You're sitting at home in front of your smartphone, scrolling through social networks and looking at what your friends and acquaintances are doing. A colleague is on holiday and is water skiing in the sea. An old school friend has bought a plot of land and is building his dream house. Likewise, a good acquaintance from your youth is sitting in one of the fanciest hotels in town and enjoying everything the menu has to offer, regardless of the price. And what do you do?
None of the above. A feeling of malaise spreads through you. You feel like you're missing out on something in life because exciting things are happening everywhere, but you're not there. In short, you have FOMO. Here's what it actually is, why you have it, and what you can do about it.
What does FOMO mean?
FOMO is the acronym for a phenomenon that has emerged strongly, especially in recent years as social media has become more popular. The "Fear Of Missing Out" affects people all over the world, but especially at a young age. FOMO is now even in the Oxford English Dictionary. That alone shows how present this fear is these days. There it is described as the worry of missing out on something exciting.
That actually sums up FOMO pretty well. You're afraid of not being present whenever something particularly exciting or significant happens. You're afraid that you'll always be a bit left out, and you may even start to doubt yourself.
It is not uncommon for those affected to ask themselves again and again whether they have done something wrong and therefore were not present at important moments. In addition, there is the thought of having made a wrong decision in life, which is why the path does not lead to the hottest parties and the most expensive restaurants, but ends at home on the couch. Could everything have been different and would you be leading a completely different life now if you had decided differently in a certain situation? No one can answer that question for you. But the fact is that all the conclusions you draw from these doubts are not only depressing, but also mostly wrong.
Life is not a competition. All that counts are the things that are important to you personally. You are not a daredevil who spends his nights, travels around the world and needs the greatest luxury to be happy? That's perfectly fine! But I'm sure you know that yourself.
But where does the FOMO come from, if you are actually satisfied? It's simple: There's always room for improvement.
How does FOMO arise?
We've already touched on it briefly: social media plays a significant role in the creation of FOMO. A Study by Andrew K. Przybylski, Kou Murayama, Cody R. DeHaan, and Valerie Gladwell revealed that the "Fear Of Missing Out" is actually associated with significantly increased activity on social media platforms in numerous cases.
That's even quite logical. You're not completely satisfied with your life at the moment, would like to achieve more, have wanderlust or simply feel trapped in the daily grind? Then you're probably seeking refuge on social media too, aren't you?
But that doesn't necessarily make things better. You start comparing yourself to others, which only makes you more unhappy makes. Nevertheless, you can't look away, because of course you still want to find out what the other users are up to in their storybook lives. This creates a vicious circle.
Looking at holiday photos turns into competition
FOMO existed before the social media age, of course. Back then, this feeling was triggered by other things, such as reports from colleagues about what great things they experienced again over the weekend, or looking at stunning holiday photos with friends. Social media allows us to get particularly rich insights into the lives of others. We can even follow the daily lives of people we don't even know personally. Even if these users live in completely different circumstances than we do and have completely different resources at their disposal, we still compare ourselves with them quite automatically.
A kind of competition quickly arises. Who experiences the greatest things in order to post them and get the most likes? Who manages to present the perfect life on social media and is admired for it? Only very few people consider that not everything presented on the networks is always genuine. Other users are even afraid of having missed things that never really happened.
But of course, the permanent comparison with others is not the only trigger for FOMO. Often people who have a hard time making decisions are also affected. Again and again they doubt which one is the right one. Once they have decided, they still doubt and think all the time about what he or she might experience if they had chosen the alternative.
Why is FOMO so bad?
The Fear Of Missing Out gives you no peace. It always evokes doubts in you and day in and day out you try to answer one and the same question: What if...? You become insecure, find it even harder to make decisions and maybe even look back on your life with regret. This permanent inner restlessness distracts you from the essential things and maybe even robs you of your sleep.
Enjoy life as it is? Impossible in your eyes. The former head of the Huffington Post's technology department went public with her FOMO, even reporting sweats, itches all over her body, and significant inner turmoil that manifested itself in compulsively updating her social media feeds.
Signs that you have FOMO
FOMO often manifests itself especially in inner restlessness. Your fingers are constantly tingling and you would like to constantly update your feed, because otherwise you could miss a great post. FOMO is distinct from nomophobia. It describes the fear of being unavailable without your mobile phone. A Fear Of Missing Out can go hand in hand with it.
Even while you're at work, you're constantly thinking about what your friends are doing and you're sure they're experiencing something extraordinary. But when you actually meet them and realize that this extraordinary experience is missing, you doubt. Should you have met someone else instead? She's sure to experience something incredible that you're missing out on once again.
You can't enjoy the nice get-together with your friends at all. Your mind is constantly elsewhere and you hardly notice the beautiful moments.
The pressure to keep up
Another sign is the persistent pressure to keep up with the lives of others. You take trips to special places only to post pictures afterwards and show that you also experience exciting things. You don't enjoy the trip, but are constantly on the lookout for picture backdrops that will make others green with envy. You think you have to prove yourself with these posts and are not afraid to show something that is not true.
All of this puts not only your psyche, but your entire body under tremendous stress. The fear of missing out on something great and the pressure to keep up can take a toll on it. You barely sleep, have headaches, backaches, maybe even digestive problems? These are all typical stress symptoms that FOMO can trigger.
How can you avoid the Fear Of Missing Out?
When it comes to breaking out of the FOMO vicious cycle, the first idea is often complete social media abstinence. But that alone won't get you far, because your mind keeps spinning. You'll probably run through countless scenarios in your head that couldn't be more utopian. In fact, you may even be making your FOMO worse.
Reducing social media is nevertheless an important step in the right direction to learn a normal use of these platforms. Find out what else you can do about FOMO now.
3 Tips to Overcome FOMO
1. accept that life is not a race
Every person is individual. Everyone has a different understanding of happiness, everyone pursues different goals, different things in life are important to everyone. Comparing yourself with others makes no sense for that reason alone.
People who come from completely different backgrounds and have completely different ideas about life will naturally experience different things than you. But that doesn't mean you're missing out. An acquaintance regularly hits the most expensive clubs in the country? Good for him, but that doesn't mean you have to do the same to be happy.
You feel much more comfortable watching a movie comfortably with your partner? Then do that, after all, you are not holding a competition. What's important is what you personally enjoy.
2. keep reminding yourself that not everything is what it seems to be
One of your friends posts a photo of a camping trip and you immediately think: "I want that too"? Do you really want to sleep outside in the cold, maybe in the rain and surrounded by insects? Probably not, right?
But that's also part of the camping trip - you just don't see any of it in the photo. Regularly remind yourself that the things that are portrayed as great are not always so in reality.
3. consciously miss things and realize how much life you gain by doing so
Germans spend an average of four to five hours online every day. Those who suffer from FOMO spend even more. Imagine all the things you could experience in that time! When was the last time you went for a long walk, read a good book or sunbathed in the garden?
Consciously put your smartphone aside for a day and use the suddenly free time for everything you like to do. At the end of the day, ask yourself what made you happier: The newfound free time or being glued to your smartphone?
Together we say the fight against FOMO!
You would like to be permanently on social media because you are afraid of missing an exciting event? You think other people's lives are much more exciting than your own and that puts a lot of pressure on you? Then FOMO has probably taken root in you too.
The sooner you become aware of this, the sooner you can break out of it. Probably the most important point here is to understand that you don't have to compete with others to live a beautiful life. Everyone's definition of happiness is different, and that's perfectly fine.