The Art of Missing Out

Today’s news feeds and social media streams do a great job of telling us what’s going on in the world right now. The appeal of refreshing our feeds and tuning into broadcasts is their promise to keep us “in the know”, and let us know what the world cares about at that very moment.

One of the symptoms of this culture of connectedness is the fear of missing out (FOMO). FOMO began on the school playground, where there were huge social consequences for not fitting in and not being in on the newest inside jokes and trends.

The problem with all of the feeds we’re refreshing and content we’re gobbling up is that there’s so much content. It’s overwhelming. There’s no way to keep up with everything. Ever. We’re forced to choose, risking feeling left out by the next big thing.

But if we embrace missing out as a reality, we can learn to enjoy the present moment, and the events and people around us.

Discover Old News

The newest technology has been unveiled. A sports team won their game. A politician even stumbled! You didn’t hear about that? Where were you?

When we’re overwhelmed with all of the headlines vying for our attention, it could be helpful to also take a dose of “old news”. Here’s the news from one philosopher’s perspective:

Alain de Botton’s book The News: A User’s Manual has been quite instructive for me in navigating the world of headlines.

We should at times forgo our own news in order to pick up on the far stranger, more wondrous headlines of those less eloquent species that surround us: kestrels and snow geese, spider beetles and black-faced leafhoppers, lemurs and small children – all creatures usefully uninterested in our own melodramas; counterweights to our anxieties and self-absorption.

A flourishing life requires a capacity to recognize the times when the news no longer has anything original or important to teach us; periods when we should refuse imaginative connection with strangers, when we must leave the business of governing, triumphing, failing or killing to others, in the knowledge that we have our own objectives to honour in the brief time still allotted to us.

Fall Behind

Another feeling that can overwhelm us is the feeling of falling behind. As a graphic designer, I can at any moment in the day find thousands of search results that prove that there are many others that are very much better than me at any given design task. It’s easy to be tempted to try to keep up with the best and most vocal designers by producing work that matches the popular trends.

In a recent interview on the Accidental Creative, marketing guru and author Ryan Holiday addressed this feeling of falling behind by pointing out that, “every decision has a trade off.” When we make any life or career decision, we gain certain things, but naturally will lose others. We can’t keep up with everyone else because they’re running a different race. (Check out the full interview here, about 17:00).

Dive Below the Surface

If we’re constantly surfing the headlines, we miss out on the benefits of diving deep into a subject, giving focused energy or thought to a particular subject. The perceived urgent-ness of headlines can distract us from the truly important problems that should have our attention.

To this, Alain de Botton also provides some more great perspective:

We will have nothing substantial to offer anyone else so long as we have not first mastered the art of being patient midwives to our own thoughts.

We need long train journeys on which we have no wireless signal and nothing to read, where our carriage is mostly empty, where the views are expansive and where the only sounds are those made by the wheels as they click against the rails in rhythmical succession. We need plane journeys when we have a window seat and nothing else to focus on for two of three hours but the tops of clouds and the constant presence, only metres away in the inconceivable cold, of a Rolls-Royce engine, slung under the broad ash-grey wing, its discipline and bravery helping to propel our own vagabond thoughts.

Dare to Miss Out

Missing out is a reality, but you can choose to miss out on some things for the sake of embracing others.

What will you miss out on today?