You’ve been there. Your day is going great. You’re getting stuff done, making progress, feeling really good about yourself… So you decide to take a little break to check your social media. And just like that, your good mood evaporates. Why? Because you’ve just been bombarded with posts and photos of all the cool things that are happening while you’re sitting there “suffering” at your desk.
That’s the result of FOMO.
FOMO became an official word in 2013. It means, as you probably know, the Fear Of Missing Out. It’s defined as ‘‘the anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media’’. According to one study on the subject of FOMO, nearly 75% of young adults say they’ve experienced it. And that’s a very bad thing.
Why is FOMO dangerous?
Scientific studies have proven that FOMO is linked to feelings of disconnection and dissatisfaction, and that social media fuels it. FOMO leads people to check social media again and again and again in a way that very closely resembles addiction. Lots of us regularly scan email or Facebook to keep up with friends’ updates. But some people want to do more than just keep up – they begin to obsessively read every single new post and photo and compare and evaluate their lives based on how they see others portraying their own lives.
If you’re caught in the FOMO cycle, it may mean that you’re not feeling too great about your life in general. FOMO often originates in unhappiness: people who suffer from it feel less competent, less autonomous and less connected with others than people who don’t.
It’s clear that FOMO can affect your sense of well-being. What can you do to reduce the effects of the fear of missing out?
Four ways to avoid feeling FOMO
- Realize that you aren’t really missing out. A lot of what we see on social media is exaggerated to make life seem better and more fun than it actually is. Many of the things we see on social media are really reflections of who we want to be, rather than who we really are. Remember: people only post their “highs” and omit their “lows”. Keep that in mind before you start imagining everyone’s life is more fabulous than yours.
- Try to avoid overusing social media. This is probably the heart of your problem. Seeing fantastic posts from friends and colleagues when you’re not a part of them can stir feelings of envy and even heartache. The very simple solution to this problem is to cut back on your use of social media. You needn’t give it up forever, but take time off and focus instead on your work or your personal interests. It won’t kill FOMO, but it will lessen its hold on you.
- Ask yourself if you’re the cause of your own FOMO. Is it possible you’re saying “no” when friends ask you to participate in events, even when you have nothing else going on? And then feeling FOMO because you weren’t with them? If you constantly say no to your friends, there might come a time when they stop inviting you altogether. So practice saying “yes” – and not miss out in the first place.
- Understand that you can’t do it all. Your days aren’t endless and there are only so many things you can do, either at work or at play. The important thing is to carefully pick and choose the things you want to do and try to be comfortable with the fact that you simply can’t say yes to everything.
A 2016 article in Time summed un FOMO in a nutshell. It said “Forget the fake perfect lives of Facebook that lead to FOMO. Instead, try JOMO: the joy of missing out on all those illusions. When you spend all that time staring in envy at the oh-so-cool pictures of cleverly crafted bliss on Facebook, keep one thing in mind: It’s your life you’re missing out on.”