The end of FOMO and the rise of “ECR”

Posted by Flux on 

10 July 2013


Recommended reading written by Dion Chang for City Press

Are you watching the new Masterchef series? Have you been hooked by The Game of Thrones? Have you tried Vine, the new video clip, social media platform?
These are the sorts of everyday questions that are asked at the office, or within your social circle, and usually they would spark a twang of FOMO.

For those over 30, who are not familiar with the term, FOMO is an acronym for “fear of missing out” and is widely used by social media users and more often than not, by a younger, millennial generation. For its users FOMO is Internet slang, and its rise and use in pop culture is mostly thanks to the numerous social media platforms we now have at our disposal. Tweets, Instagram pictures or regular Facebook updates from parties, exclusive celebrity events or exotic holiday destinations are what might spark that pang of envy – and therefore, FOMO – for those living vicariously through other people’s social media feeds.

FOMO officially made it into our modern lexicon in 2011 – on April the 14th to be precise – when it appeared as the “word of the day” on the web-based Urban Dictionary. However, many will be surprised to discover that the term was actually coined back in 1985 by Kelley Watson and Diane Meyer. They defined FOMO as “a label for the sadness one feels when knowing he/she is missing a good time with friends or loved ones, the worry one feels that memories are being made that he/she will not have, or the anxiety one feels when deciding between multiple equally fun-sounding events”.

But far from being a mere pop culture term, FOMO is a very real social disorder: an anxiety caused by not being able to decide which social situation to be a part of. Instead of shying away from social situations, FOMO afflicted sufferers have an obsessive need to be part of social situations they are unable to attend, and with the personal broadcasting nature of social media platforms, this type of anxiety has been on the rise. For young teens especially, for whom acceptance in a particular social circle is crucial, FOMO is very real. However, I feel the rest of us have now reached a tipping point.

It’s around this time of the year when we ask ourselves why we didn’t plan that mid-year break, as we watch those who have the means and foresight, come back to work with their batteries recharged, not to mention their irritatingly smug expressions. When you’re experiencing – the now very real – mid year burn out, the reaction is not so much FOMO, but rather pure, unadulterated, jealousy.  It is at this stage of the year when you realise that, thanks to technology, you’ve not only worked the equivalent of twelve months in the last six, but that you still have another six months to go, on an energy tank that’s already running on empty.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, so I’ve taken it upon myself to coin a new acronym to help me get through the rest of the year. I call it ECR: emotional commitment rationing.
My theory goes like this: we’re not only dealing with limited energy reserves, but also an unrelenting bombardment of new information channels and new social media platforms, which brings with it more time and effort required to understand and master the new technologies. This just simply spreads your capacity to emotionally commit to something new – like a 13 part TV series – very thin. We have reached a crossroads where we have to decide where our emotional energy is going to be best spent, so in essence ECR is a very strict diet of convergence. Find something that really interests you, and commit to it wholeheartedly. If the emotional connection is not there, then ditch it, and FOMO be damned.

Ever since I adopted ECR, my life has simplified. It not only applies to new technologies, but hobbies or activities that are meant to relax you, like reading. I was half way through a rather large novel, when it struck me that I didn’t really care what happens to the main characters. I realised that I had not committed emotionally to them or their story, and that if I stopped reading this book I could commit more fully to another book, allowing me to spend my limited emotional energies more wisely. I now judge activities on my ECR index and it has been nothing short of a revelation, and I recommend it thoroughly.

So the next time someone asks you if you’ve tuned in to a particular TV series or tried out a new social media platform, just tell them that you’ve adopted ECR, and if your ECR index is particularly low, and only extends to watching (and therefore committing emotionally to) Keeping Up With The Kardashians, then so be it. ECR may be a diet of convergence, but it is – blissfully – a guilt free diet.

By: Dion Chang

About Dion

Image credits: Gallo Images/ Bambu Productions/ Getty Images

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