Why FOMO is making us miss out on health and happiness

When my oldest son was a baby, he wasn’t a big fan of sleep. We used to laugh (hysterically, in our sleep-deprived state) that he had severe fear of missing out, or FOMO.

Today, the whole world seems to be suffering from FOMO, and the epidemic is no laughing matter. Apparently FOMO’s having some seriously negative impacts on our wellbeing and mental health.

According to a news.com.au article, a recent study found that “lower levels of need satisfaction, general mood, and overall life satisfaction related to seeking out social media engagement only insofar as they related to higher overall levels of FOMO.”

And it’s a vicious circle. People who have FOMO check social media more often, which only increases their FOMO symptoms.

Facebook is a prime example of FOMO in action, with its potential to cause insecurity, envy and anxiety.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like Facebook.

I use Facebook to:

  • post (retouched/usually with filter) photos of my family and me
  • circulate these awesome blog posts
  • boast about the good stuff (like 75% of us) and whinge about the bad stuff (like 36% of us).

I don’t use Facebook to:

  • tell the world about my completely average day where nothing out of the ordinary happened
  • post photos of myself looking average with no makeup
  • post average out of focus photos of my kids that aren’t particularly cute or funny.

See the pattern? The ‘average’ stuff doesn’t make the grade.

And yet you look at friends’ Facebook posts and think wow, he’s so photogenic, her kids are so clever and beautiful, his job is so amazing, her life is so much more interesting than mine.

Why is my life so ‘average’?

You know you do. I do it too.

Suddenly that idea that Facebook causes insecurity, envy and anxiety doesn’t seem that far off the mark does it?
Facebook (most social media actually) is a movie trailer. It’s all the best bits. The car chases, the first kisses, the explosions and the heroics. IT IS NOT REAL LIFE.

So what can we do about FOMO so it doesn’t turn into insecurity, envy and anxiety?

Be in the moment and be grateful for your ‘now’
Take a minute to realise that you will always be missing out on something. You will never be able to simultaneously travel the world, marry the love of your life, be glowingly pregnant, be free and single, be an incredible parent, look like a supermodel, run a marathon, quit smoking, lose weight, get your dream job, win the lottery, build a house. It is impossible. Enjoy what you are doing now. Enjoy who you are with at this moment.

Take a digital detox
Yes, I’ve banged on about this before but seriously, just switch off for a bit. A few days ago, I left the house without my phone. I freaked out (FOMO). What would I do on the train? How would anyone contact me? But as the day went on, I actually quite enjoyed it. Since then, I’ve limited my social media use and banned phone checks at wake up and lights out.

Be social in other ways
Make a point of organising an actual face-to-face catch up with friends. Family overseas? Call or Skype. Take a walk outside and look up rather than at a screen. Enjoy reaping some real-life return on investment.

Try JOMO instead of FOMO
FOMO is all about fear. JOMO (joy of missing out) is about joy. OK so its a bit of a lame acronym but the thinking behind it makes so much sense. FOMO is filled with ‘shoulds’ — I should be doing more cool stuff, I should be travelling, I should be more attractive… JOMO is about just being — enjoying the here and now and not missing out by frantically trying to record it through rose-tinted specs for the sole purpose of social media sharing.

You can join the fight against FOMO right now. Turn off your phone. Mute your social media alerts. Go outside and look at the world. Talk to someone.

You never know what you might be missing out on.

If you like this post, please sign up to follow Wellbeing bites by email and/or leave me a comment. You could also share on Facebook (or like Wellbeing bites’ FB page) or Twitter but it kinda feels wrong to suggest that considering the content of this FOMO post….

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