There is little doubt that the phrase FOMO — Fear Of Missing Out — has become a behavioral trademark of our frantic cultural mood. Few things seem to steer our social existence as much as the fear of not necessarily missing, but rather being overlooked by the dynamic flow of organized activities, events, and experiences. For years if not decades, and noticeably accelerated with the advent of digitalization, FOMO wasn’t prompted by an intrinsic desire to constantly be everywhere, at once. If it may have become internalized as a craving, all it did in fact was harbor collective insecurity — and an entrenched, cultivated pressure to be continuously part of the society of spectacle. Needless to remind, things have taken quite a U-turn in the past year, and now that the world appears to be reopening, the FOMO phenomenon has nearly evaporated, leaving room for its anxious, introverted cousin — FOGO (Fear Of Going Out).
Whatever FOMO lacked in logistical feasibility, FOGO makes up for in rational decision-making, bringing to the fore the wide variety of anxieties which were probably latent, but present even before COVID-19: people are scared, out of practice, vulnerable, scarred by the major public health concerns induced by the coronavirus.
What does this hint about the future of large-scale events, gatherings, and social happenings? This shift will, perhaps, prompt us to reconsider what missing out even means, can, or should mean in this day and age. Sure enough, as social beings, we crave connection, interaction, exchange. Doubtlessly, we want novelty, excitement — if diving right back into the frenzy of the outside world may prove hard for some, perhaps FOGO can lead us to think outside the box, finding new ways to engage people beyond the conventional. Or simply redefining “going out” as escapism from our everyday, not changing but adding to the understandings we have of collective belonging and interpersonal connection. Be it by way of remodeling the physical — AR, XR, avatars — or other creative ways of instigating togetherness, we will be lessening the authoritarian dominion of the physical, making it less intimidating — and significantly more manageable. Induced by a survival mechanism, FOGO may well have its purpose after all.