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.


Fomo by freepik


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

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 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



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 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]









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. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. 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

  8. 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

  9. 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

  10. 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

  11. 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

  12. Dying To Self & Dropping The Ego

    Everything Does Not Revolve Around Me. The two phrases dying to self & dropping the ego are Christian and Buddhist expressions of the same fundamental truth - the need to correct the inbuilt, hardwire…

    Read More

  13. The Confident Mind - 4 Keys To Peak Performance

    Peak Performance Is Meditation In Motion. Peak performance is grounded in the Tao practise of Wu Wei which means "doing with out doing". This is all about how you take action by being so immersed in p…

    Read More

  14. Going With The Flow - The Balance Of Being And Doing

    Steer The Boat Each Day Rather Than Plan Ahead Way Into The Future. Going with the flow is about learning to become comfortable with uncertainty, and learning how to exploit the potential hidden withi…

    Read More

  15. 8 Principles For Success

    A Timeless Foundation On Which To Build Your Success. There are Universal laws and processes that work to support us and guarantee that we achieve all our goals. But first we need to know what they ar…

    Read More

  16. The Loving Father

    A Love That Will Not Let You Go. I had a loving father. I knew that I did, but I never felt it. My father was a good man but very damaged and unable to show his feelings. So I grew up knowing in my he…

    Read More

  17. Your Ebenezer Stone Of Help

    How To Stay Connected To Your True Source Of Power. Approximately 2,500 years ago the Israeli town of Kafr Qasim was close to the site of two battles between the ancient Israelis and their neighbours…

    Read More

  18. The Stockdale Paradox

    How To Deal With The Attrition Factor. The Stockdale Paradox is named after the late James Stockdale, former vice presidential candidate, naval commander and prisoner of war during the American-Vietna…

    Read More

  19. Embrace Your Fear Of Failure And Uncertainty

    We Celebrate Success And Ignore Failure. Numerous studies have been undertaken on successful people to understand what it was that they did to become so successful, how they did it and when they did i…

    Read More

  20. The Wilderness Years - 3 Keys To An Exit

    How You Got Into The Wilderness Matters Less Than The Lessons To Be Learnt There. The wilderness years can be described as any lengthy time, longer than a year, that is spend aimlessly; without an imm…

    Read More

  21. Boredom – Your Greatest Threat to Results

    We Live In A World That Glorifies The Results And Not The Process. We all know what we should be doing, but the trouble with that is that sooner of later we get bored. The enjoyment fades, the excitem…

    Read More

  22. The Luck Factor - 4 Basic Principles

    You Can Master The Art of Creating Your Own Luck By Mastering 4 Key Principles "The Luck Factor" is the title of a book published 20 years ago based on the research of Professor Richard Wiseman who fo…

    Read More

  23. Your Relationship With Failure Is Critical To Your Success

    Just Because You Have A Spectacular Failure Doesn’t Mean The Game Is Over. The thought that you could fail can really slow you down. But the problem is not the failure, the problem is your relationshi…

    Read More

  24. Lost, Stuck & Going Round In Circles?

    Are You Lost In Transition? To be in an alien North African city, late in the evening, in the dark, completely lost in transition from the main market square back to the obscure location of our Riad…

    Read More

  25. Seeing Is Believing Or Is It?

    Do You Believe What You See Or Do You See What You Believe? Like the characters in "The Matrix" we are fooled by the illusion that what we see is how things really are. Why? Because this is the mind's…

    Read More

  26. What Difference Did You Make?

    What Impact Will You Leave In The Lives Of Others? If you knew you were going to die tonight and you were given a few minutes to reflect before that happened, what would you say was the meaning of yo…

    Read More

  27. Compassion Is Selfish And You Need It

    If You Want Others To Be Happy, Practice Compassion. If You Want To Be Happy, Practice Compassion. Compassion is derived from the Latin words "com pati" meaning to suffer with. It has been defined as…

    Read More

  28. The Placebo Effect - 2 Key Takeaways

    The Power Of Expectation Of An Outcome Regardless Of The Lack Of Any Substance To That Expectation. Traditionally, the placebo effect occurs when false, or dummy, treatments of inert substances [that…

    Read More

  29. The Red Pill

    This Is What Will Happen After You Take It. "This is your last chance," rebel leader Morpheus tells Neo, holding a coloured pill in each hand. “You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in y…

    Read More

  30. Transformational Life Hacks

    This Has To Be One Of The Best Ways For Living The Best Life You Can Possibly Live. An online search on life hacks will invariably provide you with multiple links to ways of increasing your productivi…

    Read More


Get new posts by email:






Zen-Tools.Net





Support This Site