The fear of missing out has a gripping and unhealthy hold on countless lives around the world. The term FoMO, as it is widely known, was created in 2004 and has become increasingly popular. So, what is FoMO, and how can you check to see if you have it?

FoMO is …

FoMO (the acronym for Fear of Missing Out) is an anxiety we feel when we believe we are missing out on an important social activity. And, as experts explain, to avoid that happening again, we lean into the incessant need to stay connected to everyone, all the time. In many cases, this belief or fear leads to feelings of unease, dissatisfaction, depression, and stress.

FoMO does …

According to a recent news article, “a group of psychologists defined FoMO simply as ‘a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent.’”

Social media isn’t helping. Having the ability to virtually stalk friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and strangers alike makes us even more anxious. We constantly compare our lives to theirs, potentially filling our heads with paranoia questioning our relevance:

·     How do they know about these events, and I don’t?

·     Why didn’t they tell me?

·     Where else are they going?

·     Am I invited to the same events?

·     How can I get on these invite lists?

·     Their lives are so cool. What’s wrong with mine?

FoMO can …

Although FoMO can impact an individual’s mental health, it is not considered a mental health condition. “FoMO is caused by feelings of anxiety around the idea that an exciting experience or important opportunity is being missed or taken away,” states techtarget.com. According to experts, someone will more likely experience FoMO if they are already struggling with social anxiety, obsessive or compulsive behaviors.

Smartphones and social media engagement help increase FoMO because we are able to constantly compare our lives to others. We read posts and perhaps wonder why we’re not enjoying the same social experiences? We see “glamorized” versions of other lives and immediately – and probably wrongly – conclude that we are worse off than they are. Too many people look at the experiences of others instead of focusing on their lives. We allow our personal brand – the way we define and project our image – to be influenced by others.

Maybe you – or someone you know – are exhibiting some of the visible effects of FoMO, which can influence or begin to define your personal brand. Examples include:

·      Constantly checking the phone

·      Broadcasting everything on social media

·      Panicking when left without a way to stay connected

According to Whatis.com, “A person experiencing FoMO might also find themselves constantly agonizing over what everyone else is doing, causing them to miss out on their own life. When a person is consumed with other people and their lives, they lose their sense of self and are incapable of participating in the world as a real person.”

FoMO break …

Research shows that there are many ways to alleviate FoMO anxiety. One of the most effective ways is to take a break from the virtual world of social media and be active in the real world. Seek out in-person people connections. Live in the moment, surrounded by a real environment. Make plans with friends who can strengthen your sense of belonging, which will weaken fears of missing out. Your personal brand and your mental health will be the better for it.

While it is natural for us to feel a need for human connections, do you believe you’ve moved into the category of FoMO? If so, consider sharing your experience and your own tips for managing or overcoming it.