It’s Friday night – my favorite TV night of the week – and I’m settled into a comfy chair, remote in hand. I’m 12 years old and it’s just my music videos and me. MTV, V66, and Friday Night Videos: So much to choose from!
Ooh! I love this song! And the video! I watch about 60 seconds of it before flipping to the next station to see if there’s one playing that I like even more. Nope. Back to the first station.
I’m singing along, watching the song play out scene by scene in the video, with my thumb at the ready to switch stations to make sure I’m not missing something better. I continue this frenzied shuffle for the entire night, flipping back and forth between channels, and, as a result, end up never seeing even one video in its entirety.
There’s a lot of talk these days about FOMO (fear of missing out) as many believe it’s become somewhat of an epidemic. Thinking back to those Friday nights 20 or so years ago (ok, maybe a little more than 20!), I was rocking some hard core FOMO then. Guess I’ve always been ahead of my time.
As I’ve gotten older (and hopefully, wiser), I now see that FOMO itself actually realizes the fear I was trying to squelch. If you’re spending your time worrying that someone, somewhere else is having a better time than you, you’re actually missing out on the best time ever: The here and now; the present moment.
You become like a dog chasing his tail. You’re scurrying around (literally and figuratively) searching for the ideal moment when, in fact, you’re running from it. This futile race validates the belief that happiness and fulfillment exist solely outside of you, when, in fact, the source of both is only found within.
If driven by FOMO, chances are you’re going to accept invitations that your soul would rather decline. Let’s say friends are getting together for a happy hour, and you’re feeling run down and tired. If FOMO is at play here, you’re going to try to talk yourself into going by telling yourself things like this particular happy hour could very well be the most fun one ever, never to be repeated in the same way. Or you may slip into the fear that you’ll be talked about if you’re not there.
You know your body and spirit need rest, yet you grapple with whether to miss it. With FOMO as a primary fuel source, chances are you go and pay the consequences of exhaustion and possible regret later. A good time can be had on the couch, with a blanket and your favorite book, even while your friends or family are hanging out together. It’s all in how you define fulfillment and how you balance your sources of it.
Similarly, FOMO can rear its ugly head when it comes to food. Of course, since it’s your birthday, you can have as much cake as you want because, after all, you can never ever have it again or only on your special day. You can’t miss out on this chance! So even if you’re full from the meal, you couldn’t possibly turn down a piece because, really, when will you ever have the opportunity again? Um, I don’t know, you could run to the store tomorrow and get a cake.
Social media sure isn’t helping. It seems everyone on Facebook is having a way better time in life than you, or you feel left in the dust because you haven’t been on Twitter in 15 minutes and you don’t know the breaking news.
A study recently came out showing that the more someone uses Facebook, the less satisfied he or she is with life. Really? We’re going to blame a voluntary social platform for our dissatisfaction? Regardless of the fact that people mostly post only the good things in their lives (which isn’t such a bad thing to focus on!), instead of being annoyed or bothered by hearing about everyone’s adventures, go out and create your own. Use social media for its intended purpose: to share, not compare.
If you struggle with FOMO, here are some tips to help:
- Recognize that you can only be in one place at a time. When deciding where that place will be, close your eyes and check within. What do you really want to do? If there were no fear of missing out, which choice would make you happy?
- Immerse yourself in the pleasure of being “out of the loop”. Several years ago, I made the decision to no longer watch the news. My FOMO told me I’d be oblivious to the world and be unprepared for danger, financial crashes, and the zombie apocalypse. Instead, I welcomed in more peace and calm into my life, availing me of energy to engage in more fun and adventure. Same thing when I significantly downgraded my cable package last year. What if Snooki and JWoww did something outrageous and I wasn’t able to be in on the story?! Yeah, I’m good. No regrets. Now I pick and choose what I really want to watch and do most of my viewing online, rather than mindlessly flipping channels. And I spend a lot less time watching others live life and instead live my own.
- Take a social media sabbatical and make some memories. Plug more into life instead of the Internet. Then you, too, will have some cool things to share online. Make a list of five things you’d love to do, but haven’t made the time for yet. They can be little things like “go for a hike,” or “visit the library.” They can be big things, too, like “Visit the Grand Canyon,” or “Start a blog.” The point here is to make “someday”, today.
Are you ready to say “Hell, no!” to FOMO? Let me know your thoughts and insights in the comments below. I’m sure you have some good stuff to share!