Recently, when chatting to a friend, he described one of his work colleagues as having "chronic FOMO". I looked back at him with a puzzled look on my face. "Well you know,'' he replied matter-of-factly, ''Fear- Of- Missing- Out". After a swift bit of research, it would appear this phrase has been a part of modern parlance for the last few years. So what is "FOMO" and what can we do about it?
FOMO is defined as the feeling of anxiety of missing out on something, the notion that someone somewhere is having a better time than you and is consequently, happier. This feeling can manifest in a social media addiction, a desperation to attend any gathering/event at whatever personal cost or (as in my friend's colleague's case) as an over-eagerness to be involved in every discussion or meeting.
Let's take a look at some basic social networks statistics.
- Facebook has an estimated 1.4 billion users and 47% of internet users are on Facebook.
- Twitter has 284 million active users, 88% of those users are through the mobile phone app. 500 million tweets are sent per day.
- Instagram (which is in fact, owned by Facebook) has 300 million users and 70 million photos and videos are sent daily.
This is all without even including Pinterest, Snapchat, Tumblr and Google +. In addition to this, it is reported that 15-19 year olds spend an average of 3 hours each day on social media and 20-29 year olds spend 2 hours on their respective social media accounts. 28% of Iphone users check their Twitter feed before getting up in the morning.
So why are we becoming so anxious about our social media accounts?
I think most people would recognise that social media can breed envy of other people's lives. At times, social networking can seem like a constant competition of who can appear the most happy. However, I have seen photos of friends and their boyfriends on Facebook, only to later discover that they are unhappy in the relationship or that their partner has been cheating on them. The same expectations vs reality applies to other photos of food, holidays, families etc....
Photos in all their filtered glory, do not tell the whole story.
Let's be honest, fear of missing out stems from our own insecurities and the misguided belief that other people are out there having happier, more fulfilling experiences. This insecurity sadly means that people fail to recognise their personal worth and their individual achievements. The irony is that when people have this fear of missing out, the anxiety and low self-worth can stop them from actually achieving what they want, be that a more prominent position in their workplace or a dream holiday.
I recently watched a powerful talk by (UNC Chapel Hill student) Bobby Mook on the subject of FOMO and he had an interesting theory which resonated with me. FOMO comes from our anxiety about our significance in life, we are attempting to answer one of life's big questions:
Why are we here?
This can be broken down into:
Will I be remembered?
Will anything I accomplish be important to anyone?
Am I loved?
Am I significant?
It is unlikely that we will overcome our fear of missing out, but we should try to recognise what this fear is really telling us. Where is it coming from? Our fear can guide us to make better decisions which could lead us to our own personal happiness, whether that be in our relationships with friends, family or partners or our careers.
Don't let FOMO get the better of you, do what makes you happy :)
The TED talk I mentioned, which inspired me to write this article: