What is FOMO (And How Do You Beat It?)
The fear of missing out, or FOMO as it is more colloquially known, is an insecurity that hits deep. On a surface level it might sound quite harmless – anyone who has been a teenager (so, all of us) can understand the anxiety of being left out of a social occasion or not having the same "must-have" sneakers as everybody else. It’s practically a rite of passage among adolescents who are figuring out their place in the world. But this is what FOMO boils down to: a deep-rooted fear based around one of the most fundamental human needs, and one upon which our survival depends: the need to belong. Humans have banded together for hundreds of thousands of years, and it is an evolutionary instinct to be part of a group and fit in. But while FOMO is nothing new, the term itself has only emerged within the last 20 years – a period of time in which the experience of FOMO has become increasingly linked with anxiety, depression, and loneliness: the age of social media.
The Problem With Social Media
Social media platforms are both a blessing and a curse in how they have disrupted the way we communicate with each other. They certainly can help us feel more connected, seen, and part of something. But they can also perpetuate feelings of isolation. We are drawn to social media when we crave connection, but seeing the highlights of other people’s lives also confronts us with the things we do not have ourselves. Sometimes, it can feel like everybody else is having one long awesome party and we didn’t get an invite. Even more insidious is how social media platforms are almost intrinsically designed to arouse FOMO, and marketers are able to exploit this insecurity. Consumers are encouraged to buy a certain product or experience and then show it off on social media to prove their social capital , which can leave many people tying their sense of self-worth to the attainment of material possessions and lifestyle choices that look good, regardless of what’s going on beneath the surface.
Perception vs Reality
Want to know a valuable secret? Experiencing FOMO does not mean you are actually missing out on anything at all. It is simply a perception. Those shiny and happy-looking people at the glamorous beach party might actually be tired and miserable. Those expensive and beautiful shoes might pinch at the toes. But when we allow FOMO to rule our lives and our decision-making, we will never be truly happy or satisfied with what we do have. That is equally true about a pair of sneakers as it is of life’s major decisions – from having children to relocating. There is no right or wrong way to live your life, as long as you are living it for yourself, despite how often we are sold a superficially “better” life that more often than not comes with a huge price: our happiness and wellbeing.
Get Some Satisfaction
The greater life satisfaction we have, the less FOMO can affect us. The biggest obstacles to satisfaction are internal, and by exploring these, you’ll naturally feel compelled to change the external factors that are in your control. This can look like building up enough self-esteem to leave a toxic relationship, even if the world tells us we are missing out if we are not in one. It can be generating the confidence to go for a promotion, or jumping into a career change. Or it can look like taking more control of your financial stability by spending less on the things you do not actually need, through not giving in to the constant push to have the latest “it” item. In order to go inwards and address the insecurities that are making us anxious, depressed, fearful, and lonely, we need to embrace something even better than being “allowed” into the tribe: the joy of missing out.
Embracing the Joy of Missing Out
JOMO is about leaning into your own needs and desires. Imagine how so many other people are desperately and futilely trying to make themselves happy by spending money, going out, showing off, and being constantly busy when they don’t necessarily want to, while you get to jump off that train and chill out with your favourite activities and hobbies. JOMO is about choosing yourself, because this is the first place we need to belong – in our own skin, our own mind, and our own energy. The joy of missing out is about cultivating this feeling and mindset, so that you can stop chasing what other people have, and invite in more of what you actually need and want. Here’s a few tips to get you started if you’re identifying with feelings of FOMO:
- Take a break from social media. Delete the apps, even if it’s just for a few days, or a week at a time. Even professionals who use social media in their work take breaks from it when they need to. Use the time you gain from this to listen to your body and intuition. Follow the breadcrumbs to your own joy, however quiet that joy may be.
- Return to social media (if and when you choose to) with more intention. Curate your feeds into spaces that are inspiring, loving, and safe. Carve out specific times to engage.
- Question your consumption of other forms of media – are you watching the latest streaming hit because it truly interests you and brings you good feelings and happiness, or because everyone else is watching it? Are you obsessing over the news in a way that’s leaving you stressed and anxious? How could you switch things up to break these patterns?
- Try to incorporate more mindfulness in your everyday life. Perhaps this will mean meditation, or it could look like simply taking some time to zone out and let your nervous system unwind. Whatever it may look like for you, this is about taking the time to really tune into your own innermost thoughts, feelings, and desires, so that you can live in a way that’s more authentic and true to yourself.
- Start a gratitude practice, such as journaling every evening, or starting the day saying thanks for the good things and people in your life. This will help you stop thinking about what other people have that you do not, and start celebrating what you have that other people might not.
All of the content on our website is thoroughly researched to ensure that the information shared is evidence-based. For more information, please visit the academic journals and other resources that influenced this article: Fear Of Missing Out: A Brief Overview Of Origin, Theoretical Underpinnings And Relationship With Mental Health; Social Capital, Self-Esteem, And Use Of Online Social Network Sites: A Longitudinal Analysis; The Role Of Online Social Capital In The Relationship Between Internet Use And Self-Worth; Motivators Of Online Vulnerability: The Impact Of Social Network Site Use And FOMO.
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