Being the mom of a severely autistic teenager, I have encountered lots of acronyms. ASD, OCD, ADHD...there seems to be an abbreviated sequence of initials for every type of "disorder" on the planet. The "need for speed" texting etiquette also calls for universally accepted abbreviations...OMG, LOL, ROTFL, IDK, YOLO...it seems everywhere I look, there is some kind of shortened, commonly understood catch phrase. So, when I volunteered to help edit my nephew's English report, I was intrigued enough to do a little research on the subject matter he chose: The Impact of Social Media on Society. My nephew, (and most awesome Godchild on the planet), wrote about a new psychological phenomenon which is quickly becoming a contributing factor in many cases of depression, especially among teens and those in their early twenties. This new disorder is known as FOMO. Fear Of Missing Out.
Most of us are rapidly becoming those "always have your phone in your hand" kinds of people. It starts as a means to keep us entertained, and quickly but very naturally, becomes an extension of who we are. I was a late Facebook participant. I swore, if I hadn't kept in touch with you over the last 25 years, I had no need to be in touch now. (I was more wrong than I could have imagined, but that is a post for another day.) Having rectified that situation and having modified my thinking on the matter DRASTICALLY, I realize just how important these social connections have become. I started out connecting with people I already knew. I added friends I had lost track of, and some who were actively searching for me. I then started following some pages related to autism, because as any autism momma will tell you, no matter how much time you spend being with or talking to folks outside the "autism circle", NOBODY ELSE "GETS IT" quite like another autism momma. I then started to follow some "mommy" pages, and added some pages that I followed just for laughs, (because GOD KNOWS we all need a few laughs!!). I found myself checking my newsfeed more and more, because I enjoyed connecting with the "outside world", and I didn't want to miss anything. FOMO. It wasn't a debilitating need. I could spend the day cleaning, running errands, carting my kids to wherever they had to be. I have not had a need for medication to control my need to keep up with every post in my universe. Yet. But my FOMO disorder has led me to another acronym, that I hope will spread from here, and maybe bring a little comfort to others, who, like myself, are finding the majority of their social interaction taking place on a screen: JOFA...the Joy Of Feeling Accepted.
Through some of the pages I follow, I have become friends with a select few women with whom I have simply clicked. You know, the kind of bond that is unmistakeable and so completely natural, you wonder how it is possible you ever survived without this connection before. There are quite a few of these new (and in my heart, always will be) friends. They are from drastically different corners of the universe, live different lives, have such amazingly different stories, but the bond we all seem to share is the need to accept and support each other. There is no judgement. There is no ego. There is nothing fake. There are pure hearts, full of open acceptance of all the successes, the failures, the flaws, and everything in between. We have never met, and maybe we never will, (although, when I win lotto, the private jet will pick them all up for the commune type vacation, complete with special needs nannies, we all so richly deserve), but they are my friends as deeply as if we had grown up together since preschool. They have taken away my FOMO, and replaced it with my JOFA.
Let's face it...we all need to feel validated. We all want to know that somewhere, someone agrees with our thinking, approves of our choices, and can somehow relate to whatever it is we may be experiencing at a given time. We all need to know that we are not alone. We all need to know that, no matter how many hateful cretins we may have to encounter, (or be married to), SOMEBODY thinks whatever we did, or thought or felt...it was okay, and maybe they even did or thought or felt it, too. When I am sad, I need to know it was okay to feel sad, and someone will be there to watch Steel Magnolias with me and eat ice cream...even if only in cyberspace. I need to know, when my son does something monumental, like finally asking for a tissue instead of wiping his nose on his pillow, I have my PEEPS to shake some pom poms with me. So while social media may be keeping me from cleaning out the office, (AKA, "that room where we throw everything when people are coming over"), my cyberfriends are providing me with something that is so much more mentally and emotionally valuable than a perfectly organized extra room...they give me acceptance...a feeling of belonging that empowers me in a way I never imagined possible.
So, while the Facebook "powers that be", in their esteemed wisdom, (or lack thereof), are purposefully, (with the greedy intention of extorting money from us), blocking some of us from reaching each other, there are simply some connections that are meant to be, and will transcend time, distance and Facebook blocking. I imagine a "thank you, Facebook" is in order for initially providing the media. And a deep and heartfelt "thank you", to my homies...my peeps...my friends...who validate me every day, and remind me on the few occasions that I forget how valuable I truly am, that they will always have my back, and that every day, they will bring me my JOFA, and I can enjoy it with my java:)