• Are you stressed by the idea that you can “never keep up” with all that is going on?
• Do you say yes to experiences that you do not enjoy, simply to avoid missing out on them?
• Are you constantly “waiting for something better to come along”?
• Do you spend a lot of time regretting past decisions and imagining how things could have been better?
• Do you need to constantly check social media for updates, even while engaging in other enjoyable activities?
• Do you often attempt to compare your life to others’ to see if yours “measures up”?
What is FOMO?
All of the above are signs that FOMO may be a problem for you. FOMO is the fear of missing out. This refers to the anxiety that something more exciting than what you are doing is currently going on elsewhere, or that others are off having rewarding experiences without you. FOMO is also associated with fear of regret, or having made the “wrong” decision about how to spend your time.
Is FOMO a new thing?
This term has become increasingly common and talked about in recent years. In fact, it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013. However, FOMO is not a new concept. The idea that “the grass is always greener on the other side” has been around for a long time.
Where does FOMO come from?
Experiencing FOMO is more likely when we feel dissatisfied, disconnected, or when we generally do not feel sufficiently loved and respected in our lives. These feelings are uncomfortable, but are something we all experience from time to time. For some individuals, however, FOMO can be associated with more significant negative effects on emotional well-being. Although FOMO is not linked to any one psychological condition in particular, it can stem from and contribute to low self-esteem, depression, social anxiety, and others. FOMO can be a particular concern for individuals with compulsive social media use or Internet addiction.
FOMO contributes to the desire to stay up-to-the-minute with what’s going on in the world and in the lives of our friends and loved ones. It is easy to see how the popularity of social media has increased both our awareness of and risk for FOMO.
The role of social media
First, social media makes “news” about goings-on and others’ lives available to us around the clock. Seeing photos and posts about others’ enjoyable and exciting experiences can increase feelings of being left out. Second, people are most likely to post exciting or exceptional experiences on social media, as opposed to mundane ones. Thus, social media makes others’ lives appear more exciting than they actually are. This makes it easier to experience FOMO and compare our own lives negatively to others.
Healthy ways to combat the problem
Regardless of the level of FOMO you experience or its impact on your everyday life, below are some tips for combating FOMO and improving how you feel:
• Pause and reflect on past enjoyable experiences that you have had. This can help shift the focus from what you might be missing out on to what you definitely didn’t miss out on.
• Identify what is meaningful to you. Are the experiences that give you FOMO even things you truly value?
• Initiate plans for doing the things you do feel you’re missing out on. Vacation to the tropics? Concert or Broadway show? A hobby you’ve never gotten around to starting? Consider what obstacles have stopped you from pursuing these, and then make a plan to get started.
• Practice gratitude and radical acceptance. Being thankful for what you do have can be a powerful antidote to focusing on what you may be missing. Similarly, it’s helpful to accept things as they are now, in the present, rather than dwell on what they could be. People who regularly practice these skills tend to not have problems with FOMO.
• Cut down on your social media use. Give yourself a daily social media “allowance,” or set firm rules around when and where you allow yourself to use social media.
• Remind yourself that what most people share on social media is a skewed and selective version of their actual life experiences.
If you believe that FOMO is interfering with your quality of life in an unhealthy way, consider consulting with a CBT professional.