Fear of missing out or more commonly known as FOMO is a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent.
Having constant access to our cellphones and the internet can be really helpful. We can check the weather, read the news, or learn about events, wherever we are.
But, because we now know of so many things that are going on in other places—online and in real life—we can start to believe we are missing out on fun or important experiences. This feeling is referred to as fear of missing out, or FoMO, for short.
FoMO can lead us to get addicted to our phones or hooked on social media because we don’t want to miss anything. Sure, these technology tools can be great for finding out about fun events, but if you have a potentially fun event right in front of you, FoMO can keep you focused on what’s happening elsewhere, instead of being fully present in the experience right in front of you.
As a result, you don’t get the full benefit of your experiences and can even end up hurting your relationships.
How to deal with the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)
Phones used to be for making and receiving calls. But now they are being designed to hook you. You might get addicted to your phone—the entertainment and the pang of positive emotions when someone clicks “Like” on your post. Just as an addict would get great pleasure from consuming their drug of choice, we too get great pleasure from using our technologies. But both are just a distraction from real life, and both have the real potential to take us out of the present moment.
If you discover that you, like most of us, are using technology not as a tool to achieve some task, but as a way to cope with or distract yourself from some other experience, be prepared for a challenge up ahead.
When we become reliant on (or addicted to) something that changes our emotions, removing that something means that we’ll have to face those emotions, possibly for the first time in a while. This is very likely to result in cravings—I’ll just check my social media for a minute, what’s the harm? We might think.
If you think you might have trouble with technology cravings, you can try these deterrents: Set your lock screen on your phone with an image that reminds you not to go further. If you find that you skip through your lock screen, ignoring your reminder, as I did, you may need an extra layer of defense.
If this sounds like you, then put something on the outside of your phone to slow you down. You could attach a sticker to your phone or place a rubber band around it, a physical barrier that slows you down and reminds you not to proceed.
Similar approaches could be used with computers or video game consoles. The goal here is to create a mental or physical barrier that slows you down and makes you pause for a second to think—Hey, do I really want to do this? With your improved awareness of the relationship you have to technology, you’ll likely have more success moving forward and overcoming FoMO.
Take Text Time Outs
Texting with our friends can be good for our relationships and feelings of social connection. But if we are doing it all the time, it still pulls us away from being in the present moment. Is this happening to you?
A few years ago, a friend pointed out to me that many people, especially young people, sit with their phones between themselves and whatever is in front of them—their computers, their entertainment, or another person who is speaking to them. In this position, you’ll never miss anything that pops up on your phone, but your phone always has some of your attention, taking you out of the present moment.