FOMO (an acronym for Fear of Missing Out) is defined as anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may be happening elsewhere and is often aroused by posts seen on a social media website. What brought it to my attention was having three clients in two weeks share how it was impacting their lives. It was added to the Oxford dictionary in 2013, but has been impacting people for much longer. Since the introduction of social media, we have seen a significant increase in FOMO. So much, in fact, that a funky new word was created to explain it.
Research has been done to see if this is a “real” thing and the answer is yes. I found an article in TIME, that highlights a research study which states FOMO starts as unhappiness with your current situation. This leads to repeatedly checking social media as a way to “stay in the loop”. The researchers went even further to see when the subjects were checking social media. Their findings showed that people who suffered the most from FOMO often checked their social media immediately upon waking up, during meal times, and right before bed. This is a problem because social media doesn’t actually help, it just makes it worse. But how can being so connected be harmful? As humans, we regularly compare ourselves to those around us, intentional or not. Added bonus, most people only share “perfect” and positive moments on social media. Thus, creating the perfect storm for you to grow even more depressed about your current situation that you are already unhappy about and FOMO. So I am sure at this point you are wondering, what can I do about it? Good news, keep reading and you will find out!
Tips for relieving or decreasing FOMO:
- DISCONNECT!!! To do this you will first need to recognize two things. First, you have created a dependency on social media for you happiness. Second, social media is not real life and therefore creates an unfair comparison to yours. Research studies show a decrease in FOMO when their participants disengage from social media and spend time focusing on making changes in their real life. After all, if the fear is missing out on life, you will definitely miss out on yours if you stay lost in social media.
- Make changes to increase satisfaction with your life: Again, FOMO often starts as an unhappiness with your current situation. Take a look at your life and see where changes could be made for you to be more satisfied. This could be physical changes such as a new job, getting more sleep, finding new friends, or scheduling time into your life for friends. Or it can be mental changes in thinking. Missing out because you have a test to study for or a presentation? Remember those events are temporary and more likely than not you will be able to join your friends on their next adventure. Let’s be real, if you were to blow off those responsibilities to be there you most likely wouldn’t be having fun due to thinking about your responsibilities you should be doing.
- Mindfulness: The magical art of staying in the present, or more importantly, your present. Mindfulness is all about awareness and devoting all of your attention to the task at hand rather than splitting your attention over many tasks. By staying mindful in our lives we can actually experience our lives rather than wonder “where did the time go?”. For more info on mindfulness check out these other blog posts (http://northstarcounselingcenter.com/category/mindfulness)
- Celebrate as many birthdays as possible: The older we get the less time or energy we have to devote to others lives. Therefore, FOMO decreases with age because we stay focused on our own needs and grown more content with our lives as they are. So there’s one more reason to celebrate getting another year older!