Why do we experience FOMO?

26 July 2017 - mindful practices

You check your phone compulsively because you feel that you might be missing out on "important" social updates. You have problems committing to plans. What if you could be doing something better? You feel there’s something wrong with you if you aren’t doing what “everyone’s” doing, or if you’re not invited to something.

If you’ve had these thoughts you may suffer from FOMO, or 'the fear of missing out'.

According to clinical psychologist Anita Sanz, FOMO dates back to early civilisations. Being 'in the know' (about a new food source, for example) meant the difference between life and death. A part of our brain called the amygdala detects threats to our survival, triggering our fight or flight response. It’s not surprising that we feel anxious and stressed when we experience FOMO.

There’s no denying that the consequences of intense FOMO are detrimental to us. Spending most of your time worrying about what you aren’t doing or what you’re supposed to be doing leaves no time for you to actually live.

There are, however, ways to help you loosen the grip of FOMO in your life.

1. Follow only relevant social media accounts and limit the times you check your feeds

According to Sanz, social media triggers the ancient human reaction to missing out. FOMO in this age means feeling anxious when you see photos of your friends having fun without you.

If you’re tired of feeling this way, set your intentions for using social media. If you want to use it only to gain inspiration or encourage others, take steps to fulfil those intentions. For example, follow only relevant accounts, or limit the number of times you check your feed. This way, you’re less likely to feel FOMO because you’re no longer using social media to feed your fear.

2. Everyone’s journey and timing look different

Have you ever looked at certain lifestyles (e.g. travelling pictures) on Instagram and wanted the same for yourself? Ask yourself what you value, rather than what you’re supposed to do or be. Each of our journeys will look different because of our experiences and values. It’s better to have long-term happiness than short-term validation.

3. Quality over quantity

Social media has a knack for making us value quantity over quality: the number of followers, the number of ‘likes’. FOMO thrives on feelings of not having enough and not being enough.

Re-evaluate your connections. Find security only in yourself and the friendships that truly matter, rather than all your connections. Your real friends will rarely make you feel left out. Trust that they don’t intend to.

Do you experience FOMO? Share your struggles or victories with us at hello@mindful-company.com. We could always use some inspiration.

- The Mindful Company Team