Often we spend a lot of time trying to rationalize why we haven’t achieved all of our goals in life and yet we spend a lot of our time looking at others and wondering why and how they were able to have made it. Enter FOMO, or fear of missing out.
Wondering why about our lack of achievements seems like a waste of valuable time. Yet it doesn’t take long in a conversation among busy adults to get into it and for someone to raise a pervasive, underlying concern: “Am I making the right choices for my career, my family, and my life?” We’re so often consumed with what we—or our loved ones—might be missing out on or not achieving that it’s not a surprise to me that FOMO, the acronym for the fear of missing out, was added to the Oxford English Dictionary a few years ago.
What is FOMO?
FOMO is the fear of missing out on social events or activities. It’s the feeling that you’ve made a wrong decision about those things and often it is aroused by social media making you believe that are missing out on something really great! I would say that it goes even further, to a fear of missing out on opportunities, experiences, and even owning “things”. And social media is there to rub our faces in it.
Most of us have a pretty bad case of FOMO at least some of the time, if we’re willing to admit it. That’s especially true of millennials who have literally grown up with social media.
When you are feeling left out of the loop, you become dependent on all kinds of social media to keep up with everything and then you hope to feel better about yourself. Sometimes it does actually relieve your anxiety, but, do you really enjoy being dependent on the social media hamster wheel all the time? It can really wear you out.
Suffering from FOMO
It’s normal to feel this anticipatory regret from time to time. We may decide we need to stay home and rest on a Saturday night, but we’re a bit uneasy when we miss that dinner party with our friends. We do lose perspective when we let FOMO drive us, often blindly, to decisions we don’t even want to make. Many articles have been written like one recently in the Washington Post about how everyone is afraid to be the ones who stop the FOMO fears. It’s especially true when it comes to your retirement planning. Many who save diligently for retirement see others around them living it up and spending wildly having all kinds of fun. In that article, one millennial gave some sage advice:
“Don’t live by FOMO. Be brave enough to say no now so that you can say yes to bigger opportunities later. And even if/as you make more money as your career grows and advances, keep living cheaply and smartly as before to keep perspective!”
– Michelle Singletary, Washington Post – July 17, 2017
Studies have shown that FOMO is often linked to feelings of disconnection and dissatisfaction, and that social media fuels it. Think how many people constantly scan email or Facebook and Instagram to keep up with their friends’ latest updates. Some people don’t just want to keep up—they start to compare and evaluate their lives based on how they see others portraying their own.
In reality, FOMO is a phenomenon that predates the trendy abbreviation. It’s sort of the modern take on “the grass always being greener on the other side” or “keeping up with the Joneses”.
How FOMO Affects Your Work Life
It’s clear that FOMO can affect your personal life. But what about your work life? How can you tell if FOMO is influencing decisions about your career? Here is a sure sign that you might be suffering from excessive FOMO, and that it might be having an impact on your job. You have FOMO if you are constantly checking social media…all day long when you are at work!
This isn’t about logging into Facebook a few times a day; this is feeling antsy if you can’t be connected all the time. We like to blame our work cultures for forcing us to always be available on email or by phone, but in my opinion it’s more often a choice the person makes.
The fact is, many of us check our email and social media because we want to. We like to stay in the know, and to be on top of everything. In other words, we don’t want to miss out. Of course we actually are missing out by not paying attention to the people and things right front of us.
Here’s an example. When at work, as a general rule, most people aren’t fans of meetings. Still, if you find them useful—or even enjoy them—more power to you. But even if that’s not the case, and you still may ask yourself very carefully “why wasn’t I included?” I have heard from people who say, “Every time I pass a meeting room I go straight back to my desk and start to wonder whether I should have been invited.” In a majority of cases, the meeting has nothing to do with you. That kind of thinking is classic FOMO in the workplace—and probably is familiar to you.
So How Can You Handle FOMO?
I have been known to point out to my wife the scores of people I see constantly wandering around or even dining out who are glued to their smartphones reading, texting, and ignoring their friends and family all the while! If this is you, put down that phone (unless you’re reading this on mobile!) and pay attention.
When you’re dealing with FOMO…
- Understand where FOMO starts and that it begins with feeling sadness
- Remember, social media isn’t itself evil, however, depending on it to feel better is a crutch
- Since happiness is your goal, focus on the good in your life to achieve that happiness
- Always try to be grateful for all that you do have, it will make you appreciate everything much more
- Consider a “social media diet” and use an app that helps you reduce your social media usage
When you think about the wasted time and energy dwelling on “missing out” on what you think others are doing and enjoying, you’re actually fulfilling your own prophecy. You’re wasting your own time and thus aren’t maximizing in any way your own fun and adventure and success.
Are you afflicted with FOMO? Is it just unavoidable in a world of 24/7 electronic communication? How do you stay focused on your goals?