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Friday, September 21, 2012
Robert Genn on "The Fear of Missing Out"
September 21, 2012
"Fear of Missing Out," according to psychologists, is pandemic and getting worse. For us creative folks, FOMO is not just a social disorder, it can be a career killer.
More prevalent in younger people than older ones, it's that terrible feeling that you're missing out on something that might be better or more fun than what you're doing right now. Since the cellphone revolution, checking and texting can be based on a thin hope that something really wonderful is coming up. In life and art, it can be a false hope that keeps us checking.
And it's not just technology. Artists regularly move to the Big Apple hoping to take a Big Bite. With so much going on--openings and exhibitions every night, MOMA, Guggenheim, etc., to say nothing of the theatre scene--there's little time for work. Many artists function better in dull places like Sedro-Woolley, WA.
Addictive FOMO is a malaise that strikes close to home and particularly in the studio. If you think you've caught it, here are a few thoughts and findings:
Temptation preys on our extroverted nature and our optimistic outlook. Introverts and pessimists tend to be less troubled by it. To be truly productive, creative folks need to withdraw to privacy and self-sufficiency. In a beloved art-cave, work can triumph over outside distractions. In other words, the artist needs to look eagerly toward a satisfactory outcome of work-in-progress. Even quasi-satisfactory outcomes are superior to being stuck in traffic or watching pole dancers in a noisy cabaret. One's art needs to be personally elevated and seen as its own reward. When this happens, a marching band out the window cannot budge you from your self-appointed rounds.
Luckily, as we get older, we tend to be more settled and less likely to have our heads turned. The golden years can be highly productive. But we're all on the horns of a dilemma--connectivity and temptation are here to stay. FOMO researcher Sherry Turkle says, "Our current relationship with technology fosters immaturity." It's been my observation that the greatest generator of quality work rests within the development of personal character. Some of us need to grow up.
PS: "We just don't know until we check." (John M. Grohol, PsyD)
Esoterica: Here's a compromise system that accepts the current situation and goes a long way toward managing addictive FOMO. Not wanting to miss out what's going on in the world, you might try one of those tiny clip-on battery radios with earphones. As you move around your work area and beyond, the passive info goes with you. (I'm currently using the marvelously informative programs on CBC AM, 690 kHz, also available on satellite.) While it might sound like giving in to the devil, it's a good example of 21st Century mind expansion and multi-tracking that, while not diminishing creative focus, simply and effectively retards the temptation to step out the door and join the band.