We all have those friends who spend hours scrolling through Instagram and opening apps hourly. And if you can’t think of a friend that does this, you are the friend. An addiction? Maybe. But for some reason, each small notification ping or symbol gives you a mood-boosting hit of dopamine. But the exact opposite works when you see an image of your friends out and about without you. The unpleasant feelings can be just as strong as the good. This phenomenon, more commonly known as FOMO (fear of missing out) is more common than you think.
What is FOMO?
Essentially, it’s an anxious feeling of not being included at an event, not being “in the know,” or a sense of not living the life you could be living. In one word, it’s loneliness.
The term FOMO was coined in 2020 from a marketing specialist. The feeling grew rapid with an increased use of social media, landing the term a spot in Urban Dictionary and Oxford English Dictionary. Now, psychotherapists and other experts constantly publish research to find the prevalence of FOMO and its correlation to a lower life satisfaction.
Some experts think it is the feeling that you believe someone is living a better life than you. The brain and body don’t know how to handle it, but also becomes intrigued with investigating it more. But what does FOMO mean for your mental health? Is it a mere feeling that comes and goes or does it have specific causes and treatments that can help manage it? Ahead, a deep dive into the phenomenon, and practical tips on how to stop it from wreaking havoc in your life.
Firstly, to comfort you, FOMO is not fun — but it is rather common. In fact, it can be experienced by anyone from time to time. Studies state the main cause is having emotions of being left out that we inherited from our ancient ancestors. For them, survival was tied into being a part of a social group. Nowadays, instead of blaming our ancestors, studies claim that FOMO is more associated with anxiety. There is a lot of stress when you compare yourself to others and it brings anxiety and a sense of judgment placed on your character.
Basically, the more we focus on the could have, would have, or should have, the less energy is place on honoring our current space — leading to more negative emotions. In some cases it can get so bad, unhealthy coping mechanisms like drinking alcohol, using substances, falling into deep depressions are abused as a means of protection. So, no, FOMO is not considered a mental health disorder, but the struggle is real. To help you manage your fear of missing out, below are a couple of tips.
How to manage FOMO
Repeat after me for this one: Social media is a highlight reel. No account that lives on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, or an other platform is real life. This perspective and understanding that what you are seeing is only just a snapshot, will help minimize your sadness. What you’re basing your anxiety on is really no more than 60 seconds of a person’s day. You aren’t seeing the potential pain, anguish, boredom, and time spent alone from that account. AKA, you are comparing yourself to an inaccurate situation.
Be present. Being mindful in every moment can do wonders for every life. When you appreciate what you are currently doing, you won’t exhaust energy on social media reminders of events you’ve missed out on.
Additionally, a digital resting stop might be worth looking into while you wane off of social media. As well as finding hobbies that aren’t connected with consuming media.
Photo via Segmentify