FOMO and the Case for Missing Out….

I have been thinking about the concept of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), lately.  I was wondering why it seems to be a topic of conversation, enough to be given an acronym (you know it’s in the ethos of the culture when there’s an acronym for it).  When I look back on my life, there was very little fear of missing out.  Yet if I’m honest, my level of FOMO has risen over the years.  Perhaps that’s because I’m getting older, and realizing there’s less years ahead of me than there are behind me.  But I don’t think that’s the sole basis for my increase in FOMO.  

So why the rise in FOMO?  I think it has to do with a combination of factors largely found in technology and social media.  When I was younger, you knew about things that were happening through several avenues:  the traditional media (TV news, magazines, newspapers, etc.), communicating with others (in person or on a land line telephone) or just being out and about in the world.  Information gained or gathered in this way was on the slow slide.  Easy to filter and relatively close to home.  Exciting things you saw happening far away, felt far away and landed on your “some day” list, realizing it might take time to reach them.  With the power of the internet the world has gotten smaller, faster, the possibilities endless and people are far more informed.

In today’s world, everything seems closer…smaller. We can see and experience things from across the globe on our desktop or on the screen in our hand.  Dreams don’t seem so impossible when we see others doing them right in front of our eyes.  This exponential increase in the level of information we can see and gather increases our desires for what we long to experience or be a part of in the world…and to long for it sooner…speed things up…experience it faster.

Our world has become instantaneous.  Need to find the best Indian restaurant nearby…yours in a minute via Google, Yelp or Urban Spoon.  Answer to a question, background information about the person you are meeting for lunch…all just moments away on your phone.  When our brains get used to having questions answered, instantaneously, or information at our fingertips, the speed at which we observe life, our thoughts, our desires, also increases.  We no longer “wait” for things…we want them now, this moment, this instant. When that doesn’t happen, we feel at a loss, as if something is missing.

Not only does the connection technology provides also gives us a broader and faster roadmap from which to choose the things we long to experience, but the ubiquitousness of social media adds another complex layer to our FOMO.  In the days of old, as I shall call my younger years, you might hear about a party you weren’t invited to, before or after the fact.  Yes, you would still feel like you missed out on something, but the feeling probably wasn’t as acute.  In today’s Facebook and Instagram world, you get to see all the photographs, the play by play snapshots of the event you missed, as if you were there, but you weren’t.  And it’s not just local events that feed into your FOMO.  You can be having a challenging day, stuck at work, perhaps in a snow storm.  You log on to Facebook to see a friend’s collage of her fabulous vacation in sunny, warm paradise taking place at the same time on the other side of the globe.  You may have been fine at work, but in that moment you mind starts to play the comparison game and you begin to think…why don’t I get more vacation time, or get to go on fabulous vacations in paradise, will I ever? Your thoughts can spiral to the point that what started as a good day, now has you feeling stuck and listing off all the things you are missing out on…sitting at your desk.

FOMO is greater in the younger generation largely because they are so plugged in, and the way they process and filter information so quickly.  They are the generation that can create kickstart campaigns, their own businesses, or websites from their smartphones.  Expectations run high.  Freedom and flexibility is the norm.  They no longer reside in a small bubble or cocoon where there wasn’t much to miss out on. The cycle has accelerated as to what is an acceptable time frame and what you shouldn’t be missing.

So what can you do when FOMO strikes?

  • Pause. Breathe. Be Present – The best antedate to FOMO is to take a deep breath…pause…and bring your awareness to the present moment. Be here now.  The only moment you ever have is the present one. When FOMO strikes, you are not in the present, you are looking at the future and comparing your present moment to the future and all the possibilities it holds.  Bringing your awareness back to the present moment, grounding yourself in the current moment, is the quickest way to end FOMO.

  • Meditate – Oftentimes the missing out feeling that lies at the heart of FOMO, stems from a feeling of lack or less than.  Meditating not only grounds us in this moment, but a self-inquiry form of mediation, can often lead us to the source of our fear or the desire driving whatever is on our FOMO list. When we get to the root of our fears or desires, it can often change how we view our current circumstances or what we choose to place on our FOMO list.

  • Move you Body. Get Outside – Moving our bodies, is one of the best ways to bring ourselves into the present moment.  Our bodies can ground us in this moment, and combining that with time spent in nature, only further forces all parts of us…body, mind and soul…to experience this moment fully.

  • Practice Gratitude – Being grateful for all that you have or what you are currently doing, not only makes you happier, but it brings you into the present moment.  Missing out implies that something is lacking, you are searching for something…being grateful is a state that doesn’t reside in the future, but in the here and now.

  • Avoid Comparing – Comparison is always a sticky trap.  When you compare yourself or your life to others, you are looking at things from your perspective.  Your perspective is never the same as the person actually experiencing that moment. Much of comparison only scratches the surface, without an idea of what truly lies underneath.  Comparison by it’s very nature implies differences or levels of hierarchy (better or worse than), all of which can lead to feelings of lack, superiority or separation…gratitude doesn’t live in any of these places.

  • Don’t get Online – Don’t look to social media when you are feeling small or discontent with your life, it becomes so easy to compare and to feel worse about your life.  The only exception to this would be to visit sites that encourage happiness, gratitude or inspire you.

  • Be Selective and Delete – Be selective giving out your electronic information, subscribing to online communication, or making FB friends or Google circles with every person you encounter.  Many of the communications you receive convince you if you don’t buy this item, click on this article, sign up for this class or do this thing, you are missing out.  You decide who gets to communicate with you, and delete all those that drag your down or make you feel lacking in any way.

  • Manage your Notifications  Consciously choose which apps will notify you, and when.  You don’t need notifications on every Instagram, Facebook or Tweet from your friends.  These notifications often pull you out of the present moment, your present moment, and drop you into someone else’s experience, which depending on the circumstances or your current state of mind, can often increase FOMO.  This includes turning down the volume on your computer so you don’t hear the arrival of every email or post in the background while you are working.

  • Pick One Thing – If you spend all of your time looking for the one best thing to do, or going through all the options you don’t want to miss out on, and never actually stop to pick one, you are missing out on everything.  Simply start some where…begin…pick one thing and focus on it. When your mind begins to wander and worry about all the things you are missing, bring your attention back to the one thing you have begun.

  • Find JOPMA – Instead of the fear of missing out (FOMO), I propose a new acronym…the Joy of Present Moment Awareness (JOPMA).  JOPMA involves knowing that you are fine, right where you are, in this moment, whatever it holds.  Life is a path of moments and experiences, and if you are worried about getting to the next one, or the one you might be missing, you aren’t here now…present…experiencing this moment. True joy can only be found in this moment…the one you are living…right now.

It all comes down to being present.  Please choose to miss out on some things, so you can fully experience the one thing right in front of you…this moment.  Know that if you are lost in FOMO and thinking about what you are missing out on, you are actuality missing out on the most important thing…your life.  

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I’m Adrienne. I’m an observer. Meditation Teacher. Cognitive Scientist. Pause Button Pusher. Curator. Mindful Technologist. Conversation Starter. Digital Anthropologist. Awareness Guide. Explorer of the Soul. Mindfulness Coach.

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