In Part 1 of this two-part series, I explore:
- What the fear of missing out (FOMO) is
- The ways can social media reinforce this FOMO
- The joy of missing out (JOMO)
The developments in social media and other consumer technologies outpace some serious very questions about the potential pitfalls of these technologies, such as FOMO. Part 1 defines FOMO. In Part 2 of this series, I describe some concrete steps to help you face and control FOMO and develop a lifestyle that creates JOMO. To check how you are doing with the sane use of social media and related technologies, periodically refer back to Part 2 to see if you’ve slipped back to FOMO patterns and to renew your JOMO.
At Presence Global, our mission is to help you protect online privacy with our app as well as other technologies and knowledge we offer in our blogs. We also promote the wise use of social media so that technology will enhance your life and expands the possibilities for human happiness. I and my fellow bloggers write articles about the less tangible things, for example, the human mind and emotions. We create blog posts that encourage you to protect your sanity and enhance your enjoyment of life and that of your friends, family, and others.
“Years ago, we used the internet to escape reality. Now we use reality to escape the internet.”
The pervasive use of social media has created holographic worlds. In these worlds, we gaze into magical devices to see what our friends are doing at any time—but is this always a good thing?
Should we use social media less?
Maybe. If your use of social media leads to more than a little occasional FOMO, this is an issue to investigate. I believe that FOMO has become a significant obstacle to our inspiration, our appreciation of what we have and who we are, and our overall quality of life. Science is starting to examine the dangers that lurk in the overuse of social media. Every moment that FOMO occupies our mind, the real world is passing by us. Every moment that FOMO occupies our mind, we are not engaged participants in life.
FOMO can be sneaky and have different disguises. It can exist in many social media habits and online experiences even if we don’t realize it. You might feel something looks nice and attractive, but on a deeper level you are comparing yourself to others and feeling less than the other. Put another way, looking at others produces feelings of lack—”compare and despair.”
Fear comes from not knowing what is, and fear worsens this not-knowing by causing the mind to draw in—to shrink—to a survival posture. Fear usually comes from imaginary or potential losses or harm in the present or distant future. When you hear an unfamiliar sound outside your home or see a vague shape in the dark, the unknown and its possible threat is an essential ingredient of irrational fear—it’s not yet rational fear while the thing is an unknown or merely possible.
Are my neighbors from another country (or religion) plotting against my family and me? Will I lose my job? Is my spouse or partner cheating on me? Am I losing a loved one to a sinister cult? Fear on a mass scale is the most effective weapon for controlling a population and even driving it to commit unspeakable deeds because our survival instinct has no logic or ethics. These are great fears and are outside the scope of this article, but they have the same basis as FOMO.
Very often, the fear itself turns out to be worse or brings much worse consequences than the thing that was feared.
Although it’s true that fear can be essential for survival—for example, if you discover a hard lump under your arm or one week after you attend a crowded social event you have difficulty breathing or smelling anything, you consult a doctor—the FOMO I am describing is the imaginary loss of reputation or self-worth. Usually, FOMO is irrational or exaggerated. Compared to great fears, such as existential threats (like driving into oncoming traffic) , FOMO is easy to conquer or control.
To see whether or how much FOMO sabotages you, consider whether and how much you:
- Continually refresh your social media feed to see what’s going on, the latest updates, and the new things that people are talking about or doing.
- Often feel the urge to know what other people are doing. “People” can be the people in your social network, family, and professional peers at LinkedIn, or they can be celebrities, other famous people, or the people you dislike.
- Have a persistent feeling that you’re not satisfied with yourself or your life circumstances, so you keep looking outward and fixating on what others are doing.
- Feel that you are not accomplishing enough, especially when comparing yourself to others. (Comparing yourself to others can be inspiring or depressing.)
- Feel FOMO because of advertisements or marketing campaigns. Advertisers and marketers consciously use FOMO to create a desire or imaginary need for their products or services.
The joy of missing out (JOMO) is the feeling of freedom or peace of mind because you have disconnected from a source of self-chosen stress or fear and are fully present in the moment. JOMO is the opposite of FOMO.
For school-age children, parents and teachers can replace FOMO with JOMO by arranging for phone-free activities such as reading, journaling, face-to-face conversations in which adults are truly present with the child, outdoor activities, and even practicing mindfulness meditation—yes, school-age children can be taught a mindfulness technique to help them settle down (refer to “Practice mindfulness” in Taming FOMO Part 2 of this series on conquering FOMO).
In Taming FOMO Part 2, I describe three things to help you face and control FOMO. Briefly, these short, medium, and long-term measures are:
- Admit you have a FOMO problem.
- Switch off the chatter to discover JOMO.
- Practice mindfulness to deepen and stabilize JOMO.
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