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Tapping Into The Fear Of Missing Out

Photo by Stefan Spassov

Throughout my years in high school, I was not invited to many group hangouts. At times when I was, I would have other commitments that kept me from participating. Whenever I see my friends uploading pictures or videos of their outings on social media, I would start to feel left out, but it was more than just that. It began to get worse and even led up to anxiety. After dealing with this for a while, I came across a term, "FOMO", which means "fear of missing out".

In 2013, the term was added into the Oxford Dictionary, where it is defined as a feeling of worry that an interesting or exciting event is happening somewhere else. FOMO is a common occurrence, especially in this current era in which we are connected through social media. From an outsider's perspective, they may think that FOMO is simply the feeling of being left out. But, in reality, its effects can go deeper beneath the surface. Practical Psychology describes FOMO as the anxiety that many people feel when they think about potential rewards that they aren't experiencing. FOMO happens when one is unable to participate in certain activities due to unavoidable circumstances. They may have other commitments that keep them from going out or may not be invited to such things.

A major factor that brings about FOMO is social media. An article by Mashable stated that 56% of social media users experience FOMO, and it is something that can come from being addicted to social media. This increased exposure to social media can cause someone to be more likely to feel FOMO in today's culture. It is not uncommon for us to put our lives online, whether it's sharing what we eat, who we go out with or where we go during the holidays. According to Psychology Today, younger people are more susceptible to experiencing FOMO. This is because people in this age group use social media more frequently than those in older age groups. On top of that, this means they tend to be more dependent on social media as they rely on it to connect with their friends.

According to Paradigm Treatment, FOMO is also capable of having adverse effects on mental health. It can cause someone to be unhappy, which could lead them to adopt unhealthy behaviour. Those who are more prone to FOMO may have lower self-esteem and tend to be increasingly insecure. Since we are exposed to different lifestyles led by various people on social media, we may begin to compare the people we see to ourselves. And lastly, FOMO can also cause anxiety, which in turn can have underlying health issues like insomnia.

FOMO should not be something we fear, but rather, we should be aware of how it comes about and how to overcome it. Just like with other forms of anxiety, there are practical steps that we can take to keep us from experiencing FOMO.

An expert named Dr Aarti Gupta suggests some steps we can implement to help us overcome this issue:

  1. First of all, we have to realize the issue. Acknowledge what is going on and that it is an issue that needs to be resolved.

  2. Next, limit our time on social media. We have already established that too much time on social media is one of the leading causes of FOMO. By regulating our time on social media, it reduces our chances of experiencing FOMO.

  3. Last but not least, learn to live in the moment! Focus on the now. Enjoy the little things and take joy in them. Be mindful of your surroundings and what you are doing now because it's the present time that is most important.

With social media being an essential part of our daily lives, we are bound to face FOMO at some point. Knowing how to avoid being affected by it or overcoming FOMO will be helpful to those of us who are susceptible to it. To those who are dealing with FOMO, be assured, it is something we can overcome and grow from.

By Daniel Leo


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