The Editor’s Desk: No comment on resolutions

Best not to answer if you’re asked about your New Year’s resolutions

Happy New Year! Have you made any New Year’s resolutions for 2019? I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that it might incriminate me.

What do you mean? If you’re asked that question and say no, others assume either that you’re too lazy to make resolutions, or that you don’t think you have to change anything about yourself. If you say yes, then you’ll end up having to confess that your resolution lasted all of seven days (the average length of time a resolution apparently lasts, according to people who are presumably paid a lot of money to study these things).

How long have people made New Year’s resolutions? Probably since the concept of a “New Year” was introduced.

Why is that? Because the start of a new year marks a clean sheet, a new beginning, a hitting of the re-set button, call it what you will.

But so does the start of a new month, or even a new week. True, but “New Month’s resolutions” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

What sort of resolutions did people make in the past? Some 4,000 years ago, at the start of the New Year Ancient Babylonians promised to return borrowed goods and repay their debts.

So borrowing something from your neighbour and forgetting to return it isn’t a new thing? Apparently not.

Phew. Makes me feel better about that borrowed weed whacker in my garage. That’s between you, your conscience, and the neighbour you borrowed it from.

Anything else? In Medieval times knights took the “peacock vow” at the end of the Christmas season. The vow reaffirmed their commitment to the ideals of chivalry.

That sounds mild. If you want something more hardcore, Ancient Romans not only made promises of good behaviour in the New Year, they sacrificed animals at the same time.

They meant business. They certainly did. However, there’s no record of whether or not the sacrificing of animals made them any more likely to stick to their resolutions, which is probably not good news for the animals (see my note about resolutions lasting for seven days; I’m guessing people haven’t changed much in this regard in 2,000-odd years).

I suspect that New Year’s resolutions have decreased in popularity over the years. Au contraire! During the 1930s, about a quarter of all Americans made at least one resolution. At the start of the 21st century, some 40 per cent of Americans did. The American Medical Association suspects the numbers could be even higher.

Have there been changes, in recent years, in the sorts of resolutions people are making? Yes indeed. A popular new resolution is to cut back on one’s use of social media, but people cite FOMO as something that holds them back from achieving this goal.

FOMO? What’s that? “Fear Of Missing Out”, defined as “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.”

What does that mean in real language? That other people are posting about interesting things on social media and you aren’t seeing them, so your life will be the poorer for that.

Does that really impact my life? It depends. Do you think you’d feel deprived if you didn’t see your Uncle Frank’s posts about politics, or your Aunt Edith’s messages asking for help playing “Bingo Buddies” on Facebook?

No. Then FOMO might not be much of an issue for you, so limiting your social media usage might indeed be a very achievable resolution. Also, a lot of people issue invitations to events using social media, so if you want to skip next year’s family Christmas dinner in favour of going to a restaurant, you can always say honestly that you didn’t see the invite.

Thanks! No problem. Happy New Year!

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