Fear of Missing Out


The fear of missing out, or FOMO as it's referred to online, is a fairly new phenomenon. This fear is often born and sustained by the ever-growing popularity and number of social media channels. Instead of sitting on our couches wondering what our friends are doing, we have a magical, handheld device that can update us on the locations, actions, and thoughts of everyone we care about (or are just plain curious about.) It's pretty amazing, really; but could it actually be harmful? This fear of missing out that causes us to keep our eyes fixed on our phones can cause us to miss out on our own lives. We miss out on the moments that matter most, and this keeps us from experiencing joy and contentment.

How do you know if you suffer from FOMO?

You may be suffering from a fear of missing out if...

  • The first thing you do when you wake up is check your social media feeds.
  • You scroll mindlessly through your social media feeds when you're bored.
  • You rarely post anything on social media; you'd rather just see what others have posted.
  • If you can't check your phone, you become irritated or anxious.
  • You find yourself continually scrolling through your feeds to see if you missed something.

How is the fear of missing out harmful to you and your loved ones?

The fear of missing out is often both the cause and the effect of discontent. Being discontent with your own life may cause you to spend too much time living vicariously through others' experiences online. To make matters worse, focusing your time and your attention on the lives of others, instead of your own, breeds more discontent. FOMO is a vicious cycle.

Your own discontent with your life will often carry over into your relationship with family and friends. It creates relational distance, it decreases your joy, and it communicates ungratefulness for the people and opportunities in your life.

What can we do about this problem when social media is so accessible?

Well, if you really want to get rid of the temptation, delete all of your social media accounts and switch to the "old-fashioned" ways of communicating by calling a person and/or meeting them in person.

(I know, I don't really want to do that either, to be honest.)

But for those of us who see the benefits of social media and want to use it for good, without getting stuck in the FOMO trap, here are a few suggestions:

  • Pick just one or two social media channels you enjoy connecting with people the most.
  • Delete some (or all) social media apps from your phone so you don't always have instant access.
  • Keep your apps, but change your notification settings so that it isn't a constant reminder.
  • Use social media to connect with people, rather than scroll and creep.
  • Set limits for when you will check your social media accounts.
  • If you run a business, pre-schedule your posts in advance so that you don't have to be on social media all day.
  • And most importantly, start living your life! Be present in the moment. Take in the sights, smells, and sounds. Avoid the urge to photograph or document every moment. Enjoy living in the present.