Our Outdoors: FOMO

By Nick Simonson

FOMO is the acronym for the “fear of missing out.”  The term was coined in the mid-2000s as shorthand for a growing form of social anxiety about not being in on the latest happenings and events, particularly as online displays of all the fun other people were having increased through channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram being delivered directly to developing smartphone technology.  While I’ve never particularly cared much about those avenues or many of the things that happen on them – I’m just thankful that my columns and stories about the outdoors are automatically posted to them for my tens and tens of readers – I do experience this phenomenon, sometimes on a daily basis and particularly in fall.

It’s not because I don’t have tickets to Coachella, or the Red Bull sky surfing series or some other social media status-worthy event, but rather because I, like many hunters this time of year, find myself thinking about all the options available in the field.  Take last Friday for example. All around me, singles and doubles of sharptailed grouse were flushed by my hard-working dog along the edge of the cut wheat field.  One would get up, I’d take a shot or two and then ten feet closer another pair would flush.  Ole would work the grassy border of the field and go on point at some unseen target, and with the command would dive in to send another up.  I shot so poorly on the amazingly close birds, I could have coined a new term by the end of the walk, and just gone with FOM for “fear of missing.”

Perhaps it was because my mind was elsewhere, like on my deer stand 15 miles away.  Especially as the wind began to drop and a stillness settled in over the rolling hillsides as evening approached, I found my mind wandering there, thinking of the five-by-five whitetail that certainly was standing broadside in front of my perch at 11 yards, setting up an ideal chip shot that even a half experienced archer like myself could have made. Even though the recent set of trail camera pictures showed most antlered activity in the area happening around two in the morning, I couldn’t shake the idea that I was missing out on tagging up. As I finally bagged a bird and made the turn back toward the truck, I began to think that the sweat developing in the slight heat of the hike was less about physical exertion and more from the stress of imagining what was going on in another realm of hunting. 

As an outdoorsman – and one who is high strung to begin with (the fact I bowhunt at all I consider a small miracle due to the patience and stillness required) –  I possess that heightened gene which makes it not just a requirement, but almost second nature, to always be thinking ahead.  Living in the moment can be difficult when one is already planning for pheasant opener, the start of deer season, or thinking about first ice, when it’s only late September. Even when standing in the middle of the field watching a dog curl and charge on fresh scent, I’ll find myself considering the options I may have months down the road, and while the element of time and planning for it is the challenge that all people face, the fear of missing out is doubled when you add in the concept of space.

Should I hunt this PLOTS or that WMA?  Stand A or Stand B?  Head north to the draw or south to the river bottom? Geez, I haven’t even snuck in a fall trout trip this year – would that be a better option? The many places and pursuits available this time of year make a form of FOMO real, but instead of comparing social media feeds, it’s more about wondering what the next best alternative would be, and I’m not going to get into the opportunity cost lessons from a macroeconomics class I’ve long since forgotten and save that for another column.  Oh, and the trail camera photos from the time during the Friday afternoon grouse hunt?  Just grass blowing in the wind which confirmed I did make the right choice, but they led me into a little bit of an existential deep dive.

The realization of who I am, where I am, and what I love doing will always drive me a little bit crazy while trying to live in the moment. As I try to prioritize my activities, the growing enjoyment of each new one I’ve added to my autumn collides with the satisfaction of those I have pursued the longest and loved the most, which also occur in fall.  That’s why I, and likely you, keep coming back to as many outdoor opportunities as possible as the season shifts with the limited hours we all seem to have these days and doing any one of them means we’re not missing out on anything (unless we’re not shooting well).  In the end, the first step out of the truck is the first step toward living in the moment and overcoming FOMO, because the only real anxiety this time of year for any hunter should be the concern of ending up on a couch during daylight hours when all these opportunities abound…in our outdoors.  

Featured Photo: A Time and Place.  The rolling hills, or wherever you find your outdoor fix, provide a perfect place to quell any thoughts about missing out on anything, even if it’s another outdoor pursuit.  Simonson Photo.

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