FOMO The Society Anxiety of the Fear of Missing Out

FOMO. The Fear of Missing Out.

Yes, this is a real condition. A form of social anxiety.

FOMO is the fear of not being centre court of ALL that is going on, just in case you miss something fun, something status-worthy. Of course this fear is nothing new. It is now just magnified by social media.

This is Keeping Up with the Joneses in the 21st century. With social media like Facebook and Twitter being centre stage in people’s lives, what friends are doing is up close and personal. It is now very obvious the parties friends are at, the ones you were not even invited to. Social decorum and tact are out the window. People used to catch up over emails, letters, coffees, etc…Now, what you are missing out on comes with visuals, audio, and video, instagram by instagram of play by play. 140 character sound bites. The choicest words of the choicest moments.

Dr Andrew Przybylski’s research shows FOMO is most common in those with unmet basic psychological needs such as the desire to be accepted and acknowledged. These needs are also driving them to engage in social media, to feel more connected. 24/7.

People with FOMO are constantly and compulsively checking their emails, Facebook updates, Twitter streams… Look around restaurants, buses, food courts, parks…chances are that people are on their mobile devices, checking some social media platform. Even people on dates. Yes, it’s true. It happens.

People are addicted to people watching. Cyber voyeurism, where participation is encouraged. People can live vicariously through other people’s lives, even those of people they hardly know.

Some of you may scoff at FOMO. Maybe you operate strictly offline. Whether you have FOMO or not, we have all felt that need to belong. Some of us are more vulnerable. Some of the time, we are more vulnerable.

Ever lingered after a party (or a meditation) is long over? Ever hovered around a group to see what’s going on? “How can I help?” Even when you clearly feel like the third wheel? Have you fought back the tears of fatigue to stay at an event? Or checked to see what your FB friends are up to? Or what they did for Halloween/Valentine’s/Christmas/New Year’s Eve? Or felt a pang of rejection when you weren’t invited to an outing? A birthday shindig?

Social media is supposed to be social. It is ironic people are getting less social. It is a trap – living and worse, judging, other people’s lives. Rather than living your own. The addiction to constant stimulation and instant gratification is changing the dynamics of interpersonal relations. And the parameters of what our own happy life looks like.

Like all relationships, whether the one we have with social media is healthy or not depends on the most important relationship in life. The one with ourselves. How comfortable are we in our own skin? How fulfilled are we being who we are?

FOMO Fear of Missing Out

Questions to Ask to Overcome FOMO

① Is This What You Really Want to Do?

Always ask if something is what you truly want to do.

We can choose by default, from what we have always done, or from social conditioning. It may have been what we once would have always chosen but life is fluid and expansive. We get to decide. Part of the wisdom for choosing well comes from knowing the why. What is the why that drives your behaviour?

Tied into FOMO is FOBO – Fear of a Better Option. Patrick McGinnis, a Harvard Business School grad and venture capitalist, coined FOBO based on one of his MBA experiences as recounted to Boston Magazine. We are indeed overwhelmed by choices and options, to the point where people are commitment-phobic for fear that something “better” will come along.

② Are You Happy?

The million dollar question. Isn’t being happy why we do what we do? Happiness, like life, is a journey. Our happy-meter does not have to dip when “bad” things happen. Our mood may alter but who we are – happy people or not – is a constant.

When we are unhappy, we sometimes look outside ourselves for fulfillment. Chasing after the “coolest” people or the “hippest” parties is smokes and mirror.

Find out what makes you happy and do more of that.

③ Are You Trying to Distract Yourself From Something?

Whether it is an inadequacy we feel or an unhealed trauma, the desire to distance ourselves from it is natural and understandable. As a short-term fix, this may be a helpful strategy. As a consistent coping mechanism, it leads us to be more and more separate from ourselves, and our own lives. The more we let go of the past, the more easily we can stay in the present.

It is best to get help to deal with whatever the issue, the challenge, the struggle is. Trapped emotions lead to energetic stagnation and dis-ease. Emotions such as anger, guilt, shame, grief are what Dr Norm Shealy (often referred to as the father of integrative medicine) has called unfinished business, the emotions that keep us from enjoying true well-being.

④ Are You Engaged with Your Own Life?

We have to show up to live our own life, to write the pages of our autobiography. We are the hero of our own story. Always, we are, even when it does not look like it of feel like it. Stay grounded, connected. We empower ourselves and lean into our own strength to seek out ways to fulfill our needs, desires, wishes, and dreams. We face our demons and fears and see cracks as opportunities to grow and evolve.

A simple way to reset your compass to your true north is to keep a gratitude journal. Seriously, it’s that easy.

Here are two other things you can do “if you want in on the fun” and to “build positive momentum toward a happy and fulfilling life” (from Ocean Robbins)
* Make it a practice to tell a spouse, partner or friend something you appreciate about them every day [Editor’s note: preferably face-to-face or on the phone!]
* Look in the mirror when you are brushing your teeth, and think about something you have done well or something you like about yourself.

FOMO and FOBO are about being happy with who you are and what you have in life. It means being grateful for it all. Where we feel we might be missing out illuminates where our imbalances lie, whether from past trauma, social conditioning, or learned beliefs.

We all have fears. We don’t deny our fears. We use them as vehicles to transform what we perceive as lack and weaknesses and step more fully into our life.

The key then is to decide how you want to move forward. What kinds of thoughts do you want to create and project?