First we had Fomo, the fear of missing out, and once upon a time that felt relatable. No one wanted to sit at home and watch Netflix while everyone else was out having a good time…right?
Um, wrong actually. Because then we discovered Jomo – the joy of missing out. And it became entirely socially acceptable to sit on the couch and eat corn chips while everyone else was out having a good time. Encouraged, even. You know, #selfcare; you do you.
But what happens when you’re on the couch scrolling through Netflix and find yourself completely unable to choose a film? So much so that you end up choosing nothing?
That, friends, is Fobo – the fear of better options. It was coined by American venture capitalist Patrick McGinnis, who seems to have a knack for acronyms because he’s also the guy that came up with Fomo. Thanks, Patrick, for so accurately summarising our very particular social anxieties.
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So what is Fobo?
It’s characterised by an inability to choose between the options available. For example, whether to watch The Knight Before Christmas or Let It Snow. Both look equally terrible but which one is most deserving of your evening? Of your corn chips?
It’s a kind of analysis paralysis and can scale up to more important decisions, such as choosing what course to do at uni or something as serious as having a child. A person experiencing Fobo will typically find themselves absorbed in what could be, and it’s a feeling overthinkers might find all too relatable.
I know I do. Anyone who’s ever been to dinner with me knows my one rule: I can’t engage in proper conversation until I’ve decided what I’m ordering. Otherwise I’m going to be looking at your mouth moving while I’m mentally debating between chicken and fish. It sounds absurd, but I do legitimately find myself frozen by the choices on offer. That’s why I prefer restaurants with set menu options or better yet, $12 steak night. Then I know exactly what I’m having.
My decision fatigue filters into every area of my life. I’m on several different gym trials because I’m convinced there might be some better fitness option out there. What if I like boxing more than HIIT training? What happens then? It’s like my brain has a commitment problem.