, I was received into the Catholic Church, and after many years of hesitation, finally became a Dogan. That really was a new beginning for me: a kind of surrender, after half a century of sin and error. For through all the sin and error since, my anxieties have been fundamentally altered. Worldling I have necessarily remained, but there is no better place I could wish to be.