FOMO: What It Is and How to Overcome It

Did you know that today, an astonishing 3.81 billion people are active on some type of social media? For context, in 2015, there were around 2.07 billion active users on social media. Isn’t it mind-boggling that, in just 5 years, the number almost doubled? Might that have something to do with the fear of missing out or being left out?

Surely, the benefits of social media drive many people to join any given platform. And the fact that it’s the most efficient way to keep in touch in an increasingly more digital world is another reason to have an account. But there’s more to those platforms than perks and benefits.

As awesome as social media is, it is often just as dangerous. We now know that it causes negative emotions, anxiety, fear, and much more. A decade ago, the fear of missing out (FOMO) was nothing more than a trendy Facebook hashtag. Today, it’s a documented, thoroughly researched, and scientifically verified psychological phenomenon, and we know it’s related to the excessive use of social media.

What is FOMO?

For anyone who’s been online for the past 5 years, FOMO, or the fear of missing out, might be a familiar term. It refers to the feeling of anxiety caused by a false belief that an exciting event is currently happening and you’re missing out on it. Nearly everyone has experienced it. Remember that time you saw a bunch of your friends at that Drake concert, and they didn’t even bother to let you know? That’s FOMO, and experiencing it can be unimaginably unpleasant.

Interestingly, the term FOMO was coined by a consumer behavior expert Dan Herman back in 1996, way before the ubiquitous use of social media. The term took more than a decade to become part of our vocabulary. Now, however, FOMO is omnipresent; we even have a self-assessment scale to measure it, which urges us to raise questions like: Do I get worried when I find out my friends are having fun without me?

How does social media create FOMO?

It’s true. Social media has made staying in touch and being socially engaged with friends and family a lot easier. But that’s not all. We also get to see what our friends are up to, where they are or have been, what they’re talking about, and even what they are buying. In certain ways, these aspects of social media can be positive, highlighting opportunities and connecting people. However, the unprecedented access to each other’s lives is the perfect hotbed for comparison.

Too often, social media has a distorting effect on how we see and interpret other people’s lives as they show them on any given platform. We tend to forget that what we see on social media is a small glimpse of our friends’ lives, mostly the so-called highlights. We never get to see the flip side of the coin, so the mundane bits of our own everyday life can make us feel like we are missing out on something exciting and are the only ones preoccupied with boring stuff.

We have to be acutely aware that the way social media platforms are set up can also make us experience FOMO. Just think about it: a feature that shows how many likes a post has received can surely spur fear that you’re not receiving social approval. The infamous “seen” feature is another example. We all know how disgruntling and annoying it can be to be left on “seen”.

How to overcome FOMO?

So, what can be done about FOMO? How can we overcome and manage it?

We have compiled a list of tips to reduce the onset of FOMO:

  • Set limits on smartphone use

Create a self-imposed limit on your daily phone usage. If you have trouble doing so, you can get an app that will automatically limit access to your phone.

  • Replace your phone with other activities

There’s so much more you can do instead of staring at your phone screen. Read a book, go to the movies, go for a walk, take up a new hobby, hang out with friends or family. Make it a point not to be on your device.

  • Be mindful when spending time on social media

Remember: the number of likes doesn’t define you or your value to the world in any significant way. What you see on social media is often a distortion. Don’t forget that everyone experiences the mundane parts of life, but very few of us are willing to share them with the rest of the world. Try not to compare yourself to others. We know it’s hard, but that’s the way to get rid of FOMO.

  • Deactivate your social media accounts

Taking a break from social media might be the best thing you can do. Deactivate your accounts for a while and see how you feel without being constantly exposed to other people’s lives. If that helps, consider getting off social media for good.

However, if you choose to stay on social media, don’t forget about cybersecurity. Losing a password or falling victim to a data breach can be a stressful and anxiety-inducing experience. It can feel much like FOMO.

A recent NordPass study revealed that password management is adding to the stress caused by technology. Almost 30% of respondents noted that losing a password and trying to recover or reset it can be as stressful as becoming unemployed.

With NordPass, you can get peace of mind when it comes to password management. You can securely store and access not only passwords but also credit cards, secure notes, and personal information. You will no longer need to type your passwords, as you can use autofill to log in to your favorite online accounts in just a few clicks.

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