The Psychology of FOMO

Today cries of “FOMO” can be heard in all corners of the internet and among all different circles of people. While this “fear of missing out” is by no means a new phenomenon, recent studies suggest that individuals under the age of 30 are more likely to experience this fear than those that who grew up without the internet. Many believe that the term’s growing popularity can be explained by the constant contact that social media provides us in the digital era.

According to Brooklyn-based psychiatrist Dr. Johnny Lops, the connection between the growth of social media platforms and the growth of FOMO is no coincidence.

“We have so many different ways to communicate through our phones and through Twitter and Facebook,” said Lops. “I have access to hear everything you’re doing on a daily basis and it can heighten my insecurities and jealous emotions because I feel like I’m not out doing as many cool things as you are.”

We have all seen FOMO, and we have probably all experienced it. FOMO can look like the group of young professionals at a restaurant sitting silently across from each other with eyes glued to their phones, or the teenager texting while driving because the possibility of a social connection is considered more important than their safety.

But why do we always feel like something better is happening out there without us? The answer may be simply because… we are human. According to psychotherapist Jenny Giblin, this stress comes from a part of the brain called the amygdala, which is responsible for emotional reactions, decision-making, and processing long-term memory. No wonder FOMO leaves you with an intense combination of anxiety and restlessness. It’s stress spiraling out of control.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to regain that lost control. Below are some tips on how to manage your FOMO and turn your attention to bettering your own life.

Disconnect

Take a break from social media from time to time. Each day, set aside a time to turn off your electronic devices and have some “me” time.  The best time for this may be at the very beginning and/or the very end of your day. You can reserve those times to read a book, take a yoga class, or do whatever makes you happy.

Practice Mindfulness

Instead of focusing your attention on the ever-updating vastness of the internet, take some time to practice being present. Whether you are sharing a meal with a friend, participating in idle small-talk with a coworker or even a bus ride with a chatty stranger, put all of your attention into the current moment. Scrolling through photos of your middle school lab partner’s breakfast can probably wait.

Be Grateful

Instead of focusing on the activities you are not included in, or what others have that you may lack, focus on all of the what you are doing and that you do have. Giblin suggests making a list of 10 things you are thankful for every day.

Give Yourself a Break

You cannot be on all the time. If you feel like something better is happening that you are involved in, that’s OK! There will always be another brunch, another concert, or another puppy to snuggle. Just relax.

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