Have you noticed what an interesting life other people have? They dance at music festivals, watch movie premieres, learn new things, go out to lunch with friends, ride bikes, and read new literature, broadcasting it casually on social media. How do they manage to do everything and, most importantly, why is your life not so bright and eventful? Meet… FOMO.
Understanding FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)
The term “FOMO” was added to the Oxford Dictionary in 2013, although the emergence of the effect itself is associated with the advent of social networks. Fear of missing out, or FOMO is a syndrome of lost profits, the worry that the most exciting thing is happening somewhere else, but not with you.
From social networks, we find out who was born, who was proposed to, who spent their holidays where, what they ate for dinner, and what book they read. Every hour we receive a heap of heterogeneous information, which is why it is so uncomfortable to be out of touch – there is a feeling that we are missing something important. The irony is that we miss “something important” not in our lives, but in the lives of other people, and the part that they filter. Giving up on social media will only exacerbate the FOMO feeling, precisely because we don’t know what others are up to at all.
Examples of the FOMO Syndrome
Perhaps FOMO is familiar to you from childhood. Remember: friends came to your parents, everyone sits down at the table, opens the wine, puts on salads, and mom is about to bring mashed potatoes … Then the adults start their conversations, sending the children to play in another room. It seemed that the most interesting thing was happening there, behind the door! And as an adult, you could feel:
- Desire to be part of a group. It’s a cold Friday evening, you sit down with a cup of cocoa to watch a movie, and then you look forward to a hot shower, a face mask, and going to bed early. By the way, you look at Instagram, and there are funny stories from friends at the opening of the bar. FOMO shot: “Maybe I should have gone too?”
- The desire to have time for everything and everywhere. A pleasant date, lightness, and ecstasy, you are in the flow of what is happening and even forget that you were invited to a concert that evening. Suddenly, a status update of a friend is displayed on the locked screen – and photos from the concert pull you from the inside with an invisible thread. “It’s a pity that you can’t be both there and here at the same time!” FOMO whispers.
- Choice paralysis. You want to pay for tuition, but you need to consider both the budget and the schedule. While you’re thinking, here and there you see ads for other courses — on the same or other topics, cheaper or even free, and two more bloggers are praising some kind of marathon… I want everything! But how to choose between art history, Italian, and marketing, if the first thing is for the soul, you agreed to study Italian with a friend, and marketing is your professional interest? The endless choice is paralyzing. FOMO also arises when choosing a place for a vacation, a format for celebrating a birthday or wedding, or a new place of work. What if somewhere is better?
Causes and Symptoms of FOMO
There are almost no studies on FOMO, but psychologists believe that this syndrome has three key causes:
1. Existing limitations in life. The reality is that it is impossible to watch all the interesting movies, go to all the parties, read all the books, and meet all the amazing people. It is sometimes difficult to accept this, especially when you observe the active life of others. An illusion appears: since the people from Instagram are doing so much, then I can too. But instead of omnipotence, you fall into the FOMO trap.
2. The habit of comparison. Psychologists have found that regret arises at the moment of comparing reality with what could be, which exists only in the imagination. Having seen enough of other people’s publications, willy-nilly, you compare your life with someone else’s. Unfulfilled desires may appear, and FOMO is right there again.
3. Loneliness. If a person lacks communication and trusting relationships, the focus of his attention will be directed to those whose social life is more intense.
4. Lack of a sense of self-worth. Feeling like someone who is not interesting to others is painful. People overcome this feeling through career growth, participation in various activities, and demonstration. Every like, and admiring comment works as positive reinforcement and encourages people to look for more hobbies, overcoming, and traveling.
5. Denying your needs and low life satisfaction. The FOMO study, conducted in 2013 by psychologists at the University of Essex, found a pattern: people who experience less life satisfaction and feel that many of their needs are not being met are more likely to experience the fear of missing out on something important.
It’s important to understand that social media is not the cause, but the catalyst for FOMO-related anxiety. What to do if you do not want to live in constant anxiety due to social networks?
Effective Attitudes and Techniques Against FOMO Syndrome
First of all, it is important to remind ourselves that other people’s lives on our screens look one-sided. People tend to share vivid impressions, moments that they want to remember, and life, problems, and experiences remain behind the scenes. If you scroll through the feed and feel FOMO at the sight of someone else’s happy and successful life, remember that this is only part of the picture.
I have put together some tricks to combat FOMO:
- Close the app or website as soon as you feel uncomfortable watching the feed;
- Energy is where attention is directed, so transfer it from FOMO to the positive aspects of events, joyful moments, and everything that has worked out in your real life;
- Give up trying to find the best option, choose a good enough one that will help you deal with FOMO. It is impossible to know all the men of the planet in order to find the most suitable partner, just as it is impossible to choose a job, a play, or a new chair in this way;
- The time spent watching the broadcast of someone else’s life, you take away from your own. Limit the time you use social media to satisfy interest, but don’t get stuck there for a long time, and don’t provoke FOMO;
- When experiencing FOMO, analyze it. What are you missing? What can you change in your life to get what you envy?
- Unfollow the profiles of people whose lifestyles or values do not match yours – for example, you are a young mother, but are subscribed to 20-year-old students, or your apartment was bought on credit, and in the feed, there are celebrities and their lobsters for dinner. This is not a weakness, but elementary hygiene and protecting yourself from FOMO;
- Remind yourself that you can’t be in all places at the same time, do a hundred exciting things, and always look perfect. Even those who look like this in stories and whose life seems to be more successful than yours wear wrinkled T-shirts, forget to wash their hair, and suffer from migraines and FOMO too;
- If unsatisfied needs are hiding behind FOMO, and it is not clear which ones, it will be easier to work on them with a psychologist or psychotherapist.
FOMO will either poison life or become a helper. By tracking and analyzing it, you will be more attentive to yourself, your goals, and your capabilities. Awareness of the lack of something significant, your feelings, and your needs will push you to think about how you want to see your life and help you build it that way.
1. What does FOMO mean?
FOMO stands for “Fear of Missing Out.” It’s when you feel worried or sad about not being part of something fun or exciting that others are doing.
2. How do I know if I have FOMO?
You might have FOMO if you always want to be where the action is and feel left out when you can’t join in. It’s like feeling left behind or thinking you’re missing something important.
3. Can FOMO make me feel bad about myself?
Yes, FOMO can make you feel not so good about yourself. When you see pictures or hear about cool things others are doing, you might compare yourself and feel like you’re not as cool or fun. But remember, everyone’s life is different and special in its own way!
4. What can I do to feel better if I have FOMO?
To feel better, you can try limiting the time you spend on social media. Instead of always checking what others are doing, focus on things that make you happy and spend time with friends who make you feel good about yourself. Remember, it’s okay to miss out sometimes!
5. Should I talk to someone if FOMO is making me sad or anxious?
Yes, it’s a great idea to talk to someone you trust, like a parent, teacher, or friend, if FOMO is making you feel down. They can listen and help you understand that everyone feels left out sometimes, and it’s okay. They might also have ideas to make you feel better and remind you of all the wonderful things in your own life.