Fear of Being Stupid and Missing Out

Have you noticed a lot of talk lately about the fear of missing out or the fear of missing, well, everything?

Linda Holmes at NPR’s Monkeysee blog wrote about “the sad, beautiful fact that we’re all going to miss almost everything.” We won’t be as well-read as we wish. We won’t read every blog post in our Reader. We won’t see all the major critics’ top ten films of the year. We won’t get to every art museum or art-filled church on our bucket list. It just won’t happen. Can we cope?

I once had that acquisitive consuming desire to read all the classics. It was an ever expanding list fueled by books about reading that each had their own list. Even though I had a great education, I thought I had too many gaping holes in the classical period, so I embarked on my own education program. Yes, if it’s a Greek or Roman classic, I’ve likely read it. But I petered out on that plan after extending it into the medieval age. Looking back I’m glad I did it but it might explain why I was single for so long.

And then there was my presidential biography period. Inspired by C-SPAN2’s Book TV series (oh be quiet, I hear your snickering), I started with George and made it all the way to Millard before losing interest. Honestly, I’d do that one again, but in a more leisurely random manner. And, since I know you’re dying to ask me, George (#1) is my favorite president.

I’m sure I had other reading binges, but I’ve blocked them from my short-term memory, thankfully. I no longer have manias like these, even though I still have that itch to learn, I’m just not as obsessive about it.

Another aspect of this syndrome was described last month by Caterina Fake. She wrote about the Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) she saw in the tweets of those at SXSW: what if I’m in the wrong place and missing a good party, session or cool person? “Social media has made us even more aware of the things we are missing out on.” How true that is! Yes, we can read the hashtag archive, but that only makes us hungrier to go next year, and what if we can’t? Oh, cursed fates.

Caterina added this fascinating bit, fascinating to me because I practice yoga and we think about these kind of woowoo things: “To be always filled with craving and desire (also called defilement, affliction) is one of the Three Poisons of Buddhism, called kilesa, and it makes you a slave.” Ouch. I read this and thought about Julie of the Julie/Julia project who cooked her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. When I read Julie’s book, Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen, (how freaking obsessive is that?) I kept thinking, is that really (still) enjoyable?

People who are new to Twitter are often overwhelmed and turned off by its fire hose of information. I say, dip into the stream for a bit, float around, chat, share some stories and get out. Come back later in the day if you want another dip. Yeah, treasures and trash floated down the river while you were elsewhere. Relax, or as we say in yoga, chillax, there’s plenty more of it upstream. Enjoy your float.

Author: deirdrereid

Deirdre is a freelance writer for companies serving the association market, who after more than 20 years in the association and restaurant industries, is enjoying the good life as a ghostblogger and content marketing writer. Away from her laptop, you can find her walking in the woods, doing yoga, going to shows, journaling, cooking, or relaxing in a comfy chair with a good book and a glass of something tasty in hand.

5 thoughts on “Fear of Being Stupid and Missing Out”

  1. Deirdre,

    This is an awesome post. When I first started on twitter and facebook and LinkedIn and bloglines and so on and so on I really, really tried to read everything the day it appeared. For a few months I was stressed beyond belief because it was simply impossible for me to get to everything and I thought I was going to miss something vital or I was going to miss a conversation that I could have added some value to. Over time I have realized that the anxiety that I brought on myself was simply not worth it. Part of that was due to the fact that I learned that there was no way I could respond to everything and that there was always going to be additional “good stuff” for me to read and comment on so in some ways I really wasn’t missing anything. I do still stress a tiny bit when I hit that “mark all as read” button or clear out my entire cache on tweetdeck but that stress goes away real fast when I start to see those things start to fill up again with “good stuff” almost immediately.


    1. Thanks, Scott. I remember that feeling. It was hard to get off Twitter because good stuff to read kept coming into my stream. That’s when I started using a timer. As for my Reader, I still feel a bit sad when I click Mark as Read but sometimes it has to be done. You’re right, there will always be new good stuff to replace the old. It’s why I tell new bloggers they shouldn’t worry about writing something that’s never been said. If it’s been said before, most people probably didn’t read it, so say it again.


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