Partying with your friends, checking out an art gallery, watching the latest episode of a new show—what do these things have in common? They are activities you probably don’t want to miss out on.
If thinking about not doing these things makes you uncomfortable, you may be experiencing FOMO: the fear of missing out. FOMO can cause significant stress, especially if a person is prone to anxiety or depression.
Want to know how to deal with it? You’re in luck!
In this article, our custom-writing experts will explain how to understand if you have FOMO and teach you how to get rid of it.
🤔 What Is FOMO?
FOMO is something that many of us have experienced but didn’t have a name for until recently. Simply put, it is the fear of missing out on something interesting that other people do, know, or have. It may be some activity you want to participate in, an opportunity you’ve missed, or something everyone has but you don’t.
Young people are especially prone to getting FOMO. We’ll look at its various reasons shortly, but in general, the more likely a person is to be glued to their phone, the more likely they are to experience FOMO.
🔍 Why Does FOMO Happen?
FOMO is a relatively new phenomenon. The term was coined in 2004 and eventually found its way into dictionaries. Of course, it doesn’t mean that people didn’t experience something like FOMO before 2004, but, most likely, it was on a different scale and for different reasons.
An injured hunter-gatherer may have felt a pang of sadness at the sight of his friends going on a hunt without him 13,000 years ago. But did he then spend days thinking of the fun they were having without him and all the missed opportunities for selfies? Probably not.
Regardless of the history of FOMO, things have been escalating quickly in the last two decades. Now more than ever, people react strongly to the feeling of being excluded. These days FOMO is taken seriously by mental health professionals across the globe.
Let’s dive a little deeper into the most common triggers for FOMO:
📌 Other people’s activities.
Thanks to smartphones and social media, we almost always know what everyone else is doing. Aside from this useless information taking up precious storage in our brain, it has another downside—it makes us ask, “Am I missing out by not doing the same thing?”
📌 Too much choice.
“I want it all, and I want it now,” sang Freddie Mercury. It’s the same for us, but it’s still impossible. We have to choose one thing over another, which inevitably makes us question if we’re missing out on the other option.
📌 Regret or loss.
When our decisions backfire, we often wonder what we should’ve done differently. These questions trigger the fear of having made the wrong choice.
📌 An endless flow of content.
We are constantly bombarded with information about other people’s lives and infinite options to choose from. Unfortunately, not being addicted to social media doesn’t mean you’re immune to FOMO. Instagram-resistant people can also fall prey to this fear.
How FOMO Is Used in Marketing
It would be strange if no one seized the opportunity to turn FOMO into a money-making tool. Turns out, our fears are surprisingly effective at encouraging us to give our money away.
Open your Instagram feed, and you’ll most likely see amazing products used by beautiful people in unrealistic situations. Why wouldn’t you buy something that will (allegedly) make you happier and bring your life closer to perfection? Unfortunately, even if you buy it, it probably won’t make you feel any better.
Who Usually Gets FOMO
We all may have felt a little FOMO here and there, but some people are more prone to it than others. They are the types who ask themselves, “Why am I not doing what they’re doing?” more often than necessary. Let’s see who exactly is most susceptible to FOMO:
|😀 Social extroverts.
|These people are at their best in social situations. It’s only natural for them to feel isolated when they see others engaging in activities they’re not a part of. Social interaction is their energy source, so missing an opportunity to be part of the action may feel depressing.
|😰 Socially anxious people.
|Although a person with social anxiety generally tries to avoid being surrounded by people, they may also experience FOMO. And it’s not that surprising: loneliness and low confidence are definite triggers for fear of missing out. Psychologists believe that socially anxious people may actually want to miss out, but at the same time, they wish to feel included.
|😔 People who experienced emotional trauma.
|Being traumatized emotionally makes it easy for people to fall prey to all kinds of fears, including FOMO. When a person wants to establish healthy relationships but fails, watching someone else do it intensifies the feeling of being left out.
🔬 How to Recognize FOMO: 10 Signs
You may not even realize that the uneasy feeling weighing you down is FOMO. A great way to check is to ask yourself the following 10 questions. The more positive answers you give, the more likely you are to have FOMO.
- Do you say “yes” to everything?
When someone invites you to do something, do you agree without thinking? While it minimizes your chances of missing out, it may also take away from your well-being and quality of life.
- Do you feel left out when you don’t participate in something?
Maybe you couldn’t attend an event, weren’t invited to a party, or weren’t told about some new trend—whatever the reason, it makes you feel like an outcast.
- Do you feel unsatisfied with your life?
It’s no surprise that experiencing FOMO makes people feel unhappy about their lives. After all, missing out on something makes you think your life is not as good as it could be.
- Are you on social media all the time?
There’s a reason some of us just can’t put our phone down. What if we miss information that could lead to an exciting experience or a great opportunity? The truth is, it’s much more likely that the only thing it will lead to is another episode of FOMO.
- Do you live your life at high speed?
A person with FOMO is constantly looking for new things to do because it makes them feel like they’re busy and not missing out on anything.
- Do you want to be on trend all the time?
Do you find yourself suddenly obsessed with one thing and then quickly moving on to the next thing you saw online? Yes, this could also be a sign of FOMO. These new hobbies and activities are trendy and can create the feeling that you belong to a group.
- Do you care what other people think?
Most of us tend to second-guess our choices and feel insecure about certain aspects of our lives. If this second-guessing is based on other people’s opinions, it may be a sign of FOMO.
- Do you always want to be around people?
FOMO can result from the need to be surrounded by friends or just people in general. If you need to always be in the thick of things, you might be more prone to FOMO.
- Do you neglect your health?
“I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread,” said Bilbo Baggins. This might be a spot-on description for someone with FOMO, experiencing exhaustion, poor or insufficient sleep, and stress.
- Are you prone to distracted driving?
Not a sign you’d think of on your own, but it’s a real one! The study on FOMO published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior highlighted distracted driving as one of its key findings.
Effects & Dangers of FOMO
They wouldn’t call a good thing a fear, right? Clearly, FOMO comes with many more negative side effects than positive ones. Let’s take a better look at them and see how they might be interfering with students’ wellbeing.
💭 Mental health
Fear is primarily associated with anxiety. A person with FOMO is constantly overwhelmed by this uncomfortable feeling and struggles to find their feet in an ever-changing reality. Social media FOMO pushes them to refresh their feeds in hopes of news, updates, and likes.
FOMO will inevitably distract you from what must be done. You can quickly lose yourself in all the other things you could do, places you could go to, people you could talk to, and news you could catch up on. As a result, you do worse and worse on tests and start missing assignment deadlines.
You may not be losing sleep over missed opportunities, but you’re definitely losing it because of your smartphone. Let us explain. Blue light emitted by smartphone screens is messing with your melatonin—the hormone responsible for sleep. So, if you have a habit of staring at your smartphone before bedtime, which you probably do if you have FOMO, you may have trouble falling asleep.
When you’re stressed and not sleeping enough, you can’t expect your productivity to be at its peak. Even if you can sit down and study, you may not be able to pay attention because your brain will still be overwhelmed by stress hormones, random thoughts, and exhaustion.
💪 12 Tips on How to Deal with FOMO
We understand that knowing how to get over FOMO in college is especially important. Students, in particular, are prone to developing FOMO, which can negatively affect their college years. That’s why we’ve put together this list of excellent behavioral strategies to help you deal with this fear by developing productive habits.
- Do a digital detox. Smartphones play a huge role in developing FOMO. In turn, FOMO makes you want to use your smartphone more. It’s a vicious cycle, so why not break it by setting a time period in which you avoid your smartphone altogether?
- Spend more quality time with friends and family. When you’re surrounded by your loved ones, you may realize that you don’t spend as much time thinking your choices and missed opportunities.
- Try journaling and recording fun experiences. You can write down what makes you feel good and at peace with yourself. Whenever you feel FOMO approaching, open your diary and remind yourself of the good and meaningful things in your life.
- Find out what triggers your FOMO and learn to avoid those things. Recording your experiences can help you understand what triggers your FOMO. Are you especially prone to this feeling after going on Instagram? Then change your feed to see less of the content that triggers you. Do you feel worse after talking to that person you know who always blabbers about their exciting life? Try engaging with them less.
- Use nudges to remind yourself about FOMO-based patterns. For example, turn off your smartphone notifications that are non-essential but are known to trigger your FOMO. If you want to focus on your assignment or read a book for pleasure, keep your phone out of reach while doing so. Interestingly, if you change your smartphone display to greyscale, you’ll be less inclined to look at it.
- Avoid agreeing to things just because you’re afraid of missing out. Take a more mindful approach to choosing your activities. Decide if you really want to do something or if you simply don’t want to miss out.
- Treat yourself. Sometimes doing something nice for yourself is all it takes to alleviate the symptoms of FOMO or any other condition that’s bothering you. Try it out!
- Set boundaries and rules for yourself. You can time your phone usage, tell yourself that you won’t agree to more than one event a week, prioritize academic assignments over social gatherings, and find ways to reward yourself for those advances.
- Work out or do yoga. Sports are awesome. They take your mind off what’s making you sad or nervous and flood your brain with endorphins—hormones that make you feel good.
- Avoid using your phone after going to bed. Aside from the adverse effects of blue light, engaging with your phone stimulates your mind, giving it more potentially FOMO-triggering information to process.
- Embrace the joy of missing out. Keep on reading to see how to do that.
🌱 How to Turn FOMO into JOMO
If there’s a disease, there must be a cure. The cure for FOMO is JOMO, or the joy of missing out.
Yes, you heard it right! To stop constantly comparing your life to other people’s, you need to start enjoying not being part of an activity, canceling unnecessary plans, and spending time with yourself—for example, in the company of a good book.
This may sound impossible to do if you’re constantly consumed by the desire to know everything and be everywhere. Yet, there are ways to get that desperate feeling under control. Let’s take a look.
12 Habits That Increase JOMO
JOMO is more than just becoming one with your pajamas. It is a mindset. To develop it, you need to know what cognitive strategies to use to change your thinking.
But worry not: we have an awesome list of these strategies right here!
- Practice meditation and mindfulness. Since FOMO implies being caught up in thoughts about what everyone’s doing, JOMO must be the opposite—being present in the moment and aware of your own experiences. Meditation will help you do just that. To begin with, try out a couple of meditation apps, such as Headspace or Healthy Minds Program.
- Change your focus to what you have instead of what you lack. We think so much about what we don’t have that we sometimes forget how lucky we are to have what we have. Have you got friends, family, the opportunity to study, a favorite book to lose yourself in, and a delicious meal three times a day? That’s much more than many people have. Don’t forget that!
- Establish real connections and meet people in person. Once you establish meaningful relationships with people in real life, you may start feeling less inclined to search for people to surround yourself with at social events and online. Let’s face it—such gatherings rarely result in life-long friendships, do they?
- Accept that it’s impossible to have everything you want. As much as social media tries to convince us otherwise, it is indeed impossible to have everything we want, and that’s okay. You can still strive for more, but make sure not to lose yourself along the way!
- Practice gratitude. Once you’ve learned to focus on what you have, you can try gratitude journaling or writing down what you’re thankful for. People who do this usually record three things they’re grateful for every day. You can reread them when you’re feeling down.
- Focus your energy on physical things. Whenever you’re doing something, make sure you are aware of your experiences. If you’re cooking, smell your food. If you’re walking in a park, listen to the sound of the wind in the leaves. You get the idea.
- Slow down. It seems that we’re always in a hurry. But are we really late for anything? Ask yourself this question more often.
- Keep in mind that social media images are not real life. We’ve often been told that what we see online is only what we’re allowed to see. The idea of perfection is just the tip of the iceberg called “real life.” And it’s never perfect.
- Consider the possibility that you’re not actually missing out on anything interesting. Are you sure that whatever is going on without you is worth worrying about? We bet that most of the time, it’s not. Take the time to ask yourself if participating in that activity is really going to benefit you.
- Focus on one thing at a time instead of multitasking. Let yourself concentrate on what you’re doing and enjoy it. Practicing mindfulness will help fight off the urge to engage in a million other activities simultaneously.
- Use your senses. Try to experience the world around you through sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste, paying equal attention to all of them.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. Embrace these words of wisdom: don’t compare yourself to others; compare yourself to the person you were yesterday.
🎁 Is FOMO Really That Bad?
So far, we’ve been focusing on the adverse effects of FOMO. But what if we told you that a little fear of missing out isn’t going to hurt you? After all, it was FOMO that made our ancestors get up and move around in search of a drier cave to sleep in, bigger animals to hunt, and a better life overall.
You can also improve your life through FOMO if you don’t turn it into a source of stress but rather use it as a source of inspiration. Try to get to the bottom of your fear, and see if it’s reasonable. Maybe a bit of good FOMO can prompt you to get out of your comfort zone, try something new, and make a difficult decision.
Now that you are armed with knowledge, you can successfully cope with your FOMO and even use it to your advantage! Tell us your favorite strategy for turning FOMO into JOMO in the comment section.