Do you fear missing out on the latest party, restaurant, film, box set or fashion trend?
You are not alone.
The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is the latest disease creeping into our society.
FOMO is more prevalent in children and teens than it is in adults.
You may not realise you have the disease. There are no clear physical symptoms and you may not even feel ill.
The fear of missing out is resulting in signs of anxiety and impacting self-esteem. This is especially true for teenagers starting to find their way in the world.
We are responsible for creating the disease and we also have the ability to control it and kill it.
I want to suggest a vaccine for the disease and stop the feeling of FOMO.
Get To Bed!
I remember as a kid I always wanted to stay up late.
My parents refused my attempts to spin out later and later bed times.
As a parent myself I now appreciate how challenging these negotiations can be.
As a kid I could not put my finger on why staying up late was so important. I just knew that I wanted to stay up.
In 30 odd years not much has changed. I still want to stay up late and I enjoy the quiet of the house whilst everyone is asleep.
Although I could not put my finger on why I wanted to stay up late I guess it was the fear of missing out.
What was I going to miss out on? I had no idea? It was just this feeling that something exciting was about to happen and I wanted to be a part of it.
As a kid I’m sure you had similar feelings. Not always about staying up, but a feeling that you were missing out on something.
Maybe your friends were playing out and you had to stop in. Perhaps there was a party you were not invited to. You did not have the latest ‘mush have’ toy but your friends did.
This fear of missing out is understandable in kids. Kids want it and if they don’t they are going to let you know about it. As we grow into adult hood the feeling of missing out should become less and less.
The thing is, the feeling for a lot of people is not going away. For many it is worse now than it was when they were a kid. We are in a constant flux of fear – a fear of missing out.
It has peaked in the last five years and social media is playing a big part.
Have a quick skim through your Facebook timeline.
How many pictures or updates show the poster in a negative light?
This is no surprise. Why would anyone want to draw attention to the negative aspects in their life?
Social Media is playing a big part in why many people are suffering from FOMO.
Social media allows us to control what people see about us.
We want our audience (friends and family) to believe we lead a fantastic and fulfilled life.
We feel smug as we check in to the airport, ready to jet off for the Summer to some fabulous destination.
We revel in the Friday/Saturday night group photo and the statement it is making. ‘I’m having the time of my life. How is your living room right now?’
In these instances you are not missing out. You are having a wonderful time. You want to share these experiences with everyone.
Everyone follows the same pattern. It becomes a constant loop of who is having the best experience. This is where the disease starts to take hold.
At its lowest point you are actively comparing someone else’s life to your own. You are deciding how you match up and there is an itch to scratch. You want to show that you do match up and you want to prove the life you lead is more fulfilled.
This is unlikely to be a conscious thought but it is happening none the less. This is both an unhealthy and unproductive mindset to have.
When we are at home and our social calendar is empty the fear of missing out starts to rear its ugly head.
We can’t be content with the great weekend we had last time around. We feel empty and lament the fact we are sat watching X Factor, wishing we had something to upload.
Teenagers are especially finding this phenomenon difficult to contend with.
They consume more social media than we ever will as adults. Social media is their life and many become glued to their phone or tablet.
They are the generation that has grown up with social media and seen it boom in the last five years. It affords them many positive opportunities but with it there is also a dark side.
A large part of how teenagers communicate comes via the various social media platforms.
As adults we fear we are missing out, based on our friends timeline. If you are teenager you can multiply this feeling by 10.
They are dealing with FOMO on a daily basis. As a result it is impacting their view of the world and creating issues like anxiety and low self-esteem.
Dr. Steiner-Adair states that girls are particularly at risk.
“Girls are socialized more to compare themselves to other people, girls in particular, to develop their identities, so it makes them more vulnerable to the downside of all this.”
She warns that a lack of solid self-esteem is often to blame. “We forget that relational aggression comes from insecurity and feeling awful about yourself, and wanting to put other people down so you feel better.”
How ridiculous you may say, but remember what it was like when you were a teenager.
You had some wonderful experiences but at the same time it was a confusing time.
You were on the cusp of adulthood, unsure on what this meant. For some it was exciting for others it was horrifying.
Peer pressure was a big reason and you may have made some poor decisions. Again, all part of growing up but difficult to deal with.
Imagine all the issues you had as a teenager played out on social media?
They want others to feel empathy with their situation and to feel that people care about them. See – self-esteem issues.
We need to set the standard for the next generation. They look to us as a reference point and we have an opportunity to help them. We have a chance to break the cycle now and make sure the issues of anxiety and self-esteem do not become an epidemic.
In How To Switch Off And Love Your Holiday I focused on how living in the moment was key to loving your holiday.
The key was spending less time online and enjoying what was in front of me, and not what was on my phone or tablet.
I did OK but still had moments when I lapsed. I spent too much time scrolling through various social media sites. There was no improvement to my life, the behaviour driven by a fear of missing out. Missing out on what? I’m not sure. The feeling was there all the same.
I was angry with myself. I had allowed FOMO to creep in. In reality I was missing nothing. It was a trick I was playing on myself.
I know friends that have a similar issue during the night.
They wake up and instead of going back to sleep the phone will come out. In some cases they will surf for an hour, anxious on what they have missed in the last several hours.
The fear of missing out manifests itself in the psyche
For some this means saying yes to everything. They are not sure how they will do it, but the thought of missing out terrifies them.
They don’t want to be the person listening to an amazing story, wishing they had been there. They want to be part of the story. Hell, they want to be the person telling the story.
The issue of FOMO is prevalent in our work lives.
How many of you have access to your work e-mail out of office hours?
How many of you are checking e-mails either late at night or early in the morning?
Many would argue it is about preparing for the day ahead. Preparation should happen in the last 30 minutes of the previous working day.
What will you action in the hour or so from reading the e-mail to getting in the office? Far better to plan and be productive in the first 30 minutes (add link).
Studies show we lose around 25% of our working day to interruptions. This could be e-mail, colleagues asking questions, telephone calls – the list is huge. We don’t need further interruptions before the working day has started.
By the way, most people check their social media when they wake up. Add this to the above and it is no wonder that people start the day feeling anxious.
FOMO also slithers into your mind when you see some of your peers huddling and talking on the office floor. The same applies when they are in a meeting to which you have not been invited.
Questions swirl round your head:
- What is going on?
- Why was I not invited?
- Why can’t I have my say on these issues?
If you are on the invite list to every meeting/every project, feeding the FOMO disease, guess what will happen?
Wearing the busy badge and bragging about how hard you are working is not a good place to be.
The key is working smarter and knowing where you can add value. How many times have you sat in a meeting, wondering why you were invited? Worse still you wonder why you accepted.
Involvement in everything will not improve your status at work. Knowing how you can add genuine value and executing on this will.
If you want to know where you can add value as a leader then spending time with your people is your No 1 priority.
Missing out on meetings and projects actually strengthens your ability to achieve, not diminish it.
You need a vaccine for this disease.
You are both the host and the cure and it is about making a choice.
So, what steps can you take to create such a vaccine?
Ask yourself why you need a constant update with what is happening?
What will happen if you do not get this fix?
Take it a step further.
What is the worst case scenario you can imagine by missing out on a social media fix?
Compare the time you spend on social media against your personal life and work goals.
Don’t think you spend much time on social media? Check this out.
If you take Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest you are spending 1900 minutes a month on social media.
The majority of this is in a state of FOMO.
Each platform embeds that feeling and enhances the loop of feeling anxiety.
It is the to 32 hours a month. Over the course of one year you are spending 16 days in a state of FOMO.
In a world where people do not have enough time I urge you to act on this information.
Do something productive.
Read, take a class, connect with an old friend, watch a film that makes you laugh/cry, spend time with your kids. Just be in the moment.
I have to challenge myself each day on the issue of social media. Some days I fail and some I get the balance right. I urge you to do the same.
By the way, the irony is not lost on me. I have a Facebook page, a Twitter account and I have just set up Instagram. I want people to look at those pages and interact with them.
I want to get to a point where you do not need me.
I want zero followers.
I want you to know your why and I want you to take action to achieve your goals.
I want you to encourage others to do the same.
Work Life Vs Home Life
Both are important and there may be times where you do have to bring work home.
This should be the exception.
In our sixties and seventies we will look back and feel proud about some of what we delivered at work. We will feel proud of the relationships we developed at work.
What we won’t feel is that we should have worked later, or taken work home more often.
We will feel the regret of not spending more time with our friends or family. A regret of not being in the moment and connecting with the people around us.
If there is one element of FOMO that can drive positive change it should be this.
Don’t get to retirement age and be full of regret. Yes you can spend time with your kids when you are older. Of course you can. Which would you rather do? Taking your 25-year-old kid out for a meal or an imaginary meal with your five-year old kid and their imaginary friends? I know which I would rather do.
Even in later life it won’t be too late, but why leave it 30 or 40 years before you come to this realisation?
Living a life of doubt, constant comparison and angst will decimate your wellbeing.
FOMO will make this happen, if you allow it.
There are choices you can make about how you frame the world.
You will never remove the above emotions 100%, but you can control them and suffocate them.
You are going to make mistakes, you will upset people and you will be hard on yourself – so what? There are few things in life that are terminal.
You will get back up, you will move forward and you will get to where you want to be.
If you allow FOMO to drive the choices you make you are unlikely to lead a life of fulfillment. As such you will try to do even more.
In doing so the FOMO is cranked up even more and it becomes a vicious chain – one that becomes hard to break.
Focusing on what you want to achieve (at work and home) and taking action against these goals is key to killing off FOMO.
You know the direction you want to move. Anything not supporting this becomes unimportant.
Hard Work + Action = Success
As Montesquieu once said:
If one only wished to be happy, this could be easily accomplished; but we wish to be happier than other people, and this is always difficult, for we believe others to be happier than they are.
Looking outwardly is not going to solve your well-being. It will not give you feelings of fulfillment. It is what we have inside us that does this. Our intrinsic motivation, our goals and dreams.
Just in the same way that a motivational poster or video is not going to give you a solution to your goals.
Only hard work and taking action is going to do this. Part of the reason people like reading motivational posters or videos is the feeling it gives them.
They get a little hit of dopamine and then carry on with their day and they are no further forward in achieving their dream.
Looking inward is key.
- Understand your why (your sense of purpose) (insert link)
- Working out what one thing needs to be achieved to move you closer to your goal.
- Go and do it.
You have a choice. You don’t have to let this disease beat you. You have the vaccine.
Go kill FOMO
Believe and Take Action