Why People Experience the Fear of Missing Out
Thu, April 22, 2021

Why People Experience the Fear of Missing Out

Many of us have experienced not being able to go to a particular event, then subsequently wondering if we're missing out on the experience. This unsettling feeling is called FOMO or the fear of missing out / Photo by: fizkes via Shutterstock

 

Many of us have experienced not being able to go to a particular event, then subsequently wondering if we're missing out on the experience. This unsettling feeling is called FOMO or the fear of missing out. FOMO is a phenomenon that is becoming increasingly common for many people, especially young adults. According to VeryWell Mind, a trusted and compassionate online resource that provides guidance for mental health, the term refers to the feeling or perception that others are having more fun, experiencing better things, or living better lives than us. In this technology-driven era, FOMO is the urge to constantly check on our social media networks to find out what our friends are doing. 

While FOMO was first mentioned by marketing strategist Dan Herman back in 2000, it took many years to develop. Herman’s study, which started in 1996, observed the phenomenon while listening to consumers talking about products in focus groups and during one-on-one interviews. All of these have a common ground: most consumers are afraid of the possibility of missing an opportunity and the joy that could come from it. Since then, many studies have tackled FOMO. 

Previous research showed that around 70% of all adults in developed countries suffer from a consuming feeling that something’s happening and they are not a part of it. Around 56% of social media users experience FOMO, while 69% of millennials experience it on a daily basis. This shows how social media has accelerated the FOMO phenomenon since its advent. Often, it makes people compare themselves to others. 

Why People Experience FOMO

FOMO was discussed in a 2018 study conducted by researchers from the Carleton and McGill Universities. The researchers asked first-year students to keep a diary to know if FOMO was associated with certain personality traits such as agreeableness, extroversion, conscientiousness, openness, and neuroticism. 

According to Business Insider, a fast-growing business site with deep financial, media, tech, and other industry verticals, the participants experienced FOMO the highest later in the day and near the end of the week. Those who studied and worked more and performed more "obligatory" tasks were seen as having greater FOMO. While personality traits like neuroticism or extraversion had no impact on the amount of FOMO people felt, the phenomenon was attributed to stress, fatigue, and trouble sleeping. 

The study published in the journal Motivation and Emotion discovered that students tend to feel FOMO because they are pressured into “making the most” of their university experience. For instance, 48% of the participants have less of a sense of social belonging. They believe that their peers are more socially connected than they actually are. Another study conducted by marketing communications company James Walter Thompson concluded that FOMO could also depend on a person’s own satisfaction. The phenomenon contributes to their dissatisfaction with their lives and triggers negative feelings like boredom and loneliness. 

"But when you're caught in the loop of FOMO you tune out the real world and tune in to the fake one. And that's what the research shows: people with FOMO stop paying attention to life and turn to social media for their happiness cure,” author Eric Barker said. 

In a follow-up study, the researchers were interested in seeing how social media played a role in FOMO. According to Psychology Today, a magazine published every two months that features the latest from the world of psychology, the second study showed that FOMO was a commonly reported feeling for them. It created negative emotions and feelings of distraction. Whether the person found out about an alternate social activity they were not included in online or offline, the participants experienced the same amount of FOMO. 

Overcoming FOMO

FOMO is something that most of us feel almost every day. If not properly managed, it can stress us out or lead to other negative feelings. Here are some ways to overcome it:

1 - Take a break from social media.

While this is extremely hard to do, especially when we depend so much on social media, this can greatly help our mental health. Being too connected to your social media accounts is the main culprit of FOMO. A digital detox is highly recommended to reduce the anxiety of constantly comparing ourselves to our peers. The less time you spend on social media, the less time you will feel like you need to spend on it. 

2 - Seek out real connections.

Nothing beats the feeling of being connected to friends or family. Instead of getting frustrated on social media, it would be a lot better to spend time with our loved ones. Make plans with them, initiate a trip, or do anything social that can strengthen your bond with them. 

3 - Cultivate a sense of gratitude.

It’s a lot better when people start learning to focus on the things that they have and appreciate it instead of desiring stuff that they don’t have. Living with a sense of gratitude would help one be happier and live an objectively better life. 

Experiencing FOMO all the time can hold you back from achieving success. It’s important to prioritize the things that matter and not depend on social media too much. 

While this is extremely hard to do, especially when we depend so much on social media, this can greatly help our mental health. Being too connected to your social media accounts is the main culprit of FOMO / Photo by: tomeqs via Shutterstock