The Fear Of Missing Out – FOMO

With great interest I have been reading about the history of rubber factories, the development of waterproof materials, and the rise and fall in popularity of certain brands, styles, and materials over the past decades. But by far the most interesting elements to explore must have been how people experience specific rainwear items on a personal level, from their earliest explorations with the materials to how it has influenced their personal life years later, with them integrating it into their lifestyle or using it for relaxation and enjoyment. Unfortunately reading about this sometimes comes at a price; something I became really aware of when writing my previous article. (source of picture below)

rubber rainwear fetish community in Japan

Going through all the pictures and posts covering the Japanese (rubber) rainwear fetish scene really created feelings of envy in me. A keen reader might have noticed this already in the last paragraphs of that article where I am basically just day-dreaming of how much fun it would be to be able to actively participate in that scene. But my whole concept of what is going on there is merely based on extrapolating positive aspects from a bunch of photos and posts I found online.

What is the fear of missing out (FOMO)?

The fear of missing out, or FOMO, was officially coined in 2013 when it was added to the Oxford Dictionary where it is described as a feeling of worry that an interesting or exciting event is happening somewhere else. And while FOMO is not something unique for this period of time, it has come much more to the forefront of attention with the popularity of social media. It basically refers to a series of emotions that “are hard to describe, but feel like a combination of exclusion, self-loathing, and envy” coming from scrolling through your news feed on your smartphone and seeing that everyone is having a ton of fun while you are sitting on your couch staring at your phone by yourself on a Friday evening. I noticed these feelings myself seeing party pictures of groups of rubber enthusiasts in Japan who come together at venues and are just enjoying themselves, expressing themselves, and are able to wear their favourite gear together, while I am sitting behind my screen thinking what that would be like. Or when I come across social media profiles of people in full (rain-) gear having fun together, exploring their sexuality, experimenting with novel gear like gasmasks, restraints, and interesting raincoats and rainsuits that must be extremely exciting to wear, while I am “stuck with the stuff I have” all by myself. Handling these emotions can be difficult. But I think I am managing relatively well nowadays due to some basic realizations.

Online representations are curated

Almost everyone is curating what they are posting. Instead of posting about every part of their life, from feeling grumpy when waking up, bored when eating breakfast, or anxious when checking the comments on their social media, they are purposefully trying to create an image that puts them in a certain light. Negative feelings that everyone experiences, but reflect negatively on a person, are almost never mentioned in a post: it is all positive, feel-good, inspirational, and motivational. Comparing your reality with the online representation other people put online will quickly result in the feeling they have a much more interesting life, have figured things out while you are still in the dark, and they are just a better person in general.

I am also guilty of curating my content. When you go through my social media feed you will mostly come across vibrant rainwear pictures with a caption that would paint me as positive, confident, and knowledgeable. You possibly get the idea rainwear is on mind most days, I gear up regularly, and feel totally comfortable wearing and showing off my heavy-duty PVC gear in public and online. Reality is very different though. There are days, or even weeks, that rainwear is not on my mind at all, and seeing a raincoat hanging from the coat stand barely triggers an emotional response. And while I do wear my rainboots almost daily, they are often just functional and only give a few seconds of active pleasure when going through a big puddle of mud.

But at least I have figured this thing out right? Not at all! My emotions are regularly a rollercoaster and while I feel comfortable with my passion for rainwear one day, and appreciate the pleasure it can give me mentally and physically, there are days of self-loathing and anxiety I might not be able to ever share these moments with anybody or explore every aspect I think I would like to explore. But you will not see that side of me in my social media feed.

Besides showing only certain sides of yourself online, you can also create a picture by letting the viewer fill in the gaps. Take for example the picture above, which does not show that much but suggests a lot. There is some yellow rainwear, rubber gloves, and bondage gear, but your mind would quickly put these things together and composes a setting of bondage, pleasure, and exploration while in reality nothing like that was going on.

You are “competing against” your complete friends list

If you are anything like me, you are adding interesting social media profiles left and right to follow when you come across them. When someone you follow retweets a message or is tagged in someone else’s post you check out their profile and start following them as well. In the end you can follow hundreds, if not thousands, of people online. And this can very easily give the wrong impression they have much more going on than you.

Imagine everyone has a great experience once a month which they post about. You post your picture and so does everyone else you are following. With 100 people to follow you get a feed of 100 pictures a month while you only post 1 picture. When you follow 500 people you see 500 pictures a month while only posting once yourself. It is easy to get the impression other people are having great experiences all the time, while you only experience it once a month.

Now add the fact that you can post about that single experience multiple times and it looks like you have even more fun. This is something I am guilty of as well. It is not often that I find the right combination of privacy, inspiration, and time to take pictures, but when I do I often switch gear a couple of times and post the results in multiple posts the months after. When you go through my feed it might look like I am geared up every week, while I think I am taking pictures maybe once a month at most only. See the two screenshots above from my IG profile: these two pictures were taking on the same day but posted 6 weeks apart making it seem like I get geared up regularly.

Everyone is on their own journey

This point should be very obvious, but I struggle with this the most myself. The people I come across online, with interesting profiles to follow, are often a lot further on their journey than I am on mine, even if our journeys were comparable to begin with. I see the pictures of their collection of raingear, the social gatherings they attend, the partner that shares their interest, and the activities they participate in which keep going around in my mind and I might want to experience myself also.

But part of this is just me being naive. Based on the posts and pictures available I can imagine myself being there as well and fully enjoying every aspect of it. But my imagination is probably not realistic at all. All I am picturing is this perfect moment of extreme pleasure, sensual gear, and a combination of emotions that I would always keep fond memories off. But would I really feel comfortable in such a position, exposing my deepest longings, and possibly experiencing pain and humiliation (even in a good way)? Is this really something deep inside me that I am looking for, or do I just have unrealistic ideas what it would be like? It is easy to “suggest” in a picture, as above, but would it be really “me”? Others might fully enjoy it, but maybe their journey is simply different from mine.

Social validation feedback loop

While the possible negative side-effects of the fear of missing out must be obvious by now, the next question would be why so many social media platforms and content creators, including me, keep propagating this FOMO. The main reason would be that social media platforms want you to be on their platform as long as possible so they can earn money by serving you ads. One of the ways they do this is by getting you addicted to the dopamine release you get when you receive likes and comments on your posts. And as users have quickly found out: the more you play into the fear of missing out, the more feedback you get, the more dopamine rushes you experience.

Many studies show how this can have detrimental effects on users, but mostly teenagers are more receptive to validation. And while it can be a confidence builder for some to get a lot of online validation, many others will be left with diminished self-esteem, depression, and a constant need for online validation. And in a smaller community like the online rainwear community, it can lead to border-crossing behavior as more indecent content will get stronger reactions from other users. Add a kinky comment, pose a bit sexier, and show some nudity and your followers numbers and likes will increase overnight. But are you really proud of the content you create, or are you just giving away more and more of yourself in exchange for that dopamine rush?

I must admit I do not have the answers and am searching for them as much as everyone else. At times I post some pictures that are clearly meant to tickle the fantasy of the viewers, even though I am not confident it truly represent me. Part of this social validation feedback loop I have tried to undermine by setting up some basic rules for myself before I started posting, for example that I would not simply buy more rainwear to be able to review it and use in pictures. That should explain why my collection is relatively small and stable, and I wait with a next purchase for what sometimes feels like ages. Another, even more important, decision I have made at the start was to show no skin, something I am almost taking too serious sometimes. If people click like on my pictures now I suppose they do it for my photography skills, composition, or just the gear shown, none of which has a serious influence on my self-esteem. That would be different when I post pictures of myself, as every like could easily be interpreted as validation of my looks, body, or skin. Not connecting my self-worth to the number of likes or comments praising or insulting my looks and body would be a lot harder.

Getting out of the fear of missing out

There are ways to limit the fear of missing out. One of the most interesting approaches is JOMO, or the joy of missing out, which is described below.

The most obvious way to limit FOMO would be to simply remove yourself from the fast-paced world of social media. Stop looking at your social media feed, install an app to limit your time-use on social media apps, or put your phone away completely.

Another way to experience the joy of missing out is appreciating real human relationships. Instead of focusing on online relationships with people you hardly know, try to spend more time by meeting up with people and having meaningful interactions with them in the real world even though that can be difficult right now.

And finally, more rainwear related, just experience real-life without having social media in the back of your mind. Get out of your house when it rains, gear up, and just enjoy the sound of the rain on your hood, the drops of water rolling of the material, and the reflection of the light from your rainwear. Stamp in puddles, run through the mud, and relive why you liked rainwear in the first place without having to take a selfie or shoot a video. Or enjoy your gear indoors, dress up, crawl under the blankets, and just experience the moment. Once busy you will be thinking less of what other people are posting online.

Closing words

The main reason for writing this article is that I regularly get messages from people who experience their passion for rainwear as something negative. They are often active on social media, get exposure to a lot of other people within the rainwear community, and compare their reality with the online representation other people are putting forth. With this article I hope I can create some understanding and bring possible solutions to people who negatively experience their interest in rainwear. Mental health should be a top priority at all times, but it has become even more important during the trying times we are currently living in.

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