Saturday 7 December 2019

Six signs you suffer from Fobo, the new social anxiety

Do you suffer from FOBO: the Fear of Better Options.
Do you suffer from FOBO: the Fear of Better Options.

Guy Kelly

Do you have Fobo? It sounds, to the lay ear, like a furry, adorable (if potentially needy) must-have Christmas toy; or perhaps a new, neon-coloured online bank card run by hipsters from a co-working space.

In reality it's a much-needed label for a very particular, painfully modern social anxiety: the Fear of Better Options.

Most of us have, at some point, sloped into the kitchen and opened the fridge door intent on eating something - anything - only to gaze at the heaving shelves in stupefied silence, before closing it again and deciding that hunger is in fact preferable to making a decision.

Well imagine that, but for almost every aspect of your life. Conceived by US venture capitalist Patrick McGinnis, Fobo goes even further than its older cousin, Fomo (the Fear of Missing Out - another McGinnis coinage), in having the potential to stifle everything from dinner plans to career progression, wardrobes to new relationships.

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Fobo doesn't care whether you're trying to make a minor decision (peanut butter or Marmite?) or a life-changing one - it will leave you overwhelmed by the plethora of options available and the promise of what might be... if only you can make the best call possible.

Because in 2019, there's just so much choice.

So then, here's six signs you may be Fobo-afflicted. And please: do read on, despite the temptation of all the other great looking articles surrounding this one. They'll still be there when you finish.

1. Your calendar resembles a Post-It note factory

In an ideal world, there'd be a lot of blank spaces with the occasional event penned in. 'Carol singing with Omar', 'Book club', 'Joanna over for dinner (vegan)'.

In reality, your inability to neither say 'no' to an event nor fully commit to one means there are labels all over the place.

A chaos of primary-coloured events splattered across the month, some days featuring four or more options, all to be narrowed down 'nearer the time'.

Many are written in psychotically capitalised letters, and most finish with at least one question mark - though some have several, which is a code that makes sense only to you. 'PANIC ROOM WITH WORK??'... 'Babysitting for neighbours (haven't said yes)'... 'Felipe's citizenship ceremony??????'. The only words that don't feature are 'Night in'.

2. The Netflix page you stare at most is the Menu

It was going so well: you found that fabled clear tile in your calendar, you just about managed to choose something to eat from all the options on the Deliveroo menu; you have picked a sofa to sit on and now just have to find something to watch.

You don't really mind what it is, so open Netflix and… nope. Your mind goes blank.

Some have called this 'analysis paralysis', but that sounds too much like a lost Radiohead demo, so Fobo covers it.

How can you click on The Crown when everyone at work was recommending The Good Place? Wouldn't it be more nourishing for your dinner party patter if you inhaled that documentary about the dark side of Bikram yoga?

But then, you just want to relax, and Friends is right there.

After three hours of scrolling, it's time for bed.

3. You're always dressed for anything, and nothing

The inability to choose between a hen party, the opera and a SoulCycle class do not make for an obvious wardrobe ensemble.

Runners with a LBD and a novelty phallic necklace just in case? Lycra shorts under a ball gown with an L-plate pinned to your tiara?

It's difficult, and while you've become adept at lugging around a bag that covers most options (though that was a mighty challenge, given you couldn't decide what to include), the reality isn't that you're prepared for anything - it's that you're prepared for nothing.

4. Your Christmas is more meticulously planned than the moon landings

It wouldn't be beyond you to pull out a map, a compass, some string and a calculator to estimate just how you can still go to drinks with your old school friends on Christmas Eve, make Midnight Mass, see your parents first thing the next morning, cook lunch for your in-laws, go for a walk with your siblings and open presents with your children.

5. You've turned down your dream job multiple times

It was the right salary, the right role, with good scope for progression, a nice-seeming boss, a fine commute, and it's a company you've always dreamed of working for… but there was something 'off' about it, so you decided to turn down that promotion in order to see what comes up in the next few months.

You've done this for 22 years. You're close to retirement now.

6. You have a special 'receipt folder' for everything you've bought over the past 28 days

And you never cut a label off. Because you just never know, do you?

Irish Independent

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