fomoFear of missing out actually is an ancient fear that being triggered by the newest form of communication, social media. Recent studies have shown that FOMO is often linked to feelings of disconnection and dissatisfaction, and that social media fuels it. To be “in the know” when we roamed around in small groups was critical to survival. Being in the know involved paying attention, being in the right places at the right times to get resources and information, and engaging in the gossip of the day as it filtered through the community.

How do you know that you might have FOMO?

When you say “yes” to everything and everyone, overstretching and exhausting yourselves, or you justify going out to an event you’re not interested in because it’s better than sitting at home even if that’s what you really want at the moment. Then you might have FOMO.

No one wants to be the last one in their group to learn the latest new thing or trend

Since to be “in the know” became critical, our amygdala (part of the brain whose job it is to detect whether something could be a threat to our survival) engage the stress response when we’re not having vital information or getting impression that we’re not part of the “in” group, and feeling physiologically stressed out doesn’t feel good and people want to avoid the fear of missing out. In an attempt to prevent the stress response, some people will (unfortunately) redouble their efforts to not miss out on anything and end up in an almost constant process of “checking” behavior. That is, they are constantly looking at their facebook or twitter feed to see if they are missing out on anything, which doesn’t actually lessen their stress that much. Being in a hypervigilant state is the complete opposite of being at peace.

People with FOMO have become obsessed with this one indicator of “social value,” and have made the problem totally unrealistic by using social media to stretch their social circle to a completely unmanageable size; they are not correctly differentiating between close friends, casual acquaintances, and online connections. They often attempt to justify or excuse their behavior by explaining it as being driven by forces beyond their control, when it is often the case that they actually had priorities that they held as being more import than the commitment that they failed to keep.

It’s important to try new things, but it’s foolish to keep trying things you don’t like

The real problem is when FOMO develops to the point where it causes terrible anxiety, particularly indecision. But after you go to enough parties, meet enough people, etc., you’ll realize these “happenings” are constant and make up only a tiny fraction of your life.

Funny thing is, most recommendations for people who are struggling with FOMO include taking breaks from social media and focusing more on the environment and people around them in the present moment. This would give the amygdala a break from perceiving threats and reduce stress and anxiety.

Overcoming FOMO requires being confident in yourself and not letting others influence you. Regularly ask yourself, “Is this for me? Am I having fun?” If the answer is no, excuse yourself and leave. Once you kill the FOMO, you end up being more confident and running into more random opportunities.

Remember, when you say ‘Yes’ to others, make sure you aren’t saying ‘No’ to yourself.