FOMO (fear of missing out) is an anxiety-based feeling that others are experiencing something exciting or fulfilling, and we are missing out on it. While many think of FOMO as a trivial part of teenagers’ development, in today’s hyper-connected world it has become a serious mental health and stress factor that affects a far broader subset of people. FOMO is a big part of tech-life balance and it’s time to demystify and address this issue and explore ways to handle it.
Understanding the Challenge
FOMO can have a significant impact on an individual’s mental health. One of the most well-known side effect is anxiety/stress which is a common result as individuals constantly compare themselves to others and think they are missing out on exciting experiences or opportunities. This constant pressure to be connected and involved can elevate stress levels and contribute to anxiety disorders. In a similar way, this unhealthy drive can contribute to feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, and dissatisfaction with one’s own life. Constant exposure to others’ seemingly perfect lives on social media platforms exacerbates this problem and can create unrealistic expectations leading to depressive symptoms such as low mood, decreased self-esteem and it can even become difficult to fully appreciate and find contentment in our own lives.
As with other aspects of un-balanced tech use, FOMO can disrupt sleep patterns, as individuals may stay up late to engage with social media or other activities to ensure they are not missing out on anything. This can result in insufficient sleep, fatigue creating a negative impact on overall mental well-being.
Lastly, FOMO can contribute to excessive use of social media and other digital platforms as individuals constantly seek validation and connection from external sources and become dependent on these dopamine-triggers.
So What Can We Do?
After realizing that we are all indeed affected by FOMO, the first step towards overcoming it is acknowledging that what we see is often an illusion. Remember that social media presents a curated highlight reel of people’s lives, showcasing only the best and most exciting moments. Check out #HalfTheStory – Life Unfiltered for great insights and resources. Remind yourself that reality is far more nuanced, and everyone experiences both highs and lows. Further methods include:
1. Practice Mindful Engagement
Instead of mindlessly scrolling through social media feeds, practice mindful and intentional engagement. Set aside dedicated time for social media use and focus on meaningful interactions rather than simply consuming information. Be selective about the content you engage with and be aware of how it affects your emotions and mood not only during the use of it, but after you stop. Is it leaving you happier or stressed?
2. Focus on What You Are Getting
Gratitude and focus on what we have and what we are getting from our choices are powerful antidotes to FOMO. Take time each day to reflect on the experiences in your own life. Recognize the value and uniqueness of your own journey that everyone else is missing out on! By shifting your perspective inwards, you can focus on what is important for you and hopefully find joy and contentment in the present moment.
3. Set Clear Priorities
FOMO often arises when we lack clarity about our own priorities, so we pull out the phone and start scrolling. Define your values, interests and goals, and align your choices accordingly. By consciously choosing activities and experiences which align with your priorities, you will feel more fulfilled and less likely to be swayed by FOMO.
4. Embrace JOMO
The Joy of Missing Out (JOMO) has been referred to as “FOMO’s cooler cousin.” Embrace the idea that it is okay to say “no” to certain events or opportunities, or even miss them without knowing, and focus on what you are getting instead. Recognize that by declining or missing one thing, you are making space for something else. JOMO allows you to focus on quality over quantity and find satisfaction in your choices.
5. Practice Self-Care
Engage in activities which nurture your well-being and recharge your energy. Take breaks from technology, spend time in nature, pursue hobbies, and prioritize self-care. By investing in yourself, you build resilience against FOMO and cultivate a stronger sense of self-worth. Self-care activities are a sustainable way of feel good and dopamine instead of the burst we get from social media.
6. Foster Meaningful Connections
Quality relationships and genuine connections play a vital role in combating FOMO. Instead of trying to be present at every social gathering or every social media thread, focus on building meaningful connections with a few close friends or loved ones. Nurture those relationships and invest time and energy in creating meaningful experiences together. This is also shown by research to be one of the fundamentals for our long term well-being and happiness.
Digital tech is here to stay, but the way we are using it right now is presenting real challenges for a wide audience. FOMO may be a persistent challenge in our modern lives, but with awareness and conscious choices, it can be overcome. By recognizing the illusion, and having a plan on how to tackle it we can focus on what is truly important for us and find contentment, joy, and fulfillment in our own lives. Let go of FOMO, embrace the joy of missing out, and savor the richness of your own unique journey.
For additional information on similar topics, check out my book Tech-Life Balance: 101 Ways to Thrive in a Digital World.
Taíno Bendz is the founder of Phone Free Day and his own consulting business, and his message on mindful and intentional technology usage has reached and inspired hundreds of thousands of people around the world. He is a public speaker, workshop facilitator, and conducts research on digital technology usage. Taíno holds a Master’s Degree in Industrial Engineering and Management and has spent the last 10 years working in technology sectors such as renewable energy, healthcare IT, and software automation. He currently lives in Sweden with his family. He is the author of Tech-Life Balance.