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FOMO Has Survived the Coronavirus

FOMO Has Survived the Coronavirus

FOMO Has Survived the Coronavirus

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There is no more scrolling enviously through people’s vacation pictures on Instagram. Instead I ogle snapshots of amazing shelter-in-place baking projects.

I can’t feel lame anymore about not going to dance parties, and yet I feel bad for skipping virtual ones. There are no sweaty selfies from 5 a.m. gym sessions, but The New York Times started a home workout challenge for employees. We can win points. I have no clue what the points are for.

FOMO, the fear of missing out, has survived the coronavirus. No one is going anywhere cool, and I still feel bad.

How did pandemic FOMO become a thing? We have taken troubling aspects of our pre-coronavirus world — the need to “crush it” at work and life and show only idyllic versions of ourselves online — and grafted them onto our new reality.

My colleague Miya Lee said the performative pandemic life “may be annoying but also reveals a need to find meaning or something redemptive in this.”

I get it. We want to make the best of a horrible situation. But we can’t. There is nothing redeeming about this moment. And I will be just as anxious if I finally clean behind the refrigerator.

Some social pressure online can be a good thing. When I saw friends tweeting about making donations to food banks, I was motivated to give, too. But it doesn’t help to be reminded that Shakespeare might have written “King Lear” while he was quarantined during a bubonic plague outbreak.

To all this, I say no. I refuse to be perfect at the Apocalypse. No to FOMO.

No, CDC, I will not tackle home improvement chores. I am not collecting the mysterious points. I will not emerge from hermit life fluent in Italian. I will not read the Time Out guide for time in.

I opt out of becoming a better person. Just let me sit here in my sweatpants, watch every episode of “Cheers” and eat potato chips. (Oops, I ran out of potato chips.)

It wouldn’t be terrible if we used this crisis to understand our tendencies to compare ourselves online to everyone else — and to judge others. We are afraid, perhaps, of being lonely and left behind.

Ugh. I already violated what I said about not searching for redeeming value in a pandemic.

Fine. Don’t learn anything. There is no hashtag BEST LIFE right now. Muddle through. That’s it.

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I wrote earlier this week about tips for being a more thoughtful online shopper. It feels more important now than ever, but it can be exhausting.

People want to do good with their dollars, but because it’s complicated they default to the easiest option. Ellis Jones, the author of “The Better World Shopping Guide” and a sociology professor at the College of the Holy Cross, suggested we make ethical shopping as simple as flipping open an Amazon or Walmart app.

He suggested something like online versions of a food co-op, which vets products and the manufacturers behind them. That way, shoppers have some assurance that they’re supporting small businesses, minimizing environmental impact or doing good in other ways.

These kinds of hubs do exist in spots.

Etsy lets us buy people’s handcrafted goods. There’s Bookshop, for shopping online from independent bookstores, and Intentionalist, which directs people to small or minority-owned businesses in their area.

The idea, Dr. Jones said, is to “allow us to more consciously get to the things that we need, and maybe also connect to what kind of impact it’s going to have on the world.”

Let us know: Are there websites you’ve used that make it easier to shop thoughtfully? What makes them helpful? Please send us your suggestions at [email protected]


  • Getting the economy back on track won’t be easy. Google said it would slow hiring this year, Bloomberg News reported. This is a sign that even a company likely to hold up well in the economic freeze isn’t expecting a quick recovery for business and consumer spending.

  • If YouTube subscribers were votes, then Joe Biden would lose. Combative, argumentative messages get the most attention on hangouts like Facebook and YouTube, and that isn’t the presidential candidate’s style, my colleague Kevin Roose writes. That can leave the former vice president “invisible on platforms where conflict equals clicks,” Kevin said.

  • Fuggedaboutit! (I’m so sorry.) The Times’s pop music critic Jon Caramanica reviews an Instagram challenge to find the best New York accent. DEFINITELY watch the video, including the adorable girl who said: “I don’t know what a ‘dog’ is. I know what a “dawg’ is.”


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