Merriam-Webster dictionary defines FOMO (fear of missing out) as a fear of not being included in something (such as an interesting or enjoyable activity) that others are experiencing.
It’s a feeling or perception that others have more fun, live better lives, or experience better things than we are. People who experience FOMO think they are missing out on something fundamentally important that others are experiencing right now. Consequently, they’re stressed, envious, and have lower self-esteem.
Fear of missing out has probably existed for centuries, however it has only been studied during the past few decades. In past generations, FOMO was better known as ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ – the idea that if you weren’t engaging in the same activities or buying the same material things as your neighbors, you’d experience a decline in social class.
The phenomenon known as FOMO was first identified in 1996 by marketing strategist Dr. Dan Herman, who conducted research and published the first academic paper on the topic of FOMO in 2000 in The Journal of Brand Management. Although the research has existed before, the term FOMO was coined and popularized in 2004 in The Harbus (magazine of Harvard Business School), by author Patrick J. McGinnis.
However, FOMO has become more obvious and more studied after the advent of social media. Why? Because it became easier to compare your regular life to the highlights of others’ lives. Therefore, your normal becomes biased and you seem to be doing worse than your friends and ‘idols’. Social media created a platform for competing and bragging. People are putting their best selves, best experiences and trips, cars, houses, babies, etc., and not everyday normal lives as many of them live.
It’s counterproductive, yet some research shows that FOMO is linked to higher social media engagement, and the need to compare with others. And we all know that comparison is the thief of joy. It also leads to a compulsive desire to stay connected with other people’s lives all the time. Thus, addiction arises. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linked In, Snapchat, TikTok, and other social media are becoming the most important thing in the lives of many young teenagers.
This leads to deterioration of our mental health, depression, anxiety, mood swings, loneliness, feelings of inferiority, comparison, fear, worry, doubt, disappointment, and frustration with our lives. Definitely not a fun way to live. And with time and constant abuse of social media, a scarcity mentality is developed, affecting our lives, decisions, plans, and goals in the long term.
FOMO and social media usage are a bad self-perpetuating cycle.
Some people are more affected by FOMO, some less, but it’s a common enough feeling that most of us can understand. However, anyone can escape the trap of FOMO by understanding what it really is and how it’s affecting the quality of our lives.
Social media is a powerful tool for staying connected in the modern world, but it doesn’t give a complete and accurate picture of people’s lives. Notice that following the lives of others on social media and comparing with them won’t enrich your own life. Instead of wanting to experience the world through a virtual window, go out and explore it in reality. You will be glad you did.
Do you have any more tips for escaping from FOMO? Please share them with readers and with me 😊
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