Joy of missing out

on Herman

Getting meaning out from our finitude

I have learned that the fear of missing out (FOMO) is not something to be feared. FOMO is a thing that gives meaning to life, kind of. I personally noticed this when sitting alone on a bench in the city centre on a beautilful warm summer night. There was a festival going on at the time and the atmosphere was electric and a lot of excitement could be sensed in the air. People were joyful and happy. There I was sitting by myself and thinking that I am not part of anything and therefore I started to feel bad. I didn't have anyone to share this evening with.

But then I got the thought that what is the difference between sitting there alone and sitting there together with someone? Not that big. I can experience the same joy and happiness even though I was alone. Why shouldn't I be enjoying the feeling of being there instead of feeling dreadful of the fact that I am being there alone. I was sharing this feeling with everyone, and therefore I should be enjoying it instead of despising it.

"Four thousand weeks" by Oliver Burkeman is an amazing read, and there he goes deep into the concept of the joy of missing out. The thing that I experienced is a bit different from what he is talking in his book, but the fact that I was thinking about the joy of missing out just a few days before I read it from his book makes it too good of a story not to be shared.

He argues, with the help of example of marriage, that the fact that we make decisions and commitments to "non-optimal" things is in fact the thing that gives meaning to those decisions and commitmens.

For instance, it’s precisely the fact that getting married forecloses the possibility of meeting someone else — someone who might genuinely have been a better marriage partner; who could ever say? — that makes marriage meaningful.


The exhilaration that sometimes arises when you grasp this truth about finitude has been called the “joy of missing out,” by way of a deliberate contrast with the idea of the “fear of missing out.”

– Oliver Burkeman, Four Thousand Weeks

Because if we would have the time to do and experience everything what we want, the experiences in themselves would loose their meaning and they would not mean to us that much.

It is the thrilling recognition that you wouldn’t even really want to be able to do everything, since if you didn’t have to decide what to miss out on, your choices couldn’t truly mean anything.

– Oliver Burkeman, Four Thousand Weeks

This all comes from the fact that we humans are finite and we only have that four thousand weeks to live, on average. Depressing and dreadful, and because of that giving meaning to our lives.