Even as I type that I want to laugh. First there was ‘YOLO’, then ‘FOMO’ now ‘JOMO’. When will this odd obsession with abbreviation end? Is this the direction in which the world is heading? Maybe when I’m 80, my grandchildren will only communicate via a sequence of letters and I’ll be expected to crack the code like a wrinkled enigma machine.
Anyway, FOMO. The Fear Of Missing Out. Something which, if you have a smart phone and/or the internet, you can’t really get away from nowadays. Funny, you spend all of your time at work, fantasising about your celebratory glass of wine and binge session of Midsummer Murders (oh, The Great British Bake Off is on tonight, and Strictly has just started, so mustn’t miss that), and then it hits you.: a glamorous, effortless photo of someone you went to school with (and haven’t seen or spoken to in ten years) strewn across a white beach like a sexy piece of seaweed.
And there it is, a sudden hit of fiery resentment. It’s the FOMO. The sudden realisation, as you look down at your lukewarm cup of tea and your half written email to Janet from accounts, that you aren’t sat on a beach. You haven’t got a fabulous holiday booked. You couldn’t even afford it. You’re not going to that wild party on Saturday night (were you even invited?) and no matter how hard you try, your bottom will never resemble a freshly plucked peach.
In short, you’re not doing very well at all. Or at least, that what it feels like. But, you’re fine, right?
It almost feels ironic to write a book about loneliness when everybody is constantly connected. But are we filling our minds with negativity? Is FOMO clouding our motives? Is inadequacy feeding our anxiety? Is the addiction to social media making us feel more alone?
I wanted to write a story about a group of people, all blinded by the urgency to be ‘fine’. The Accidental Love Letter follows a group of characters with fake smiles; the only issue is, nobody talks to each other. Even though Bea is surrounded by people who ask her every day how she is, the only person she can be honest with is a stranger who she has no intention of meeting.
Social Media has its good and bad points. But something I have loved watching is the community it has created – people opening up about mental health, with the reassurance that they are not alone. Others feel the same. They aren’t tapping a reply calling them a freak or a lost cause, they’re sending hope and comfort. I know how you feel. I’ve been there before. You will get through this. I feel the same.
And then the loudest of them all.
Talk about it. Talk to someone. You’re not alone.
By Olivia Beirne, author of The Accidental Love Letter
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