Our smart phones give us instant access to all sorts of social media. Whether you’re home or out and about, posts and photos from your friends are at your fingertips... Which means that it often seems like other people are having more fun, doing cooler stuff, and just being more awesome than you are. When that happens, you’re experiencing FOMO. FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out, is a form of social anxiety that people experience when they see how much fun everyone else is having. And chances are, you’ve felt it before.
Why We Experience FOMO
Social anxiety isn’t a new issue. People have always been nervous about some social encounters, or been jealous of a classmate that lands an awesome job when you’re still searching for yours. That’s normal. But as our level of connectedness has grown, so has our social anxiety. As news travels faster, more people hear about it and react to it. With the help from technology, the process is instantaneous. One look at social media, and we see what others want us to see of their lives.
We also use social media to find out about people—we research prospective dates, creep on our exes and generally compare ourselves to others. But as much fun as that comparison is, it also creates most of the FOMO stress.
How to Deal with FOMO
Start by rating your FOMO with this quiz. Your results can help you figure out how much energy you should devote to overcoming FOMO! Use with these steps:
- Accept that things happen without you. Each person has his or her own life to live, and everybody’s is different! Sure, some of your friends are at an incredible restaurant right now. But you’ll be at one tomorrow. It is not possible to do everything with every one—try to be happy that your friends are enjoying life, just like you are.
- Enjoy the present. If you know that your friends are at a concert and taking tons of pictures, don’t subject yourself to checking your social media. Instead, avoid it and do something else. You can still go “like” their pictures at another time. Turn off all notifications from social media to let you focus on the present and also help avoid temptation. And next time you are the one at a concert—put the camera phone down. Sure, take pictures to remember the night, but part of enjoying the present is not spending all your time focusing on how you’ll display your awesomeness to others. Students often experience bad bouts of FOMO while they are home for the summer or studying abroad. Yes, your friends at school are doing fun things without you—but you’re also doing fun things without them!
- Realize that social media is based on deception. Most people share only their good news, and on social media you just see the best of everyone. On Facebook and Instagram, users specifically choose pictures they want to share with the world. Most of which have been edited. On Twitter, Foursquare, Flickr and every other social media platform, people present the best versions of themselves. People generally don’t post sad or boring pictures or updates, because they want people to like and interact with their posts. So it makes it seem like everyone is having a great time without you, but they are just trying to post the best pictures and they may not even be having that great of a time.
- Manage your time and money. One of the biggest issues with FOMO is that it leads to excessive amounts of time spent on social media and wishing you were doing something else. Don’t waste your time with these activities. Instead, make a to-do list or priorities list and focus on getting something done that will help you in the future. Also realize that fun things often aren’t free, and even if you did have the time to always be out with your friends, it would be very hard on your wallet.
Next time you’re exhausted and don’t want to go out, don’t let your FOMO get the best of you! Enjoy a social media free night in and try not to be haunted by those late night Instagram photos that don’t include you. And remember, there are plenty of other people who are staying in just like you, they just aren’t posting about it!
For many people, FOMO causes anxiety and stress—a pang of jealously or sudden comparative boredom—but in serious cases, it can also worsen or cause depression. If you believe you may have clinical depression, don’t be afraid to get help.
For more information on FOMO and how you can deal with it, read these articles: