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I never knew about FOMO until last year when I was listening to a podcast about happiness. Ever since I heard the term, I suddenly knew why I used to hate one social media application so much– Instagram.
It has only been a few years since I joined Instagram, and it was not long before I disliked it. There was even this one time when I uninstalled it from my phone. I found myself feeling uncomfortable seeing other people live such pretty lives, have good bodies, and have great things, and they confidently share them on the internet. I’m thinking, “what the heck am I doing with my life?”
It might seem as though I am a person with real issues, and well, maybe I am. At first, I thought I was feeling selfish, insecure, and jealous by what other people have been posting on Instagram– their stories, their posts, and their live videos– and that I ought to stop myself from feeling that way.
Don’t get me wrong, I would not wish for anything bad to happen to them! I am happy for them. I don’t have any personal issues with them too. It’s just that, somehow, seeing them makes me think of what life I have in a very negative way like I’m missing out on a lot of things. I’m sure you’ve probably had this feeling, and if not, well, lucky for you.
Identifying the feeling as somehow invalid before we even knew the reason why is kind of a long shot, if you ask me. How can we easily neglect the negative feelings that this particular social media platform gives us if we hardly know the reason why we feel these things? Is it possible to ever stop something from happening even if we don’t know why this actually happens?
Fortunately nowadays, they have a name for it. It’s called FOMO.
Definition of F.O.M.O
F.O.M.O, or the “Fear Of Missing Out”, as defined by the internet, is a feeling of anxiety or insecurity over the possibility of missing out on something, as an event or an opportunity. Apparently it has been in the dictionary since 2013 and has been the talk of some experts ever since.
Dr. Dan Herman was the person behind the term, “fear of missing out”, and since 1996, studies have been conducted on why some people feel this phenomenon in their life. FOMO has become a sickness that has worsened throughout years and has come to negatively influence our happiness.
The thing is, we have been going around telling ourselves that we’re not good people for feeling this way when we don’t even know the explanation behind such an occurrence. The truth is, we are inherently wired to feel disappointed, as humans, whenever we miss some opportunities that we think will add up to our happiness jar. So, what makes FOMO so special?
F.O.M.O. and Social Media Usage
The development that our feeling of envy and jealousy has become a conventional term during these days and has turned into what we call FOMO is a bit odd, don’t you think? This is because of the fact that technology has played a major role in cultivating such a phenomenon. This concept has been around for ages but was strongly evolved during the start of the smartphone generation to the point that we even invented a new name for it.
As we all know, there have been countless studies declaring why the use of social media has a negative effect on our well-being. There is also a lot of research that suggests how FOMO and Social Media are strongly associated with each other. In fact, social media is one of the major reasons why this concept has become well-known and why its studies have increased throughout years.
It has also been found that both the use of social media and smartphones are linked with experiencing greater FOMO into the lives of their users. A few articles also suggest that experiencing FOMO leads to further social media usage, as a defense mechanism.
Basically, the more we use these new technologies, we cultivate this fear of missing out, and in return, we rely more on social media because of the fear that we feel; we don’t want to miss out more of those things that we see. Hence, a constant feeling of negativity and drive to use more of it.
A downward spiral of unhappiness, if you ask me.
F.O.M.O. and Its Effects on Happiness
Anxiety, negative mood occurrences, and depression are a few terms that have been found to be correlated with both FOMO and social media usage. This means that the increased use of social media can possibly also increase our stress level and may eventually worsen our fear of missing out.
Research also suggests that people experiencing FOMO tend to have mixed emotions or feelings whenever they use social media. This may point out the confusion that we feel whenever we use our phones, thinking that these platforms make us happy when in most cases, they don’t.
Life satisfaction is also affected by FOMO, as it increases our guilty feeling of not being able to live the way we want to. We see other people living their best lives on social media and we think that we are doing less than what we’re supposed to be doing today. The reason why this concept affects our happiness is because we think that we’re actually missing out on something. But are we?
What are we so afraid of?
Why Do We Feel F.O.M.O.
On a side note, author Eric Barker talks about how FOMO “stems from unhappiness”, and that the reason why people continue to rely on social media is because they feel intrinsically unhappy. So, here we are thinking that FOMO is the reason why we are unhappy, when in fact, the two mutually cause each other to occur.
Some say that spending too much attention on social media increases FOMO and ruins your well-being. Well, in a way, as from what I have said, that is true. But it’s not entirely the fault of social media. Social media is but a tool that once connected people, but we have made it impossible to remember that sole purpose.
Furthermore, he shares how science suggests that the more we use social media, the greater tendency there is to compare our lives to others. Social media made it possible for us to reduce the amount of our life’s privacy and instead share it for the world to see, and so we can’t stop but look and see what’s out there.
We made social media into a platform of great things that make us feel as though we are entitled to live the way other people show theirs even if we know for a fact that social media is not the overall precise representation of our lives. So, why do we still do it? Why do we keep falling for the endless cyclical downfall of having the fear of missing out?
I believe a huge part of it is because we can’t help but find happiness outside of ourselves. It’s not because the proof of how others live their lives well is out there for everyone to see, but because we don’t know how to refocus our attention into something that will really make us happy (like family bonding, our friends, etc.). FOMO is a symptom, not a cause, of unhappiness that tells you that you are not presently involved in your own life.
When we see that other people’s achievements, social status, and materialistic things, are the reason why they do well in life, we immediately equate these to being happy. And so we focus on those and cultivate the fear if we think we are missing out. We seek out and look for happiness in places where we can’t find it.
If you want to know where you can and cannot find happiness, you can read my post on 7 Misconceptions of Happiness.
Ways on How To Decrease F.O.M.O.
Regardless of the reasons why we feel this fear of missing out, we know that this is somehow deeply rooted in how we are depending our success and happiness in life on the things that don’t really matter.
When I learned about FOMO, I managed to make peace with using Instagram once in a while. And I’m honestly not bothered by it nowadays. I learned about a couple of things that made me realize how lucky I am to be me in this universe. So, I’m going to share with you some of my secrets, along with some solutions that I have read, on how to stop the fear and help you realize there’s really nothing else that you’re missing out except the very moments of your life.
Refocus your reference points
This is the very main idea why I think we experience FOMO. As we all know, happiness is a choice. Something that can be nurtured and learned. Happy people have a habit of looking at the silver linings despite very bad days, and that’s what makes them happy. Reference points are something we compare our experiences to. Dr. Laurie Santos talks about how our minds unconsciously pick out reference points of the best case scenarios– as a result of always thinking on the ideal outcomes. Sometimes we need to refocus our attention to things that are more realistic.
Please follow my blog as I talk more about how reference points are very important for our happiness.
Establish an environment that will help you grow
I have known a lot of bloggers and others who surround themselves with people they aspire to be like in a very sensible way. Maybe this is a good way to realign your attention into something that you know will be more beneficial for you. What I mean is, if you can’t help but be dismayed of how Kylie Jenner’s selfies make you feel about your body, then maybe it’s time to let her go and follow other people who are more encouraging, and would fit as the right kind of role model for you. Surround yourself with the right kind of people.
Protect Your Well-being
I cannot stress this enough! Self-care or self-love is about being mindful of the things you commit and surround yourself to. You have to protect your bubble and know what’s good and what’s making you feel bad because no one will ever say that to you. This is an investment that will go a long way. Before you decide if something is good for your circle, take a minute or two and think about the things you will learn or get from it. Don’t easily shut people out but evaluate whether good things outweigh the bad.
Lessen Your Social Media Usage
You can also use this technique if you want to decrease FOMO. It’s undeniable that our generation has been so inclined with technology that we forget what’s happening in our real lives! It has become an addiction that we find hard to get out with. So, if you feel like you have been using too much social media, maybe try and reduce your screen time. Be in the moment and be where your life is.
Appreciate Your Private Life
I have realized this as I grew old and grew out of social media. And I’m telling you, it feels amazing! I no longer have the need to share all my life’s musings with the internet and it made me feel secure and happy. I seldom use Facebook, I don’t use my personal Twitter account anymore, and I haven’t posted on Instagram a long time. I connect with friends personally when I miss them and I find other ways to do it. I write them emails or text messages. They’re the only people I tell my private life to and that’s okay! There’s profound joy in living life’s pleasures in an intimate manner.
Gratitude goes a long way, my friend. Be grateful for what you have rather than thinking about the things that you don’t. Focus on the things that make you the person that you are instead of other people. I know it can be challenging. Sometimes we feel like the worst has possibly happened to us, but believe me. The good are not always going to be as good and the bad are not always as bad as you think they are. Somewhere along the way, something worked out that made your experience. Check out my guest post about Hedonic Adaptation on Merry’s blog if you want to know what I mean.
Thank you and I hope you enjoyed reading.
About the Author:
Website: Unpopular Opinions (https://ellesunpopularopinions.com)
Elle is a Filipina student blogger who’s dedicated to finding happiness, and achieving well-being, in her life. She practices and blogs about mindfulness, self-development, and life teachings in general. Her website, Unpopular Opinions, is a safe space for individuals to share, relate, and navigate through their thoughts and feelings. Unpopular Opinions is somewhere focused on the in-betweens, the road less travelled, the unnoticeable, and the unspeakable truths about the wonderful things in the world relating to life, happiness, spirituality, and many more.