Fear Of Missing Out

"I'll Have What She's Having!"

We follow the herd - and often without realizing it - we mimic other people's choices.


Fear Of Missing Out - "I'll Have What She's Having!" We follow the herd - and often without realizing it - we mimic other people's choices. Graphic of frazzled woman trying to do too much.

What Is Fear Of Missing Out - FOMO?

Fear of missing out - or FOMO as it is popularly referred to - is the feeling that everyone else in your peer group is having much more fun than you are.

FOMO is an emotional response of envy, jealousy, inadequacy and at root a deep seated insecurity reflecting fragile self-esteem.

The phrase "fear of missing out" is attributed to marketing strategist Dr. Dan Herman, who coined the phrase in a 1996 research paper. In 2004 author Patrick J. McGinnis re-framed it as "FOMO" in an article in the house magazine of Harvard Business School.

With the emergence and proliferation of social media over the past 20 years the fear of missing out has become more noted, discussed and researched, especially in the context of mental health.


Life lived through the lens of a smartphone

Life lived through the lens of a smartphone

This extensive use of social media has not only accelerated the prevalence of the fear of missing out, it has made it worse in a number of ways:

  • Unrealistic comparisons - where you are evaluating and contrasting your everyday life with the carefully curated highlights of other people's lives which can lead to a biased and distorted sense of "normal".
  • Competitive bragging - the social media platforms present you with these carefully curated highlights from people who compete to present the idealised and picture-perfect representation of their lives.
  • Everything is experienced through the lens of a smartphone -if you haven't recorded it on social media it has happened. You lose the sense of being present and in the moment in your phobic quest to get the perfect selfie.









    How much I missed, simply because I was afraid of missing it.

    [Paulo Coelho]









Personal experiences

Naturally I have a smartphone, and I use various social media for personal and business use.

When I am out with my daughter, I am quite good at selecting photo-opportunities for her to take a good selfie - in fact I often end up taking the pics for her!

But it wasn't until a few years ago, when I was in Singapore entertaining a group of Vietnamese young people, that I really understood what it meant to live life through the lens of a mobile phone.

These 3 young people were relatives of a friend of mine. Over the course of a long day I took them to see all the major sites and attractions at Marina Bay.

But all day they were continuously taking selfies. They paid no attention and showed zero interest in all the amazing things around them. Their sole focus was on lining up photo-opportunities for yet another selfie to be posted in real-time to Facebook or Instagram. every hour.

I accept the generational differences, and as I have said, I use social media. But, this was something else!


Social media, young people and mental health

There is a growing evidence base that suggests that young people are experiencing a detrimental impact on their mental health as a result of intensive use of social media leading to what is increasing seen as "social media addiction".

The Centre For Mental Health have published a briefing paper to identify key themes in what is known about the impact of social media and the impact this can have on young people’s well-being, and the ways in which social media can be harnessed positively:

Social media, young people and mental health.








    I dropped the comparison game. Behind closed doors everyone carries a dark secret or a deep sadness - everyone suffers...no-one has the perfect life!









Unpacking Our Fear Of Missing Out

In my experience, our fear of missing out is one aspect of more complex behavioural patterns that are rooted in evolutionary psychology.

In my view there are 3 clear strands to this, and I propose these as a working framework to attempt to understand these impulses and suggest ways of dealing with them.


[1] Herd Mentality

Herd Mentality


Herd mentality is hardwired within our brains and this is evidenced in recent research.

This kicks in when we make decisions based on what everyone else is thinking and doing.

Herd mentality finds popular expression in the fear of missing out.

There are contexts where going along with the herd mentality can be useful, but more typically its an instinct to belong and to conform. This is all part of our stone age "pack mentality" when this was a necessary survival skill.

For a wider assessment of herd mentality and its impact on our impulses and behaviours, and some personal experiences, illustrations  and research please see:

Herd Mentality And How To Avoid It








[2] Social Comparison


Social Comparison


Here in the UK where I am based at time of writing, this used to be called "Keeping up with the Jones" [not to be confused with the US "Keeping up with the Kardashians"].

Social comparison is another hard wired instinct for fitting in and belonging, and establishing our social status - finding out where we fit into the group hierarchy. 

It is a natural human behavior for people to compare themselves to others in their wider peer group.

This instinct has evolved to foster social cohesion, personal learning, development and growth.


Social comparison comes in many different forms

Wherever people are gathered together, we have a natural tendency to compare ourselves and inevitably a hierarchy emerges - whether formal or unspoken.

Societies and clubs have elected officers. Members who excel in service to the club are given awards and as in "Animal Farm" some people are more equal than everyone else, and of course everyone knows who they are.

Mothers’ groups meet and their babies’ are compared and milestones in their growth and development are noted discussed and compared. As well as being an integral aspect of the social dynamic it offers the Mothers a measure of their own competency in their role and function as a Mother.


The theory of social comparison

"Social Comparison Theory" was first postulated in 1954 by psychologist Leon Festinger and as the name suggests it describes how people assess their own social and personal worth in relation to how they compare against other.

Subsequent research has shown that people who compare themselves regularly with others can find this motivational and a spur to personal development.

However the research has also shown that these self-comparisons with others can cause deep feelings of dissatisfaction, guilt, or remorse, and can lead to people to engaging in unhelpful and destructive behaviours such as lying or eating disorders.


The key determinant in how people will respond and react to social comparison is self esteem.

Unsurprisingly, people who have higher self-esteem tend to fare better with social comparisons.







[3] Self Esteem


Self Esteem


Self esteem is the product of the more developed parts of the human brain that facilitate self awareness and associated capabilities.

We can think of it as part of our internal software.

Self esteem is based on value. It is all about self worth and self respect. Your self esteem is grounded in how you value and respect yourself.

This is all about who you think you are and, in maturity, who you know you are.

I have shared my experiences together with other resources here:

6 Tips On How To Build Self Esteem









    Hope and fear come from feeling that we lack something; they come from a sense of poverty.

    We can’t simply relax with ourselves.

    We hold on to hope, and hope robs us of the present moment.

    We feel that someone else knows what's going on, but that there's something missing in us, and therefore something is lacking in our world.

    [Pema Chödrön]








Resource for readers who are students:

How to Deal with FOMO in College [+Turn It into JOMO]


Next Article:

Finish What You Start - Action Will Destroy Your Procrastination

Return from "Fear Of Missing Out" to: Walking The Talk

Contact me









English Chinese (Traditional) Russian French German Italian Spanish Vietnamese


LATEST ARTICLES

  1. The Art Of Persuasion Planning For Success - Here's How To Do It!

    To be successful in the art of persuasion you must ensure that certain things happen. To be successful in the art of persuasion you must establish a framework of what has to happen to get you to that…

    Read More

  2. The Art Of Persuasion Advanced Communication Skills - Gaining Buyin

    Create The Environment Where They Want To Buyin to Your Proposal In order to build the win-win you have to uncover what it is that the other person really wants or needs, and to do that you have to as…

    Read More

  3. The Art Of Persuasion The One Fundamental Principle - Create A Win-Win

    The art of persuasion is based on the simple idea that you get what you want by enabling the other party to get what they want. Being a nice friendly person with good inter-personal skills may be a go…

    Read More

  4. Communication Persuasion And Change - Key Skills To Survive & Succeed

    It's not the strongest that survive, nor the most intelligent, but those who are most responsive to change, the most persuasive, and the best communicators. We are living in an age of unprecedented ch…

    Read More

  5. The Eisenhower Box - What Is Important Is Seldom Urgent

    What Is Important Is Seldom Urgent And What Is Urgent Is Seldom Important. The Eisenhower Box is a time management and decision-making model devised by President Dwight Eisenhower to help him prioriti…

    Read More

  6. Zen Enlightenment [Satori] - The Stink Of Zen

    Lost In Our Delusions About Enlightenment. There is something in human nature - a desire to glamorise, sanctify, objectify and idolise – that elevates people who have offered deep insights to the huma…

    Read More

  7. 5 Zen Mindsets For Mastery - In Any Area Of Your Life

    The Wisdom Of A Person Who Masters In Any Art Is Reflected In Their Every Attitude. The state and quality of your mind has a very large bearing on the quality of your performance in any area of life t…

    Read More

  8. Dealing With The Toxicity Of Online Dating - 6 Key Tips From A Clinical Psychologist

    Toxicity Is The Price Tag Of Accessibility. In the early days of online dating, users were vetted and had to go through a registration process and agree to comply with a code of conduct designed to en…

    Read More

  9. Why Understanding Ergodicity Is Critical To Your Long Term Survival

    How Not To Be Fooled By Randomness. Ergodicity is an ugly word from the world of mathematics. It is an umbrella term for two sets of conditions of probability and outcome. These two conditions form th…

    Read More

  10. Dealing With Imposter Syndrome - Ego Is The Enemy

    How You Frame A Situation Has A Profound Impact On How You Respond To It Emotionally. Imposter syndrome is a psycho-emotional experience of a fear of being found out as incompetent despite ongoing evi…

    Read More

  11. The Challenges Of The Road Less Traveled

    Issues You'll Face When Playing The Long Game. The challenges of the road less traveled is loosely based around the phrase popularised by M.Scott Peck with his book "The Road Less Traveled". This arti…

    Read More

  12. How To Benefit From the Unseen Margins - 5 Key Tips For Success

    These Unseen Margins Can Have A Very Dramatic Impact On Your Life. To understand how to benefit from the unseen margins we need to start by understanding what they are and where we find them. In this…

    Read More

  13. The Art Of Thinking Clearly - How To Do More Than Just Survive And Reproduce

    3 Key Tips The art of thinking clearly starts with the sobering realisation that our brains are designed to achieve two things: Survival and Reproduction! 98% of our thinking is unconscious, automatic…

    Read More

  14. Algorithms to Live By - 5 Useful Rules Of Thumb

    5 Useful Heuristics From Algorithms To Live By The thesis of the book "Algorithms to Live By" is that algorithms developed for computers can be used by people in everyday life in a wide range of situa…

    Read More

  15. Finding Signal In The Noise - How To Avoid The Noise Bottleneck

    The Art Of Being Wise Is The Art Of Knowing What To Overlook. We are blessed and cursed to live in the digital age. We have access to more information than we can possibly handle yet we struggle to fi…

    Read More

  16. The Checklist Manifesto - Your Personal Safety Net

    A Checklist Is A Safety Net That Encourages Better Results And Prevents Avoidable Mistakes. The volume and complexity of what we know has exceeded our individual ability to deliver its benefits correc…

    Read More

  17. How Not To Be Stupid - 4 Key Tips

    How To Avoid The 7 Causes Of Everyday Stupidity. We are all capable of everyday stupidity as we undertake routine tasks in our business and working lives and also in our personal lives. This is not ab…

    Read More

  18. Beginners Mind And The Voice Of Experience

    Only The Experts Survived Evolution. "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few." These are the famous words of Shunryu Suzuki in "Zen Mind, Beginner's Min…

    Read More

  19. The Art Of Being Alone Is A Skill

    Let's Make Today A Good Day. You may not have chosen the condition of being alone, and it may have been imposed upon you by circumstances beyond your control, but your response to the situation is wit…

    Read More

  20. Intuition & Anxiety - Are There Angels Or Devils Calling Here?

    How To Tell The Difference Between Intuition and Anxiety. How do you know whether the voice of your intuition is real or just the product of your inner anxiety? We all struggle with these inner voices…

    Read More

  21. Like A Prayer - Life Is A Mystery

    It Isn't The Process Of Prayer That’s The Problem, It’s The Way It’s Framed. Regardless of what we feel about Madonna or her song the topic of prayer often arouses strong reactions. Usually, it is som…

    Read More

  22. Fear Of Missing Out - "I'll Have What She's Having!"

    We Follow The Herd - We Mimic Other People's Choices. Fear of missing out - or FOMO as it is popularly referred to - is the feeling that everyone else in your peer group is having much more fun than y…

    Read More

  23. Free - Self Improvement Resources

    Exercising Balance and Discernment. I have just updated these self improvement resources with a number of additional sources of material that are practical and can help you change your life. Check it…

    Read More

  24. Your Higher Self - Your Hardwired Portal To The Universe

    This Is The You That Is Beyond Your Thinking Mind. This is the big you, the transcendent you, the you that is often referred to as your higher consciousness or higher self. This is the you that acts a…

    Read More

  25. The Power Of Gratitude - It's Good For You!

    Gratitude And Attitude Are Not Challenges, They Are Choices. The power of gratitude quite simply is that it is good for you! Many of us were raised by parents who instilled in us the social niceties o…

    Read More

  26. Living With Your Thoughts - 4 Tools To Help You

    Develop A Good Working Relationship With Your Mind. The first step in living with your thoughts is to understand and develop a good working relationship with all areas of your mind. The key to develop…

    Read More

  27. You Are Not Your Thoughts - How To Escape This Ferris Wheel Of Suffering

    The 4 Stages To Dealing With Your Thoughts. You are not your thoughts, at least that's what your rational mind tells you most of the time, but that's definitely not how it feels at 3 am when you have…

    Read More

  28. Finish What You Start - Action Will Destroy Your Procrastination

    4 Key Tips To Help You Finish What You Start. So why do you fail to finish what you start? Or in my case, why do I fail to even get started? There is a wealth of information out there about how to avo…

    Read More

  29. Going The Extra Mile - The Power Of One More

    Life Is Non-Linear, Which Makes The Rewards Of Continued Effort Disproportionately Big. In the pursuit of a long term goal you have to go countless extra miles to set yourself up for a big success. Go…

    Read More

  30. Tao Te Ching - Connecting To Your True Source Of Power.

    How To Be Lived By The Tao. The Tao Te Ching is one of those books that many people read, few understand, and even fewer put into practice. The only way to know the Tao is to experience it, and it is…

    Read More



Get new posts by email:









Zen-Tools.Net





Support This Site