The fear of missing out. It makes you grab the phone every time it beeps, keeps you scrolling through the selfies of strangers and makes you read every trending Tweet. This is a disease and you should fight it.
You’re on the couch under a blanket, binge-watching on Catch-Up. The phone goes ping and there’s a pouty pic of your girlfriend whose buff boy whisked her off to sweltering London for the holidays. Pull up the tablet and Facebook suggests that everyone in the world is living the dolce vita right now. Except you.
This is the fear of missing out, or FOMO. It’s a kind of anxiety that makes you feel you’re not doing enough, getting enough, experiencing enough. The grass doesn’t just seem greener at your neighbour’s house, it seems greener everywhere on the planet.
The definition of FOMO is “a fear of one’s social standing or how one is perceived among peers, and a need to constantly know what is happening and what others are doing.”
Internet addiction is considered a public health crisis in South Korea, the country with the fastest broadband in the world and free Wi-Fi everywhere. Koreans send their kids to detox camps and affected adults see trained counsellors. In a recent survey, American middle-schoolers said if they want to talk to a parent, they often have to ask them to put down the phone.
FOMO can make you feel lonely and disconnected. You’re replacing real contact with social media interaction. Instead of chatting to the friend across the table, you’re glancing at what virtual friends are texting. But each message isn’t a connection – it’s the possibility of another connection that might be better than the real-world interaction you’re having.
Consider this. People mostly post highlights, not the boring bits and major fails. This gives you a distorted perspective of their life and could make yours pale by comparison.
FOMO can inspire you to get your act together. Too much input, though, can be overwhelming. As you trawl through everyone else’s snaps and posts, you’re not doing anything but worrying about what you’re not doing.
How do you shake off FOMO? Limit your online time. Turn of notifications. Unfollow people who drive you insanely jealous or just insane. Many top entrepreneurs, a researcher found, don’t touch their phone or check e-mail for at least two hours after getting up. They spend the time on getting ready, family and planning the day.
Also, don’t rely on social media for your dose of human interaction. Don’t just poke, like or LOL. Call people. Meet them and chat. Share how you feel, and laugh together.
Make your own choices. Follow your own dreams. Remember that the 5MP- retina-display-with-filters camera always lies. It doesn’t represent reality, just a fleeting second that might seem perfect.
The average person today will spend five years of their life on social media. If you’re going to be that person, make sure FOMO doesn’t get you.