Use your cell phone to Google your antidepressant and find out how many people of your age and demographic killed themselves while on it.
Consult your mobile web browser history and read the bottom tier blogs you only read when extremely bored, like when waiting for an oil change: your high school friends’ mommy blogs, that recipe blog by that lady who calls herself The Skinniest Cook, the one with long, miserable, Livejournal style essays by your old histrionic coworker, the travelog of your missionary cousin.
Try to manually pluck your eyebrows in the reflection of your blacked out computer screen.
Give yourself your first ever self-generated, full-head French braid. Retreat to bathroom to look at it from all possible angles, glancing furtively at your iPhone every 90 seconds to make sure it’s not back on Wi-Fi.
Absentmindedly navigate to People.com. Feel embarrassed when the page won’t load and you realize and that this means you literally have a celebrity gossip tic.
Drink coffee. Drinkcoffeedrinkcoffeedrinkcoffee. Feel ill. Tell jokes to entertain your coworkers because you are basically the equivalent of workplace high.
Blatantly flirt with the one coworker who, though not objectively hot, is definitely like an 8.5 by comparison to the rest of the nerds you spend 9 to 5 with all week.
Blame it on the bucket list or any number of pinterest-y quotes about how awful it is to have things in your life that you regret not doing. It’s so much easier to make a mistake, hit the ground, and move on than it is to wonder how differently (better?) your life could have been had you gone option B. Fear of missing out (FOMO) is a ubiquitous 20something disease.
Jeremy Bentham developed an awesome decision making tool called hedonic calculus. Basically you just rate every potential course of action according to a static set of conditions:
- the intensity of happiness it will bring you
- the duration of the happiness
- the certainty or uncertainty that the action will make you happy
- whether the gratification will be immediate or delayed
- whether the action will have negative consequences
- how many people will it bring happiness to?
I’m not trying to tell Jeremy how to philosophize but it really seems like this algorithm needs an eighth consideration: whether the absence of the action will induce FOMO. You could go through this whole list and determine that an action doesn’t sound like a really great investment. Things like moving to Brooklyn because you really want to make it as a writer, switching careers or getting back together with an ex have actually a negative guarantee of happiness. They are highly risky situations in which it’s realistic that you may end up broke, unhappy and living with your parents.
Adding potential for FOMO to Bentham’s hedonic calculus acknowledge that learning life lessons or benefiting from uncalculated risks are just as valuable than a safe bet. We have more options than people in Bentham’s time did. We also live longer and know that well have a long time to stew about a missed opportunity when we’re kept artificially alive in a nursing home. Act accordingly.