Gotcha. Don’t worry – it turns out you are not alone. Many people suffer from “Fear of Missing Out” (FOMO). No wonder – thanks to social media, we are constantly being berated: “Subscribe! Keep up to date with the latest! Download the app! You’re missing out! Save money! Make smarter choices! Have smarter kids! Dress better! Eat better. Live longer!”
While social media provides more opportunities to connect to others, it offers so many that we simply cannot manage them all. We each have to give some of them a miss. But some become caught in FOMO, defined as “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent”, driving a desire for connection that can become self-defeating.
FOMO is a modern disorder, fuelled by social media and such platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, which invite users to look into the lives of others to see what they are doing. The key word is “into” the lives of others – you are not in the picture so you must be left out. You Loser! This also entices us to compare our lives to those pictured.
You begin to feel anxious, questioning yourself. Why am I not doing that? Why was I not invited? Why am I not having those adventures? Why am I not having that much fun? Did I make bad choices in my life? You may feel insecure, inferior, resentful, even envious. In the comparison game, there is always one guarantee, you will lose. You have knowingly entered a game which will consume your self-esteem and fuel potential feelings of worthlessness.
It turns out that FOMO is nothing new, even though the word was only officially added to the Oxford Dictionary until 2013. Consider this: “that he had developed the typical . . . neurosis …namely that Something had happened, or is about to happen, in the next street, and they will not know about it until it is too late …. This haunting fear of of missing a fragment of reality ….” That was written in 1958. Balthazar, Lawrence Durrell, 1958
The result is the same – you are left preoccupied by finding the illusive activity or experiencing that will make you feel alive. Counterintuitively, this may lead to noncommittal behaviour – you don’t want to say yes to the Leasts when the Mosts may invite you to something much more exciting. You can keep your options so open that you may end up with none.
With all this judging, FOMO leaves people comparing themselves to others, making them less fulfilled and satisfied with their own lives. FOMO is a vicious circle because as you chase a future experience, you are missing out on the present. If you are not engaged in your relationships, your life, you really are missing out.
The key to curbing FOMO is simple and two fold. First, stop missing out on what’s right in front of you – the experience you are having right now, even if that experience is a simple as reading this article. You can’t be with your friends and family if you are busily on your device seeing if someone else is doing anything better. Which proves that yes, there really only is only one of you and you can only be in one place at one time. Yes, even you. Second, stop playing the comparison game. Remember that people’s shared social lives are all beauty and no beast. No one is happy, funny and fabulous all the time – even though it may look that way. And don’t let advertisers fool you – nothing you can buy will stop FOMO.
Rather than freaking out – be in your moment. It’s the only one you can’t miss. Cherish it.
And remember – YOLO (You only live once) so live your life in the way that will make you most happy.