Why do I experience FOMO

I showed my son a picture from our family’s group text. It was of his cousins decorating Christmas cookies and it made him very very sad. How can a three-year old already be experiencing FOMO?

So we’re all working from the same definition, FOMO is anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website, the fear of missing out.

How can I be sad about things I see on social media I wasn’t invited to when I probably would have said no anyways? When I feel secure, loved and successful most days, how can seeing something on social media trigger me to feel like a shy, insecure 7th grader again?

The word FOMO was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013 but according to clinical psychologist Anita Sanz, FOMO dates back to early civilizations. The feeling of relatedness or connectedness with others is a legitimate psychological need. Being ‘in the know’ (about a new food source, for example) meant the difference between life and death. A part of our brain called the amygdala detects threats to our survival, triggering our flight or fight response. It’s not surprising that we feel anxious, stressed, sad or frustrated, when we experience FOMO.

While the feeling is ancient, it has grown intensely because of social media. We literally have constant access to what our friends and peers are doing. Spending most of your time worrying about what you aren’t doing or what you’re supposed to be doing leaves little time for you to actually live. So without giving up social media (oh my gosh, never) how can you loosen the grip of FOMO on your life?

  1. Social media makes it worse, not better

    Facebook and Instagram aren’t evil (well I mean they’re selling our data and listening to us at all times but…), they can be powerful tools for staying connected, finding inspiration, or encouraging others. Set your intentions for using social media before you open the app. Are you looking for inspiration, advice for a certain problem? Or are you just scrolling because you’re bored?

  2. Try gratitude

    Sounds sappy but look around. What good things might you be taking for granted? Home? Family? Friends? FOMO starts with sadness, focus on the good and you will feel good.

  3. Quality over quantity

    Social media is great for making us value quantity over quality, our “success” on social media is measured by the number of followers and the number of likes we have. FOMO thrives on feelings of not having enough or being enough. Re-evaluate the accounts you follow on social media, your real friends will rarely make you feel left out, at least not on purpose. And if they do, it’s time to be a damn adult and have a direct conversation about how you are feeling.

While FOMO is real and serious, the effect it has on us doesn’t have to be.

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. -Montesquieu

Christine Hicks