My grandmother, like most of her generation, didn't travel much.
Her first big trip came in her 60s when my father took her to Paris.
She gasped as they drove down one of the awesome boulevards and said: “I never knew it was so beautiful.” Later I asked her whether she regretted not travelling more in her life. She threw her head back and laughed and said: “It wasn't as if there was ever an option.”
And that was that. She didn't have the option.
Though she may have occasionally worried about what else might have been available, there was no panic that she had missed out on something that had never been up for grabs in the first place.
The other big difference for my gran was that she wasn't checking the Facebook or Twitter apps on her iPhone every few minutes to see if anyone else was having a better time somewhere else. (It may have been quite a different trip if Peggy had tweeted to say that Paris was sooo last year, and Rome was the place to be.)
Social networking has a lot more to answer for than poking ex-partners and being tagged in unflattering photos. It was designed to be a simple, instant way to keep in touch with friends, old and new, and find out what everyone's up to, but it seems to have morphed into a psychotically obsessive system for staking out other people's lives and seeing how yours matches up. It's difficult enough to make decisions these days; did I do the right college course? Is my career the right one for me? Can I find a better partner than the one I have now? But now we are cyber-reminded daily to further undermine the choices we weren't sure were right in the first place.
The latest acronym to describe this phenomenon is FOMO — that's Fear Of Missing Out, to you and I.
I was on honeymoon recently and, when I returned, one of my friends asked why I hadn't updated my Facebook profile while I was away. It would have been a pretty bad omen for my new marriage had I been on Facebook every day telling people who I was in school with 20 years ago what an amazing time I was having, what the temperature was, and posting up photos of cocktails. (Okay, the truth is I had tried, but there was an issue with coverage.)
There's another buzzword doing the rounds — the portmanteau of “week-endvy”, describing the belief that everyone is having a better weekend than you. It used to be you would chat to colleagues at work on a Monday about your weekend; now there's no need to wait,because while you're trying to wash the dog, Des from marketing will be reminding you with a tweet on Sunday morning that he's rock climbing (even though he was out ’til 5am at that restaurant opening with a gang of models).
But take comfort; in a recent survey, over a quarter of those questioned admitted to lying about their weekend activities.
Topping the list of fake weekend fun was a crazy Saturday night out, followed by dinner with friends, a romantic meal and taking a mini break.
Jane (36): “Yes, I've told white lies about my weekends before. A lot of my friends are married with kids and think that I have the life of Carrie Bradshaw. I'm not unhappy, but I feel I can't really tell people that I spent my Saturday re-potting some plants, cleaning the bathroom, and dozing on the couch. I have, only occasionally, stuck up on my Facebook profile that I'm heading out somewhere glamorous on a Saturday night instead of sitting at home in a facemask.”
How many of those “things to do before you die”, or — even more depressing — “before a certain age” lists have you been sent by email or had posted to your profile?
There's a popular Facebook travel app where you can mark on a map of the world all of the places you have been to and then send it to all your friends to remind them of all the places they haven't.
I witnessed a Facebook row between two friends, one of whom was questioning the validity of the other's list. She accused her of only having touched down in Dhaka and never having disembarked the plane, so it should not be ticked as a visited place, to which the other replied she had had to get off the plane for 10 minutes to identify her luggage due to a mix up with tags. That told her.
Fear of missing out is why people queue for a mile outside a high-street shop because Twitter has gone wild about a new Itdress; it's why twentysomethings are having Botox in case they wake up at 40 and wish they had; it's why people marry those they don't love because they want a wedding, and why others don't marry the ones they do in case someone better comes along; it's why people post photos of important occasions on Facebook, and others pore over them — not to see the event, but to see who made the cut when they didn't.
The pressure put on us by social networking is immense, there is no escape from the constant reminders of what you're missing out on.
It's going to be a lot worse for the next generation who social network before they can even ride a bike. But who cares — you can always pretend that you can ride a bike. You can even find a photo of a bike and pretend it's yours. Hell, why not just make it a motorbike. Even though you're only seven years old.