The French psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan defi ned desire as neither inherent nor individual, but a group dynamic, a social interaction: “Desire is the desire of the other”. In other words, what we desire is learned/enforced through social constructions and interactions. The most popular toy is always the one the other children want; and as soon as that toy is no longer desired by others, it becomes abject, redundant. We see this in fads and crazes; in the fashion machine’s ‘must-haves’; in what bodies matter, and correspondingly what bodies are unwanted and therefore undesireable.
We live in an age where there is a tyranny of choice; we have too much to choose from, but choose we must. Unlike bygone days in Ireland, where watching one TV channel only meant missing one other, we now miss out on hundreds of ‘choices’, despite being able to record six, or ten simultaneously. We are haunted by the choices we lost, missed, neglected. We are unceasingly distracted, anxiously checking our phones during television programmes, in cinemas, even over meals. In bars we glance to strangers, indeed friends, while focusing on our screens, the Apps; to see who we could meet and chat to.
It’s a culturally stimulated ADHD, where we cannot attend to one experience for fear of missing out on others, and thus we enjoy none. We have become FOMOsexuals, unable to be in any real encounters or commit to any real experiences, sexually, emotionally, socially. Haunted by the fantasies of those that might message us, we fail to engage with the people before us.
FOMOsexuality as a socio-sexual phenomenon is becoming increasingly pervasive, if not ‘normal’. Our lives have become a huge marketing, self-promotion exercise; logging events and experiences as photos for Facebook or Instagram for the approval of the unknown masses. And the stronger our FOMO, the more enslaved to these technologies of our own imprisonment we become. No one commits to meeting, dating, fucking anymore; everything is last minute, hiding as spontaneity, but concealing the anxiety in our delaying for something else. used to wonder why couples went out for a meal together but didn’t talk to each other; at least now they have their phones to capture the evening out, to post it, to do anything but be there in the awful struggle of potential intimacy.
Sexually, fantasy has always been a spice that can fl avour or enrich an encounter. Sometimes closing one’s eyes and opening one’s mind to ideas, images, memories, hopes can be so enlivening and enhancing. But now in FOMOsexuality, we drown out the tastes of another’s body with drugs that detach us from each other, with pornography that detaches us from ourselves. Fantasy has moved out of our personal imaginations and onto screens where we download scenes enacted by the Others, with their perfect bodies, genitals, orgasms, and a little part of our originality, our imaginative magical potential dies in laziness, passivity and self-loathing.
Under the tyranny of choice, many can only exist by declining to choose, refusing to take part; it just costs too much. In a similar psychology to the refusals of anorexics encircled by food, may there not be a correlation between society’s persistent sexual ‘liberations’ and the emergence of asexuality as a necessary personal identity? Sexually, in the western world, the fear of missing out on all the rides, and clicks, and hook-ups and fucks has led to sexual anorexias and sexual bulimias. Some are so burntout, exhausted, excluded that they refuse to engage anymore, becoming desexualised, withdrawn; while others make themselves sick through sexual over-consumption. When there are so many to expend, there is no longer enjoyment in the appetising nibbling of another, we can only binge on bodily remains that cannot be tasted.
Inherent to the power and potential beauty of any choice is the regret over choices not taken – we must miss out in order to gain experience. This is the potential joy inherent to any letting go. The road not taken defi nes us as much as the road we choose. Now we no longer stand at such crossroads, but at myriad junctions and speeding traffi c yovers where procrastination is deadly. We can only be overwhelmed by the amount of information, choice, options that are constantly changing and being updated.
So impossible is it to not miss out on something, instead of choosing a single direction, we desperately google map ourselves to on-line destinations others have ‘liked’. The more we have to choose from, the greater the related deprivation in what we are missing out on, the tougher the dissatisfaction, the more we feel we are less.
Delayed gratifi cation is sexy; desire thrives in being deferred. Taking our time to connect, to learn, to approach, to explore, facilitates choosing better than having more to choose. It is the quality in our choosing, not the quantity of our choices that should draw us in. It does not matter what we choose, so much as what we do with/in/through that choice. It is never about staying in an unnecessary or unwanted commitment to the objects of our choice, as much as enjoying the exploration and potential within that choice.
The sexiness is in not knowing, in getting to know, in being unsure, vulnerable. Either we meet ourselves and others here, or we fail to meet, and this is the only thing we should truly dread losing.
“ Sexually, in the western world, the fear of missing out on all the rides, and clicks, and hook-ups and fucks has led to sexual anorexias and sexual bulimias.
Ray is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist specialising in individual and relationship counselling. He can be contacted on 086 828 0033