It is just about that time of the year again. Everywhere you turn, you can glimpse the freshly served entrees and seasoned veterans of university life alike, buzzing around campus; a hive of particularly aggravated bees, all late to their stations. One of them goes to the gym 12 times a week (his break is on Sunday), and plays Lacrosse on the weekends. The other is president of debating soc, yet feels it’s her duty to attend every other discussion group on campus. You see your friends dotting from appointment to appointment, and potentially life changing event to event, and wonder. Wonder what exactly? I don’t know, but this poor soul just cycled 15 (figurative) miles to town for a jam session, and then rushed back to pen his article for concrete.
As students we feel the need to be everywhere at every point in time. We are possessed with a terrible pathology, a locomotive rather than paralysing ailment, the fear of missing out (FOMO). The specifics of this disease don’t need to be hashed out here. We all know what it is, we all know what it feels like. It is the desire to fill up our calendars with daringly disparate things, and all at once. It is the impulse to attend every club night, bar crawl, book signing, chess tournament, society ball, bake sale, birthday party, study group, friends bar mitzvah, and any other event we’ve been invited to, as long as a day’s notice is given. It’s even that itch we get sometimes to carry out a text conversation with that friend about the day we just spent with them; 20 or so little consumable bites (and bits) of them flashing on our screen over an hour. At some point life became such an involving motion (or commotion) that we forgot to take stock of it.
The spoils of war lessen as the war fought broadens and the candle-wicks wane –
There are some very good reasons for not being everything for everyone at every time in every place:
1. It, rather obviously, tires you out. Concentration dips the more you shove into a day. The less you concentrate, the more you go into autopilot. The more you go into autopilot, the less you actually engage in activities, and the less you can gain from them. At one point, you start piling on losses.
2. Doing a whole bunch of things can give you a fragmented insight into them, but focusing on a larger project gives you the means to truly gain expertise. However, gaining expertise takes laser time and focus, something you’re less likely to have if you have the fragmentary centre mentioned above. A book by Cal Newport, entitled ‘So Good They Can’t Ignore You’ explores this thesis.
3. You have less time to spend with yourself and less time to spend with other people in any meaningful way. It is important that we spend time alone and time with our selves so that we can encounter our madness (i.e., so we maintain our sanity) – in the immortal words of Marina Abramovich ‘Silence is like an island in the middle of a turbulent ocean’. Also, like jigsaw puzzles, other people demand time and cognitive effort. It is hard to grant that to them with a long to-do list running through your mind, especially when they feature as part of that to-do list.
Of course, it may be that the FOMO doesn’t affect you in any particular way, or that it empowers you (God forbid), in which case discard this article to the T. However, I do hope to see one or two more brightened, awakened, and less encumbered people on campus in the near future, and it would be cool if one was you. Keep well!