Ready to hear something totally hilarious? Well, today I accidentally found out about FOMO from a local TV talk show episode I stumbled upon on Youtube. What is FOMO, you might ask? Brace yourself my introverted friend (extroverts, you can stop laughing now), FOMO is an acronym that stands for “fear of missing out”! But of course I’ve never heard of it before. As an introvert occasionally living under rocks, I have no such fears, nor do I comprehend them. Yet I do know a lot of people who have an irrational fear of missing out on things, and these fears are reflected as compulsive behavior, elevated anxiety levels, and low self-esteem. FOMO is like a new mental health syndrome (don’t we have enough of them already?) that could be triggered by our modern-day addiction to social media. Checking your social media phone applications over a million times day just so you won’t “miss out on anything important”; carrying your mobile with you everywhere, is well…an addiction. I have discussed some detrimental effects of social media, namely Facebook, on our daily life as parents in the post about my quitting Facebook. Today I discovered one reason why people won’t deactivate their Facebook (or other social media) accounts despite their great dissatisfaction with them. It could be the fear of missing out on their “friends'” online activities, recent escapades, and photosessions with cats. That fear of feeling inadequate, isolated, or left out when everybody out there is doing something that they’re not.
Apparently, that fear could be stemming from personal insecurities, and, although I’m not a mental health professional to make such claims, wanting to join every event, party or gathering out there does not indicate that one is happy with him/herself. The anxiety that arises at the slight chance of not being able to attend an event could be significant to some. Why is that important to make a presence, to become virtually popular or to know people’s whereabouts? I get that many people recharge their energy by being around others, I really do. I, too, often need to socialize to get a new perspective on things, to feel less of an outcast at times. What I don’t understand is why people choose flooding their schedules with activities, many of which are useless, over spending precious quality time doing the things they actually care about, being present for the right people or simply getting to know themselves better.
When I quit Facebook several months ago, I knew I wasn’t going to regret my decision and, luckily, I didn’t. What constantly bothered me to the point of leaving was the growing fakeness that is celebrated on social networks as well as its users’ abuse of the “post” button. My life continued, I moved on, I missed out on birthdays, deliveries, engagement announcements, divorces and tons of pictures, but I moved on. My mind shifted focus and my priorities were finally set right.
This Fear of Missing Out is so real for some it’s threatening their real-life relationships. I’ve heard of so many marriages on the verge of demise due to the husband or wife’s preoccupation with excessive pursuit of a higher social status. Juggling personal interests, social occasions, along with home and work responsibilities, both parents start tugging at their end of the family rope until it finally snaps. Life is hard enough. No family or child should have to suffer in such struggles. A family life is the life one shouldn’t be missing out on, everything else out there can wait.
I believe the first step to dealing with FOMO is to acknowledge its presence and influence. The next step is to take a short break from social media and try to understand what it is that’s so scary about not being “there for everything”. Is it a feeling of loneliness one should address, or does it run deeper? Whatever the cause, it should be confronted and resolved before that fear bites away into every valuable relationship one has built, devouring one’s energy and focus on what truly matters.
We are social creatures, we thrive on interacting with others. It’s only natural to seek others for help, entertainment, counsel and affection. But there’s a fine line between socializing and obsessing about being left out of the loop. So for those with FOMO, fear not. No matter how many places you’ll be, things you’ll see or people you’ll meet, you’d still be missing out in life. Whatever you do, don’t miss out on life.