Earlier 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.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.
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.
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.
- 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
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- 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
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- 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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