Around the 2000s, marketing strategist Dan Herman first wrote on the concept of FOMO. It took a decade plus some for this concept to develop. Within the past two to three years, I’ve personally seen and heard FOMO circulate a lot more that I decided to do some personal digging and research. For those of you who do not know, FOMO is an acronym that stands for Fear of Missing Out. Side effects found by studies done shows that FOMO has led to detrimental physical and mental health. It has also led to mood swings, loneliness, feelings of inferiority, decrease self-esteem, moderate to severe social anxiety and increased negativity and depression. Fear of missing out comes from the concern that one might miss out on an opportunity, information, satisfying event, often aroused by posts seen on social media outlets. Interestingly, studies on FOMO have found that those in developed countries are more prone to this. 70% percent of adults they’ve found suffer with FOMO either slightly or significantly that have produced moderate to severe side effects. Psychological disorder? I’d dare to say, no. While I do not claim to be a mental health phycologist, I do propose that the rationalization behind FOMO is a weak marketing scheme to promote the abuse of social media consumption and justify one’s insecurities.
Alright, let’s get personal with this. A couple years ago my friends started getting into relationships. That led to friends getting married, to now having children. Friends who bought houses, friends who landed awesome career roles, friends who are the epitome of fitness goals and friends who have the perfect life. How do I know all this? By scrolling. Scrolling became increasingly worse as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter ranked as monopolizing social media platforms.
Social media is perfect for marketing. It’s ingenious honestly. We are marketed every day more so now than ever before. Every second we look at a screen whether stationary or mobile device we are consuming a marketing idea, and our frame of thinking is being molded. Social media markets the highlight and the highlight interestingly is what brought about the idea of FOMO. How is it that the good brings so much evil? Here’s the thing, we don’t expect to share the awful bad in our lives. No one post about the bruises on their skin from their abusive spouse, the painful agony from a breakup, the rejection letter from a job, or the failure of a test/exam. We don’t show those parts of our lives. We share the highlight. Am I suggesting we share the bad? Not at all. Sharing the bad won’t help. That’s not the solution. I do, however, suggest we reevaluate why the highlights of others lives distorts the way we live and stirs feelings of “missing out”.
We want based on what’s been marketed. Nothing wrong with that. Wants are not all bad. But how did we as society get to a place where wanting has led to physical and mental health disorders? Why do we feel as if we are missing out if we don’t have the latest phone, are wearing the latest brand, are in the perfect relationship, traveling like the “IT” traveler or invited to “that” persons party. For me, that looks like — a 25 year old unmarried woman without child(ren). Yes, the pressure is on. Everyone else is married. Everyone else has kids. Everyone else appears to be doing or has “IT.” Yet, no one actually obtains “IT” because they are too focused looking at someone else’s life. Every second spent scrolling is confirming the idea that (me) you are failing at this thing called life.
My honest and wholehearted belief is that society’s rationalization of normalizing hours of scrolling through someone else’s life in envy at the many things they have and are is why we are the way we are. But if I dig a little deeper, I’d dare say, that you are to blame. I am. You are. Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with posting on social media. I enjoy seeing where people are in life, posting an updated picture of my fiancé and I, but I have fallen into the trap of depending on social media to gratify and fill the void of my personal insecurities. A post today has shifted from pure desire to share an update, to now need for affirmation. Scrolling has shifted from keeping up to date with friends and family to envying where others are and what others have. The more we scroll the more we believe that we are missing out and the more we believe we are missing out or have “missed the mark” we have mood swings, feeling of loneliness, feeling I am not good enough or am doing enough, and feelings of anxiety about life.
Does this resonate with you? Do you feel pretty crappy after scrolling through social media? Do you feel like you are “missing out” because you aren’t in a relationship, because you don’t have kids yet, because you don’t have the perfect body or because you’re not “there” in life yet? I say this with as much grace possible, FOMO is an acronym designed for this generation to hide behind their insecurities. We’ve been marketed to believe FOMO is okay. That this is normal. That it is expected.
It’s not normal and should not be expected. Insecurities are serious business. If apprehension within oneself is not dealt with, the result is FOMO and that’s what we don’t want or shouldn’t want. Want to know why you and I haven’t fully succeeded? FOMO. The pressure to buy things we cant afford and be someone we are not in order to impress other people is what keeps us where we are. FOMO, keeps us stuck and it keeps us fake. Judgement not from others, rather judgement we place on ourselves.
The first step towards making progress and moving beyond FOMO, is first admitting it. Be real with yourself.
- Why do you want to be in a relationship? Because everyone else is in one and you’re tired of third wheeling or because you believe you are ready?
- Why do you want children? Because everyone else is having and you’re scared you are behind or because you and your spouse agree it’s time to start a family?
- Why are you working out? Because you want to look like that girl or guy on Instagram or because you want to create healthy habits and live well?
- Why do you buy the clothes you buy? Because everyone else wears that brand or simply because you enjoy the look and feel?
What is your “why” behind the “what?” Pinpointing the why is the first step towards combatting your insecurities. Rationalizing FOMO is weak. Combating FOMO is strength. Your why needs to shift away from “because of them.” We will discuss tools on combatting FOMO in part two, but I will leave you with this. You are not missing out! Live your absolute best life by first seeking God. Scroll, double tap and pin, confident in who you are and where you are. And if you are not comfortable with who you are and where you are, quit sitting there scrolling in your insecurities, and do something about it!
What is your “why” behind the “what?”