Fear Of Going Out (FOGO) Is Now A Thing, But Was Lockdown The Excuse To Stay In We Always Wanted?

In a pre-lockdown world, fear of missing out (FOMO) was a thing. We didn’t want to lose out on the cool new restaurant taking bookings and the party everyone was going to. Holiday destinations were chosen based on the photos that could be taken and the Instagram likes secured from envious onlookers. If you weren’t in the place to be, you might as well be nowhere.

Staying in was something you had to justify, lest you were seen as dull. Perhaps you’re jetlagged from a two-week business trip, you’re doing something amazing tomorrow instead, or you’re just exhausted from all that hustlin’.

At the time, it was normal to board crowded trains and planes, visit packed bars and stand close to others in lines. We’d overtake, rush around and think nothing of our personal space being invaded. Business encounters were on a similar level of familiarity. We’d go to great lengths to meet someone in person, present to packed rooms and attend events where we’d shake hands with everyone we met. “Standing room only” was a badge of honour. It all seems crazy now.

Now there a genuine fear of going out, and we’re truly better off staying in. It’s transpired that lockdown has taught us much about our true selves. Fear of catching a deadly virus is one thing and apprehension about re-entering society may be another. But lockdown has given us a break from the endless pressure to engage, perform, go out and be the person our networks expect us to be.

What’s changed?

As we move out of lockdown, decisions are made on different foundations. The difference between a Zoom conference call and an in-person meeting now isn’t just the travel time and cost. Even when active virus cases are down, we’ll still consider the risk of picking up an illness on the way there. It means the decision includes the cost of our health and wellbeing and how that might affect our household.

Health reasons aside, in-person time might come at a premium that some aren’t prepared to pay. If someone can pack and deliver my shopping to my door, why would I visit a supermarket? If I can pitch, sell and scale whilst wearing comfy leggings, why would I do it any other way? If I can stay at home and grow my company, what’s the benefit to leaving the house?

A daily commute from the bedroom to the kitchen is the new normal, and truth be told it suits us well. Giving that up for tubes, traffic and time-sucking travel has to be really compelling to drag us away. It’s not that we’re lazy, it’s that it made more sense all along.

What’s the truth?

FOGO, or fear of going out, presents a challenge for individuals and for businesses alike. It means that each invitation comes with a more complex set of pros and cons, to assess if the occasion is really worth it. The status quo and its expectations have disappeared.

Once upon a time, if you couldn’t leave the house you couldn’t secure deals. You couldn’t make money. You couldn’t be a valuable member of a team. Now, you can do it all. Once upon a time, you couldn’t find the blank space you needed to write that book, learn that language, or start that course. You had stuff to do. You had places to be.

Lockdown has given everyone a valid reason to be indoors. A reason to say no. There’s no pressure to be anywhere and hardly any social obligations exist. There’s no shame in staying in, saving money or being on your own.

If we’re really honest with ourselves, pandemic aside, was lockdown life the change we all desperately needed? Did it give us the chance to reassess, reinvent and re-think everything we took for granted? Did it help us cut out pointless chatter, needless meetings and those people and plans we didn’t fancy anyway? Did it show us what could be possible with a clear calendar and deep, uninterrupted work?

An alternative opposite of FOMO is JOMO: the joy of missing out. Did lockdown give us all an excuse for shameless JOMO? Excuseless JOMO? Maybe some hadn’t even experienced JOMO before lockdown. They hadn’t considered the joy could come from saying no and staying in.

How much are you enjoying that liberating feeling of not needing to do anything, be anywhere or dress for any venue? That endless blank space in your calendar that holds all the options and none of the obligation? Which of your new habits are you prepared to swap for old ones? An entire population has realised what it’s like to be free of expectation. It’s addictive. Time has been reimagined and reclaimed and we’re not letting it go again.

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