While being bombarded with pictures of various events, feelings of FOMO are at their strongest. Photo credit: Summer Thomad
FOMO, also known as Fear Of Missing Out, is a social anxiety phenomenon that has been relatable to me on a personal level. Not being able to see your favorite band when they’re in town, having to stay home while your friends are out, and feeling like you’re lagging behind others in various aspects of life all have one thing in common; they fall under what it means to be experiencing FOMO.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines FOMO as “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media websites, (such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)”
For example, say there’s a party with several people you know attending. In one situation, one might feel obligated to attend said party whether or not they actually want to go, because they feel that if they miss it, they will be missing out on a huge, life-changing event. On another note, you might see post after post showing some friends having fun all over social media and feel anxious that (a là the title of Mindy Kaling’s autobiography) everyone is hanging out without you.
As explained in an article from RookieMag, “FOMO is being sure that everyone else is having more fun than you, that everyone is doing something cooler than you, that everyone is more successful than you and having a wilder, better youth/life than you. It’s a black hole of (…) negativity, and a handy acronym that neatly encompasses a huge range of complicated emotions, including feeling left out, envious, hurt, anxious, angry, and unconfident.”
It is safe to say that most people have experienced these feelings throughout their lifetime, whether it be as a result of posts seen on various social media websites or simply societal pressures. However, in recent years, it has been amplified to a much larger scale with the popularity of social media.
On any given Saturday, I can wake up and go about my day feeling perfectly content— happy, even— until I login to Instagram or Snapchat, seeing all of the fun and exciting activities the people I know are up to. From here commences a downward spiral. “Why didn’t I sign up to run a 5k downtown?” or “Why are all these people looking amazing at (insert miscellaneous event here) when I’m still in bed watching videos of a Japanese poodle teaching me how to cook?” I ask myself, as a feeling of anxiousness and unfulfillment settles in.
So, how can FOMO be fought and restrained from pulling you into a wave of depression and inducing an existential crisis? Firstly, Darling Magazine’s input on this topic provides an important point to remember:
“When we let fear guide our decisions, we may say yes to things we don’t actually care out, and no to things that we love because we are afraid that we are going to be missing out on what others value.” This suggests that we should remind ourselves that whatever everyone else is doing is not necessarily an activity or prospect that is important to you. One shouldn’t feel guilty about not partaking in that they do not care about.
Another idea to remember is that most people do not post about bad or so-so moments on social media— they post about the great ones. No one constantly experiences great moments and it’s important to keep in mind that you are only seeing what the users want you to see. You will have those moments as well. They may not be in the same context, situation or at the same time, but that’s okay; you will have them.
Taking time to focus on yourself and doing what makes you happy rather than getting caught up in what everyone else is doing helps to prevent FOMO and all the icky feelings associated with it.