The other evening, I went to my kids’ school to hear a talk about internet security – keeping your child safe online. It was all practical, common-sense stuff: don’t share passwords, install appropriate software, activate security locks etc.
The talk moved on to Facebook and the necessity to keep talking to your children about who they’re befriending and why they’re befriending them, with the very sensible advice that they shouldn’t become Facebook friends with anyone they’ve never met.
‘This doesn’t affect me,’ I thought, ‘my stepdaughter’s only nine. Way too young for Facebook.’
Until, by coincidence, a mother raised her hand and announced that she had a nightmare keeping her daughter off Facebook and that she was virtually addicted to it.
‘How old is your daughter?’ the talk leader asked.
I tut-tutted at the irresponsibility, then declared that if my nine year-old was on Facebook I would take a claw hammer to the laptop and then make sure she couldn’t tap out her name on a keyboard by encasing her hands in boxing gloves.
But then a pip squeaked from the back of the hall: ‘Yes, but what about FOMO?’
How very dare you, I thought. How very dare you tell me to FOMO…er, what does FOMO mean anyway? F*** Off MotherF**…? Er, no, wrong initials.
Another parent asked the question before I could and the pipsquak – a boy of about 12 – answered.
‘It’s FOMO, innit? Fear Of Missing Out.’
In a nutshell, kids who aren’t on Facebook, MySpace, Bebo or whatever other social networking site du jour get bullied – or at least fear they’ll be bullied – because they’re not on the grapevine, not part of the network, not in with the in-crowd. This Fear Of Missing Out is so great that they will do anything to be ‘in’.
‘Jeez,’ I thought. ‘Who’d want to be a kid these days?’
Only FOMO doesn’t just affect children: it affects us adults, too. I know, because I’ve fallen victim to it.
Six months ago, before I became a full-time reluctant housedad, I didn’t have a Twitter account and I thought a blog was where you read the paper in the morning. A friend suggested I should write about my experiences as a housedad, and that I should tell people about it on Twitter. Back then I thought Twitter was just for people who wanted to tell the world that they’d just picked their nose.
But as I started to follow people and they followed me back, I Tweeted more and more. And I’d blog more and more so that I’d have something to Tweet about. I’m now completely hooked, partly because it’s quite isolating being at home on your own, partly because it’s a great excuse not to do the housework, and partly because I’ve found many like-minded people out there.
I’m now on Twitter morning, noon and night, and I try to write posts for my blog at least once, but sometimes three times a day.
And if I don’t get my fix of any of the above, I get a massive attack of – you got it – FOMO.
‘Must check my @mentions on Twitter.’
‘Must join in that meme.’
‘Oh God, there aren’t enough hours in the day to comment on everyone’s post.’
‘Everyone’s talking about something called Cybermummy. Everyone’s going. It’s the must-be-at event, apparently. I want to go (I think) but I can’t even get a ticket.’
‘I’ve not had a single comment on my last post.’
‘Shiiiiiiiiiite, I can’t think of a single thing to write about today. Oh my god, all my followers will desert me and never come back. I’ll be a blogging pariah.’
And then a lightbulb moment.
‘I know, I’ll write about FOMO!’