FoMO - How social media is causing a fear of missing out


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You have just had an exhausting week. You finally come home, tiredly lie down on your bed and open up social media. Suddenly you are welcomed by a picture of your friend on a sunny beach on some tropical island. You suddenly think that while others are out there enjoying life, you’re just browsing on your phone. You feel anxiety and it’s called FoMO.

FOMO, which is short for Fear of Missing Out, has become a popular abbreviation in the last year to describe an anxiety that commonly occurs while browsing social media. When we for example see our friends having fun somewhere else, socializing or just enjoying life on a tropical island, it can trigger an unconformability inside us, since we are currently not a part of that happening.

We get thoughts like “Is my life right now OK?”, “Why am I not that happy?”, “There is nothing happening in my life right now, but everyone else has so much going on.”, which can, after some time, have an effect on our mental health.

The feeling of FoMO is actually not new, as the fear of missing out has made humans feel anxiety for thousands of years, but in the last decade social media has amplified that feeling to a high degree. Because we are connected 24/7 and are constantly exposed to social profiles that only show highlights of a person's life, we are always reminded of all the things that we would still need to do or experience. Even missing out on the information about what is happening on the internet can already cause FoMO (pictures from friends, updates on social media…). Studies have shown that people who use social media excessively report feeling more FoMO, which in turn can cause higher feelings or anxiety and loneliness.

Some examples of when we might experience FoMO on the internet?

  • When we see friends on social media having fun without us.
  • When we do not have access to social media and feel like we are missing out on the social happenings in the digital world - we do not want to miss posts from friends and influencers, sale offers, possible events or new pictures.
  • When video games implement daily challenges and timed gamemodes which we do not want to miss.
  • When we see highlights of other people on social media (new job, finished school, new relationship) and feel like our life is not as interesting.
  • When a streamer we like announcer a special livestream, that we simply cannot miss.

The opposite of FoMO? JoMO!

JoMO, a new way to resist FoMO, stands for Joy of missing out. JoMO is trying to remind us that even thought there are things happening outside in the world, we can direct our attention inwards and onto our immediate surrounding. As a result of that we can be more calm and actually enjoy the feeling that we missed out on something. Hence the Joy of Missing Out.

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We can practice JoMO by:

  • Lowering our time browsing social media - Studies show that less time spend on social media correlates to fewer feelings of FoMO
  • Being critical of online content - Be aware that internet content can often times be unreal and purposefully more interesting
  • Being authentic on social media. Studies have shown, that when our online profiles are more authentic, we also report less feelings of FoMO
  • Practice Mindfulness - We direct our attention inwards, listen to ourselves and take note of our inner happenings
  • Meditation - Helps us calm down our worries and insecurities

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