In 2004 the term FOMO made its appearance on social media sites to describe a growing sensation – FOMO is short for the “Fear of missing out,” and was coined to describe the loneliness and sense of being left out which people may experience when seeing or hearing about the positive experiences of others.
So if you find yourself anxious about not having a glamorous trip planned, are struggling with confidence as a result of someone else’s pictures online or are lacking self-esteem as a result of not being invited to an event, you may be experiencing FOMO.
What is FOMO?
“In 2013 British psychologists elaborated and defined [FOMO] as “pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent”, FoMO is characterized by the desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing.”
This source goes on to say, “Fear of missing out is a relatively new construct that needs the attention of the clinical community due to its diagnostic implications in treatment processes. It is associated with problematic social media usage and can be experienced as a range of negative emotions and feelings related to the need to belong.”
In a world that is so disconnected and isolated, it follows that FOMO would in many ways be highly prevalent. Through social media use, we are constantly looking at the lives of others through filtered images online – subconsciously, we may find ourselves comparing lives and enviously wishing we had what others have.
On a psychological level, FOMO is much more aggressive than simply wishing we possessed something we don’t – it has been linked to negative emotions, detrimental comparison, loneliness and even decreased self-esteem. And while everyone can experience FOMO, it is more intimately linked with social media usage, meaning younger age groups and those who use social media routinely, are more susceptible to FOMO’s negative impact.
How do I deal with FOMO?
Dealing with FOMO is more than simply telling yourself to get over the fact that you were not invited. It is more than reminding yourself that pictures on the internet only show the good parts. It requires a deep dive into your subconscious to remind yourself how valuable you are regardless of whether or not you are actively participating in someone else’s life.
FOMO can get in the way of life satisfaction, leading to increased use of social media, greater engagement in unhealthy, risk-taking behaviors and experiencing negative feelings about yourself and others. To prevent this from occurring, there are certain preventative and proactive steps you can take to ensure higher quality of life.
Change your feed
The people you follow online may have a significant impact on whether or not you experience FOMO. If you engage with accounts that make you feel inadequate or cause you to look negatively on your life, it may be worth unfollowing their account; if you have followers who encourage negative thoughts or behaviors, it may also be worth minimizing that engagement.
Instead, fill your feed with positivity, follow individuals who promote healthy habits and good mental health and don’t be afraid of setting boundaries for yourself online.
Another beneficial way of overcoming FOMO is by focusing on what you do possess instead of what you do not. Gratitude is a highly beneficial tool in helping you to foster this perspective. You can take time every day to write in a gratitude journal – simply jotting down two or three things that happened each day can make a significant improvement in your mental health.
Take a screen break
It can be highly beneficial to your mental health to take some time off from social media or the internet. Consider setting aside time each day – like 30 minutes before going to bed every night – to turn off your screens so you give your mind a rest and space to wind down before sleep.
Maybe one weekend a month you completely ignore social media and delete the apps off your phones to give yourself a little reset.
Or, maybe you choose one social media site to eliminate from your phone so that you have fewer sources of stress. This can be beneficial if you don’t want to get off all the sites, but still want to begin practicing setting boundaries.
Look for other ways of building connection
The psychology of FOMO is rooted in human connectivity and feeling a lack of sincere human connection. An important way of overcoming FOMO is through fostering connection and a sense of community. To do this takes genuine effort, but the risk is well worth the reward.
There are so many ways you can build connections with others, including:
Inviting friends over for dinner to cook a new recipe together
Hosting a game night with family or friends
Asking a coworker or two to go out for a drink and/or appetizers after work
Planning a weekend getaway with a friend or loved one on a weekend you both have off
Hosting a monthly movie night at your house with snacks
Inviting friends to a local event, like a pop-up event, a concert, a festival or a local farmer’s market
The sooner you begin building a community around you, the sooner you will feel the grip of FOMO begins to loosen.
Seeking additional support?
If you need to talk to someone about mental health concerns connected to FOMO, including depression, anxiety and loneliness, help is available. Reach out to High Focus Centers today to get in touch with a counselor who can help you navigate these emotions and begin crafting healthy coping mechanisms.