If we don’t all follow the rules then the chances are none of us will – Alastair Stewart

The urge to scratch that FOMO itch is only going to get stronger, writes Alastair Stewart

Monday, 11th May 2020, 7:30 am
Princes Street Gardens is quiet during the lockdown - but for how long?  (Picture: Scott Louden)
Princes Street Gardens is quiet during the lockdown - but for how long? (Picture: Scott Louden)

I’m convinced we’re living through The Dark Knight Rises. Christopher Nolan’s 2012 epic featured a masked villain, a city-wide lockdown for five months and the main character with a busted back. Maybe the last one is just me and my easily agitated sciatica.

I suppose fiction is a common theme here. For nearly two-months (bizarre, evening writing that) I’ve lived with this subconscious believe that beyond my four walls life continues. Some Fear Of Missing Out itch -– Waterstones, Wonderland Models, the cafes – all the places that mean something to you must surely be there, and thriving?

Having spoken to a few friends nearly all agreed that ‘FOMO’ is the collective feeling that’s at once driving them out the door but making them want to stay in. Social media has been a tragic blessing to pretty well show the scale of the shutdown. No one else is going out and there’s nothing and nowhere to go – so stay in if you can.

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Alastair Stewart is a public affairs consultant with Orbit Communications

On the other hand, there is a growing restlessness and anxiousness that will quickly unravel the whole point of the lockdown. The recent spate of warm weather and pictures of some people flaunting the lockdown made the front pages. As we head into the summer months, as the weeks of this turn into months that FOMO itch will be made worse. And it could be kicked right out the door if we come to suspect or know that others are doing the same and some semblance of economic and cultural life is restored.

It’s a very petty, very human quality which is seldom discussed but ignored at our peril. We want our fair share; we don’t want others to have rights and privileges that we don’t. The danger with any unsanctioned exodus is it will inevitably lead to resentments that will prompt mass dereliction. This was the biggest danger and worry in the lead-up to Dr Catherine Calderwood’s resignation as CMO.

In short, if we’re going to follow the rules, we have to all do it and do it properly. And that must mean there are strong punitive measures for those that break the rules designed for all. It’s a very fragile house of cards rooted in a reality check on human nature. We often want what others have, and nothing is worse than a suffering sleight with unchecked en masse flaunting.

I’ve not left the house as much as I probably should have. I’ve made it along St John’s Road for emergency supplies to family members and the odd walk along Corstorphine Railway Path. The stress of dodging people, like Jack Nicholson over pavement cracks in As Good as it Gets, defeats the purpose of the exercise.

As the weeks roll into months, I’m more confident than ever that equitable and ubiquitous adherence to the guidance – however that may change or be eased – is the only way to survive this. It’s also the overlooked part of the equation.

I’m not saying become the seasoned curtain peepers, but certainly the collective knowledge others are doing the same is the only real barrier. How else can we hope to stop an avalanche of “well, if they’re doing it” – why not me?

Alastair Stewart is a public affairs consultant with Orbit Communications. Read more from Alastair at www.agjstewart.com and follow him on Twitter @agjstewart