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 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 surprising that FOMO, the acronym for 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 you are missing out on something great! 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 terrible case of FOMO, at least sometimes, if we're willing to admit it. That's especially true of millennials who have grown up with social media.
When you feel left out of the loop, you depend on social media to keep up with everything and hope to feel better about yourself. It can wear you out. Sometimes it does relieve your anxiety, but do you always enjoy being dependent on the social media hamster wheel?
Suffering From FOMO
It's normal to feel this anticipatory regret from time to time. We may decide to stay home and rest on Saturday, but we're uneasy when we miss that dinner party with our friends. We lose perspective when we let FOMO drive us, often blindly, to decisions we don't 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. Many people constantly scan email, 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 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
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 sign that you might suffer from excessive FOMO, which might impact your job. You have FOMO if you are constantly checking social media…all day long wt work!
This isn't about logging into Facebook a few times a day; this is feeling antsy if you can't be connected. We like to blame our work cultures for forcing us to always be available by email or phone, but I think it's more often a person's choice.
The fact is, many of us check our email and social media because we want to. We like to stay in the know and be on top of everything. In other words, we don't want to miss out. Of course, we miss out by not paying attention to the people and things right before 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, you may still ask yourself, “why wasn't I included?” People say, “Every time I pass a meeting room, I return to my desk and wonder whether I should have been invited.” In most 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
You're fulfilling your prophecy when you think about the wasted time and energy dwelling on “missing out” on what you think others are doing and enjoying. You're wasting your time and thus aren't maximizing your fun, 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?
This post originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.