Overcoming FOMO: What Fuels Your Fear of Missing Out?

Happy couple taking selfie on road tripEarlier this year, the Powerball jackpot soared to $1.5 billion dollars. Ticket sales went through the roof. People who never played the lottery before were suddenly buying handfuls of tickets. According to psychologists, this is likely rooted in an innate fear of missing out.

FOMO, an acronym for “Fear of Missing Out” has become a popular internet term in the last few years. It was even added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013. FOMO is defined as the feeling of anxiety or apprehension over the possibility of not being included in an exciting event happening elsewhere that others are experiencing.

The term may be new, but the feeling itself is not. People tend to wonder if the grass might be greener on the other side. There’s always the question of whether someone out there is living a better life, making more money, or finding more opportunities. In the digital age, when social media and smartphones have the potential to make us more preoccupied with others’ lives than ever before, FOMO can become a serious problem for some people.

Where FOMO Comes From

The term FOMO was originally popularized by entrepreneur Caterina Fake. FOMO is a modern-day form of “keeping up with the Joneses.” Where people were once trying to keep up with a handful of neighbors, they’re now trying to keep up with hundreds, even thousands of social media friends and followers.

Social media has its good points. It can help people stay connected to friends and family around the globe, but it can also create serious feelings of anxiety, inferiority, and depression for some. People look to social media to feel more connected, but in many ways, it can make people feel more disconnected.

It is not clear to researchers whether social media is responsible for creating feelings of FOMO or if it simply makes it easier for people to indulge in those feelings. The latter is more likely, as humans have dealt with emotions such as envy and regret since the beginning of time. Looking at others’ lives on social media for hours each day can exaggerate those emotions.

Research has linked FOMO to feeling disconnected from others and discontent with one’s own life. According to a 2013 study published in Computers in Human Behavior, people with a high degree of FOMO feel less competent, less autonomous, and less connected in their daily lives than the average person. People with strong feelings of FOMO also reported using social media more often, suggesting social media may be a significant contributing factor to their anxiety.

Megan MacCutcheon, LPC, has noticed the negative effects of social media in people who are seeking to improve their self-esteem through therapy.

“In my workshops, participants often begin a conversation around social media and how it affects their self-esteem and the ability to feel satisfied in their own lives,” MacCutcheon said. “They see all these pictures and status updates on Facebook and develop a fear that they are missing out on the happiness, success, perfect families, and exciting experiences that everyone else seems to have.”

For those looking to improve their self-esteem and increase satisfaction in their own lives, here are some tips for overcoming FOMO.

Embrace the JOMO (Joy of Missing Out)

JOMO, or “Joy of Missing Out” is a counter-term created by entrepreneur Anil Dash. While people with FOMO may second-guess their choices and wonder if they could be having more fun elsewhere, people with JOMO embrace the choices they have made and find joy in the present situation.

Millions of amazing events take place in the world at any given moment. It is impossible to be everywhere at once. Rather than worrying about what you may or may not be missing out on, try making the choice that is best for you and owning that decision. Find happiness in what you’re doing, and remind yourself why you made the choice in the first place.

Limit Your Social Media Intake

FOMO might be an age-old problem, but social media can add fuel to the fire. If you find social media is making you feel envious of others’ lives or unsatisfied with your own, try limiting your time on social media websites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Many people have become addicted to knowing what is happening in others’ lives. They end up neglecting their own lives, staring into a screen instead of being fully present in the moment.

Try giving yourself a set amount of time to check social media each day. Applications such as StayFocusd, Anti-Social, and Self-Control can block or limit time on social media and other distracting websites. You can also stop notifications from appearing on your phone so you are only engaging with social media when you are actively logged on.

Go to a Digital Detox Camp

FOMO is a modern day form of “keeping up with the Joneses.” Where people were once trying to keep up with a handful of neighbors, they’re now trying to keep up with hundreds and even thousands of social media friends and followers.If limiting time on social media doesn’t seem like enough, sometimes a full hibernation may be helpful. Some people choose to take a few weeks or even months off from social media to spend time with their real-life friends and family and focus on the present moment.

Some may choose to go on a camping or hiking trip to unplug. Others may find it more difficult to put their phones down, so they choose to attend a digital detox camp. Camp Grounded, located in Northern California, is one such digital detox camp. Adult campers willingly give up their phones for a few days, leaving the work jargon at home and participating in activities such as campfires, yoga, meditation, swimming, archery, and stargazing, among others.

Remind Yourself Social Media Is Airbrushed

Remember what is posted on social media is usually not what it seems. Just like the photos of models in magazines are airbrushed, people don’t typically post the whole truth on social media. Instead, people typically only post their best selfies and are more likely to share a photo of an exciting adventure rather than a rant about any difficulty they may be having. Remember, no matter how perfect or interesting a person’s life seems, everyone has bad days.

Be Grateful

Cultivating an attitude of gratitude can help combat anxious and envious feelings. Research has shown simply writing down a few things you’re grateful for each day can help increase your overall life satisfaction. Further positive psychology research links gratitude to greater feelings of happiness and well-being. The next time you’re feeling envious of what someone else has, try redirecting your focus to the positive aspects of your own life. You may start to feel better.

Practice Meditation

Meditation can help you become more mindful of your thoughts and feelings and how they affect your life. Taking a few minutes to meditate each day can help clear your mind and reduce anxiety.

Change Your Thoughts

According to psychologists, FOMO can actually be a form of cognitive distortion. Cognitive distortions are irrational thought patterns—such as believing your friends don’t like you if you weren’t invited to a recent event—that can lead to depression and other mental health conditions. Cognitive behavioral therapy techniques can help people learn to spot cognitive distortions when they occur and transform them into more positive and constructive thoughts.

Unplugging from technology, redirecting your thoughts, and seeking help from a qualified mental health professional are all ways you can stop worrying about what you’re missing out on and start feeling confident in the way you choose to spend your time.


  1. Burkeman, O. (2014, October 17). This column will change your life: The joy of missing out. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/oct/17/joy-of-missing-out-oliver-burkeman
  2. Hinds, H. (2016, January 13). Fear of missing out fuels pressure to play Powerball. Retrieved from http://www.fox13news.com/consumer/74215255-story
  3. Huet, E. (2014, June 20). Camp Grounded: Where people pay $525 to have their smartphones taken away from them. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/ellenhuet/2014/06/20/camp-grounded-digital-detox/#732df78c688a
  4. Giving thanks can make you happier. (2011). Harvard Health. Retrieved from http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier
  5. Glei, J. K. (2010). 10 online tools for better attention and focus. Retrieved from http://99u.com/articles/6969/10-online-tools-for-better-attention-focus
  6. Pappas, S. (2013, May 14). Life satisfaction linked with fear of missing out. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/14/fear-of-missing-out-life-dissatisfaction-fomo_n_3275349.html
  7. White, J. (2013, July 8). Research finds links between social media and the ‘fear of missing out.’ The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/research-finds-link-between-social-media-and-the-fear-of-missing-out/2013/07/08/b2cc7ddc-e287-11e2-a11e-c2ea876a8f30_story.html

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  • Leave a Comment
  • maddie

    April 18th, 2016 at 12:05 PM

    social media as a whole fuels the fire for most of this fear wouldn’t you think?

  • Kendall

    April 18th, 2016 at 5:18 PM

    If the knowledge that you are not included in every single social event that your friends are involved with drives you to the brink of your own personal madness then it could be time to take a little time out from it all. If you know that knowing these things will bother you, then why even look and try to find out about them all? It’s only going to make you feel worse, so just sit at home and Netflix and chill. Or better yet, be the one making the plans nect time around!

  • Cathy Caroline

    April 19th, 2016 at 9:25 AM

    There has always been this fear that someone is going to miss out on an activity, but you know what? Such is life. You don’t always like to do things with certain people and they are likely not going to like to do everything with you. That’s the way it goes. We shouldn’t have to be so sensitive about it.

  • Mo

    April 19th, 2016 at 3:27 PM

    Good grief the people who are always feeling this fear have some serious self esteem issues that they should probably work on

  • Michael

    April 20th, 2016 at 12:59 PM

    I align more with the “Joy of Missing Out”. I really like this article. You covered a lot of ground here about the topic. I just tweeted this article.
    Thank you,

  • janna

    April 21st, 2016 at 11:46 AM

    Me too Michael! If I can find a way to get OUT of all the action and events then that is what actually makes me happy.

  • Cherish

    April 22nd, 2016 at 12:58 PM

    I am sorry to say this but I think that this kind of fear is found most in those who have very low self confidence to begin with

  • Alex

    April 23rd, 2016 at 10:30 AM

    Teens especially are so emotional that I think that it is only natural for them to have these fears that they are being left out for some reason and they will stress out about it. I know that if all of us look back on these years in our own lives we will recognize that it is something that we all went through, and that even though the information is out there more now, things that we may not have found out about until next week we see in real time now, I think that is the thing that makes it even more difficult for many of them.

  • mandy T

    April 24th, 2016 at 2:15 PM

    I always tell my daughter just to put her phone away when she knows that there is an event going on that she hasn’t been included in. No sense making yourself even more miserable by looking at others post about it.

  • Violet

    June 29th, 2022 at 5:08 PM

    A new Stanford study suggests that simply suspecting that you’re not as active as you should be can be harmful to your health. To the point of actually increasing your chances of dying sooner. The study offered a few explanations for why simply feeling lazy might be unhealthy. There can be a “nocebo” effect, where if you feel like you’re not active and fit enough, your body won’t actually benefit from the time you do spend trail running and hiking. A cruel opposite of the placebo, basically.

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