The fear of missing out (FOMO) is the concern that people experience with regard to the possibility that they’re missing out or will miss out on rewarding opportunities.
One common example of the Fear of missing out is being worried about missing events that your friends might attend, which can cause you to constantly check the social media platform that you all use.
Fear of missing out is a prevalent phenomenon in today’s world, and can have a powerful negative impact on your mental health and emotional wellbeing. It is the uneasy and sometimes all-consuming feeling that you’re missing out—that your peers are doing, in the know about or in possession of more or something better than you. FOMO may be social angst that’s always existed, but it’s going into overdrive thanks to real-time digital updates and to our constant companion, the smartphone.
Social media makes people aware of things to which they otherwise might not have been privy, it can spark a sense of vicarious participation or motivate real-world behavior. Conversely, it can be a curse, fostering anxiety and feelings of inadequacy.
People can experience fear of missing (FOMO) in a variety of situations. For example:
- Someone might worry that they’re missing out on enjoyable events that their peers are going to, which can cause them to feel anxious and upset.
- Someone might worry that by picking a certain career they’ll miss out on alternative paths, which can cause them to postpone making a final decision.
- Someone might worry that they’ll miss out on valuable opportunities if they turn down other people’s offers, which can cause them to say “yes” when invited to participate in things that they’re not really interested in.
Furthermore, FOMO can also occur on a large, social scale, when a substantial number of people experience it simultaneously, in a way that shapes their behavior. For example, when it comes to investing, FOMO can cause a large number of people to rush into a risky investment because they don’t want to miss out on a profitable venture that others are a part of, a behavior that can lead to financial bubbles that eventually burst.
THE DANGERS OF FOMO
FOMO can be problematic, for a number of reasons.
First, FOMO has been shown to have a negative impact on people’s emotional wellbeing. Furthermore, FOMO is also associated with various mental health issues, such as fatigue and stress, which can, in turn, cause people to experience problems with their physical health.
In addition, FOMO is associated with various forms of excessive use of social media. For example, FOMO is associated with being more likely to use social media immediately after waking up or right before going to sleep. As such, FOMO serves as a strong predictor of social-media addiction.
The various types of FOMO-driven social media use can interfere with people’s lives as they perform everyday activities. This can be an issue, for example, when FOMO drives people to use social media while they’re in class, while they’re on a date with their partner, or while they’re driving.
Finally, high levels of FOMO can not only make people more likely to use social media, but can also make the experience itself more stressful, particularly when the person using social media as a result of their FOMO feels unpopular or that they don’t fit in. Accordingly, FOMO is associated with social media fatigue, which occurs when someone feels mental exhaustion after engaging with social media.
FOMO IN MARKETING
The concept of FOMO is frequently used in marketing, in order to persuade consumers to act a certain way. This is often achieved through the use of FOMO appeals, which are statements that are sent to potential consumers, in order to evoke a sense of ‘missing out’, either explicitly or implicitly, with the goal of getting the consumers to take a certain action, usually in the form of purchasing some service or product.
For example, a common type of explicit FOMO appeal is the statement “don’t miss out on this limited-time offer!”. Similarly, a common type of implicit FOMO appeal is placing a countdown timer during an online sale, or presenting users with notifications stating that the product in question is about to run out.
Furthermore, there are other ways in which FOMO can be used to market products. For example, when it comes to video games, companies often promote FOMO by creating special events associated with unique content, that players don’t want to miss out on.
HOW TO OVERCOME THE FEAR OF MISSING OUT
here are some behavioral techniques that you can use to overcome FOMO:
- If your FOMO is triggered by something specific, try to find ways to avoid that trigger. For example, if your FOMO is triggered by social media, you could try to reduce the amount of time that you spend on social media, which you can achieve in various ways, such as by blocking social media sites during certain time periods, or by putting the icons to the social media apps that you use away from the home screen of your phone.
- Try to replace negative habits that cause you to experience FOMO with more positive ones, that allow you to avoid it. For example, if you often experience FOMO as a result of being bored alone at home, try to find some hobby that takes you outside and gets you to engage with people.
- Use nudges to remind yourself to avoid FOMO-based patterns. For example, you can put a small note on the side of your computer screen reminding you to relax and not worry about what others are doing.
- Instead of immediately agreeing to things just because you’re afraid of missing out, say that you need some time to think about it. For example, if people keep offering you to participate in events, instead of automatically saying “yes”, tell them that it sounds interesting and that you’ll get back to them, and then do so after you’ve had some time to think about their offer.
Here are some cognitive techniques that you can use to overcome FOMO:
- Adopt a mindfulness-based perspective. Mindfulness involves focusing on the present moment as you’re experiencing it, while accepting your thoughts and emotions in a non-judgmental manner. This mindset can help you avoid FOMO where possible, and help you reduce FOMO’s negative impact in situations where you don’t manage to avoid it entirely.
- Internalize the value of your time, effort, mental energy. If your problem is that your FOMO causes you to say “yes” to everything, which ends up wearing you down, then you should remind yourself that there is a significant cost involved with accepting every offer, in terms of factors such as your time and energy, and that it can therefore be better to say “no” in some situations, even if this comes at the potential cost of missing out on some opportunities.
- Embrace the joy of missing out. Instead of worrying about the possibility that you’re missing out on things, try to actively celebrate this, by focusing on the benefits of missing whatever opportunities you’ve missed. For example, if you feel bad that you’ve missed out on a certain event because you felt that you needed to spend a night at home to relax, try to celebrate your choice to stay at home, and focus on the positives of having chosen to do that rather than going out.
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