Imagine, It’s Friday night and you decided to stay at home after a long week and just relax in the comfort of your home. You’re curled up in bed with a new book that you’re excited to finish. But suddenly you get a notification on your phone. Your friend just posted a video of a house party that all of your friends went to having the time of their lives.
Just moments ago you were happy about your decision to skip it but now you feel like you’re missed out on the best experience of your life, you feel INADEQUATE. And even though you can’t change it now, you struggle to enjoy your evening. So you check your social media to see what other people are doing and it seems like you’re the only one who decided to stay at home. And a massive wave of FOMO hits you, the fear of missing out.
This is one example but it can also be very different. One of my closest friends is living the dream now. Traveling in South America after finishing his degree. First time leaving Europe to brighten his horizon. Sounds pretty cool right? Especially when you’re at home doing your daily routine experiencing a lot of stress at work/ at school or in your personal life. It doesn’t sound like my first example with staying at home on a Friday night. He’s supposed to be the source of FOMO for other people. And I’m sure he is for many.
But then why is it that he asked me to cover this topic when he’s supposed to have the best time of his life? Easy. He got into a new ecosystem of backpackers, where traveling for “only” 4 months is like going on a weekend getaway. So he asked me what to do against FOMO.
Now..in this post I will explain to you what FOMO is, why it’s totally normal to feel this way and at the end, I’ll give you some actionable steps from my own experience to overcome this feeling.
What is FOMO?
FOMO became a buzzword in recent years but that doesn’t mean that it’s a new phenomenon. Everyone has experienced FOMO at some point in their lives. The first scientific study researching FOMO was published in 2013. And in this study, they found that people under age 30 who feel dissatisfied with their lives are the most affected my FOMO. Men even more than women. Another study found that 70 percent of millennials are suffering from FOMO. But despite what you might think, FOMO is not caused by social media, but rather drives people to use social media more, which as a result leads to more FOMO that leads to obsessive social media use that leads to more FOMO… and so on. And this can have severe consequences. At the one spectrum, FOMO causes anxiety and insecurity, at the other spectrum, however, people who suffer from FOMO are more likely to text and check social media while driving which can be even more dangerous not only to themselves but to others as well. (Arnold, 2015)
Why is it totally normal to feel this way?
We live in the age of hyper-documentation. GoPros and smartphone cameras make it easier than ever to film and post what is happening in real time. It’s gotten so far that we’re unable to enjoy the present moment unless other people validate it through social media that our experience is really worth it. This leads to anxiety even before the event itself: we are anxious that we forget our cameras or that the battery dies before shooting the perfect photo. We might feel that we can’t enjoy the moment fully util we have that particular shot to upload later or immediately. The more you check Facebook, for example, the more you believe that your life is boring and mediocre compared to others.
So why do I say that it’s normal? Easy. Human nature. It’s in our DNA to compare ourselves to others. The only difference is that these new technologies enabled us to compare ourselves not only to our immediate environment but to thousands of people instantly who we otherwise would have never heard of.
But don’t get me wrong I don’t think technology or social media is a bad thing, we just have to learn how to use it properly so it encourages and inspires us instead of dragging us down.
But FOMO doesn’t have to be a bad thing. When we understand and recognize it, it can guide us by telling us what is wrong. FOMO is not the problem, the problem starts when you experience it all the time.
What can we do now?
How can we stop worrying about the options we’re missing out on and focus on all the amazing things that we get to experience instead? Fortunately, there are some easy ways to fix FOMO and get back to a healthy and happy life:
Recognize that you’re experiencing FOMO and start asking questions like:
- Before knowing what other people were up to, did I want to do those activities?
- Would I enjoy this experience right now if I were there? If so, why
- What experience would I have to give up in exchange for another
- Will I care about this a week from now?
- What causes this feeling?
- Is it my dream or someone else’s?
Look at your experience from an outside perspective.
- Would anyone else experience FOMO if they would see what I’m up to right now?
For example, I turn down many social events to work on my animations. When I ask myself this question I see that from an outside perspective I’m pursuing something that I’m passionate about that others might feel like they are missing out on. My friend in South America is experiencing new cultures that many of us like to do even for a short time. This helps you realize your own successes and notice the small things in your life, which actually reflect the essence of happiness.
Unplug more often.
Let me ask you a question: How far are you from your phone right now? Can you reach it without moving your feet are you even watching this video on your phone? When you sleep, can you reach your phone from your bed? This might be the first time you’ve considered these questions. One way to reduce FOMO is to limit your phone use to 1-2 times a day or use blocking apps to limit the content of what you see on many of the platforms. A couple of years ago I deleted Facebook from my phone and unfollowed a lot of people on Instagram. After doing that I experienced a significant change in my overall happiness. The next step was when I created my new Instagram account @colombodoodles where I share my creative experiments with you. With this account, I created an ecosystem that only encourages and inspires me by following artists and influencers instead of people from my old high school who only trigger FOMO without actually being active parts of my life anymore.
I hope these tips will help you the next time you experience FOMO. Let me know down in the comments below what other techniques help you overcome the fear of missing out or is you have any other questions.