Updated: Jul 10, 2022
A Time magazine article describes FOMO as "the uneasy and sometimes all-consuming feeling that you're missing out - that your peers are doing, in the know about, or in possession of more or something better than you."
If you fortunately don't know what FOMO stands for (I hope that that rock that you have been living under is comfortable), it stands as an acronym for the "fear of missing out." The fear of missing out of things that you are not involved in or are a part of. FOMO is characterised as a type of social anxiety that stems from believing that others are having fun while you - the one experiencing the FOMO - are most likely not.
We are struck with continuous conflicting decisions that approach us daily; do we save more money or spend it on social interactions with food and people, do we study or do we go to that party, do we stay home and rest or do we catch up with that mate? Generally making one decision opens one door and closes the other; it is deciding whether you continue driving down the highway or whether you take the next exit.
Hypothetically, if I was a good gal and saved more money - of which I really should - I would unlatch the lock of larger financial opportunities. However, due to my inability to deny the act of satisfying my present and demanding self, it fears missing out on social occasions. And most of these social occasions conveniently consist of spending money in some form; mainly on food, transport and/or on other unnecessary shit that happen to end up buying.
FOMO really only became a concept in correspondence to the rise of social media. In turn, this psychological concept of fearing missing out is actually a social media phenomenon. Shout out to social media for blessing us again with the bad as well as the multitude of good and glorious TikToks. Social media is a toolbox made to fabricate, glorify and edit our lives and with those tools we decide how our audiences are going to consume our lives. These lives that we perpetually portray make way for an exaggerated potential for others to envy; hence FOMO being a thing.
Feelings of social exclusion, isolation and anxiety arise from this phenomenon. Feelings that are so intense that individuals are often convicted to alternative activities instead of what they are or should be doing because they fear experiencing these FOMO-isque derived feelings. A research article on FOMO titled the "fear of missing out: prevalence, dynamics, and consequences of experiencing FOMO" in 2018 specifically looked at why university students experience this trigger through social media. By looking at participants' social media habits, researchers were able to conclude that FOMO typically arises from when participants were tasked with homework or work related activities and FOMO's onset was generally in the later hours of the evening. This makes sense, right? Of course when you are obligated to do laboriously dull tasks that require immense mental efforts to achieve and at the dawn of the lonely hours of the night you would most definitely be increasingly more susceptible to FOMO because you have more time to engage in envying what other people are doing.
The psychology of FOMO is still in its early days of research. Yet social psychologists (psychologists who study the branch of psychology that deals with social interactions, including their origins and their effects on the individual) are now placing cosmic importance on the matter because of its negative mental health effects. It doesn't help that we are collectively becoming or are already addicted to our phones. This transpiring dependence on our phones is associated to how FOMO and nomophobia - the phobia of not having one's phone - are overlapping in their effects on social media users' mental health.
A 2018 report titled “#TheStruggleIsReal: Fear of missing out (FOMO) and nomophobia can, but not always, occur together” suggested that the increasing use in social media is connected to lower self-esteem and greater emotional instability. Nice one. So as we become more addicted to our devices and simultaneously more dependent on them as our worlds become more virtual, that only means that the likelihood of experiencing FOMO subsequently heightens. Woohoo, the full circle of the technological lowering of self-esteems!
Montesquieu was a french philosopher of the 17th and 18th centuries who was known for being a judge, a "man of letters" (an intellectual, basically) and a political philosopher. He dissected this sublime quote out of his from his mind that stated "if one only wished to be happy, this could be easily accomplished; but we wish to be happier than other people, and this is always difficult, for we believe others to be happier than they are." I mean if an ancient french philosopher was depicting issues of comparing yourself with others in the 18th century, then honey he had a big social media storm coming for him. The problem with FOMO is what goes on cognitively as one consumes other people's lives; you compare it with your own.
Comparing your life with someone else's is simply the worst thing that you could do. I have talked to my flatmate Bryant sufficiently about the following analogy of which he quite likes and apparently he may claim as his own one day. Well, here is I, declaring this following analogy as mine because it is. This is why comparing yourself to others sucks and is completely pointless. Intersecting your life at a crossroads with someone else's happens all the time at completely random and arbitrary moments. Let's conceptualise this thought as the start of a running race where you are met with people that are somehow at the exact same point in time as you are. Naturally, you would compare yourself to these people next to you. As the competitive creatures that we are (referring to humans), it is an innate act to look at the person next to you and either feel superior or inadequate. In this running race, you do the same thing. This running race could be a metaphor for anything; a university course, a sport competition or literally anything that requires some form of competition. However, this inherent act is stupid and serves up nothing but a maladaptive behaviour. The only thing that you have in common with this person is that very moment in time. Up until that very point, you have experienced an entirely different platter of life. Your individual platter of experiences, relationships, emotions, knowledge and genetic composition has brought you to where you are today. Sure, there must be some similarity or interest shared if for example you are in a pottery class with someone. But by the natural course that you life has taken, is taking and will take nothing has been the same. Therefore, to compare your life with someone else's is downright unfair and useless. Mic drop. Or you could even take a matrix approach, if you compare your life with someone else's, you are comparing your life to your interpretation of someone else's drawn from their specifically glorified Instagram account; you are comparing your life to a life that does not exist. A second mic drop.
While FOMO seems to be a newly shelved feeling in our human glossary of emotions, it is not a productive one. The fear of missing out is about other people's lives, not your own. If you are experiencing FOMO, you should counter that with the thought that you will be missing out on your own life. There is even a new term for this; "JOMO: the joy of missing out" that has just been coined somewhere by someone somehow.
After doing some research as to how one can alleviate FOMO, the most common and simplest of solutions was practicing gratitude. It is easy: take a look at your loved ones, that food that you comfortably consume everyday and the bed that you rest in at night. There are so many things to be grateful for yet we ever so effortlessly forget to say thank you to everyday. Eric Barker, author of Barking Up the Wrong Tree says that by "mentally subtracting cherished moments from your life makes you appreciate them more, [it] makes you grateful and makes you happier." And this practice has been critically acclaimed as effective as such in a journal article in 2010 called "Gratitude and the Reduced Costs of Materialism in Adolescents." Gratitude produces an "objective better life" and it was found that "gratitude, controlling for materialism, uniquely predicts all outcomes considered: higher grade point average, life satisfaction, social integration, and absorption, as well as lower envy and depression."
You are granted with your one very special life here on earth, you better damn well make it your own. FOMO happens, but if you can make the conscious effort to mitigate it from occurring so frequently, you will inevitably be more content with your own life. Be grateful man because we are so lucky. Hop on that JOMO wagon and live your own life for you.
Thank you so much for reading! If you have any further questions based on this blog post or anything else in regards to this blog, be sure to get in contact with me through this website or through the blog's Instagram linked below.
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This blog will encompass the life of a 20-year-old kiwi chica. Composed of stories, advice, life lessons, worldly observations and whatever else Ella's life brings to surface. For all of this and more, read my new found blog 'Born In 2000': established on the 28th of October, 2019. Where Ella Gibson explores her life that exceeds all limitations. Publications should be expected once a week. Be sure to take this present moment now and rock it!