What Is FOMO?

According to the urban dictionary, FOMO is the fear that if you miss a party or event, you will miss out on something great. 

What Does FOMO Stand For?

FOMO stands for Fear of Missing Out and despite the long history of events where people had to deal with the fear of missing out on something the phenomenon was only identified about 20 years ago by Dr. Dan Herman, who published the first academic paper on the topic in 2000. However with rise of smartphones that started with the Iphone in 2007 and the popularity of Social media sites a few years later the term "Fear Of Missing Out" became a popular term in the beginning of 2013.  

Fear Of Missing Out Became A Popular Term In 2013

For example, some people are afraid that their friends will think that they are abandoning them, especially the ones that they “see” only online. The phenomenon is so common it has earned its acronym:

FOMO is a pervasive anxiety or fear that something bad or unpleasant will happen if you miss out on rewarding experiences that others might be having.

What is the meaning of FOMO

This social anxiety is driven by "a desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing, and that will cause you to regret your decision.

In a worst-case scenario of missing out or being left out might lead to a "compulsive concern that one might miss an opportunity for social interaction, a novel experience, a profitable investment, or other satisfying events."

FOMO definition in plain English: 

You fear to make the wrong decision on how to spend your time and be informed about the consequences in your social media newsfeed. 

It’s the same feeling that stock market traders have when they fear to miss out on an opportunity also know as Hindsight bias. This is a term used in psychology to explain the tendency of people to overestimate their ability to predict an outcome.

What Does FOMO Mean in Texting?

The fear of missing a social event or another positive experience often arises after you heard about through social media. In this case, it's even worse than hindsight bias. A lot of people talk about FOMO instead of writing fear of missing out and judge their decision based on their social media feeds.

They might send you FOMO memes that and try to convince you that they (supposedly) had fun together are successful at something, or do just about anything that you want to be involved in.

The feeling might reveal itself in different forms that are connected to FOMO. It might be a slight feeling of envy or a sense of self-doubt or feeling inadequate.

Is Fear Of Mission Out Real?

Most of us have developed a need to feel constantly connected. Our relationship with technology, our mobile phones, and the Internet has led to a variety of FOMO diseases. The fear of mission out is as real as feeling the vibration of your phone in your pocket and nomophobia (the fear of being out of mobile phone contact).

Only a few years ago if you felt an itch near your pants, you wanted to scratch it. Now researchers have discovered that nearly everyone experiences this Phantom Pocket Vibration Syndrome often.

How to Deal With FOMO? If They Care, They Will Understand

One of the first things people will say when asked to take a vacation from social media is, “But what if I miss out on something?”

This might have some justification if Facebook or Twitter is the primary means that your family or circle of friends use to communicate, but most people overestimate the value of these services and underestimate the importance of curing FOMO.

In my opinion, one of the best ways to overcome the fear of missing out syndrome is to follow heuristics that have withstood the test of time. For daily information intake, I like Nat Eliason’s rule of thumb:

If it doesn’t answer a specific question you’re currently asking, cover philosophical knowledge, or entertain you, then don’t read it.

Rely on Ancient Wisdom 

For things that withstood the test of time Nicolas Nassim Taleb gives offers great advise, for example on which books to read. He says if a book has been in print for forty years, I can expect it to be in print for another forty years. As a rule, things that have been around for a long time are not "aging" like persons, but "aging" in reverse.

If you look at books like "The shortness of Life" by Seneca, you'll notice that people in ancient Rome were dealing with the same problems already.

Ancient Wisdom Cures FOMO

Why Taking A Break From Social Media Is the Best Way to Stop FOMO

Nowadays, the best way to stop FOMO is to take a break from Social Media and do a social media detox as recommend by Cal Newport in his book Deep Work and Digital Minimalism.

When you are preparing to take a social media or Internet vacation, he recommends taking at least 30days off.

When you take a break from Facebook and other services, post a note, tweet or send an email letting people know that you are going to be out of the action for a little while.

If your friends are really friends, they won’t be that upset if you take a break from the online world. The few who don’t might not be the friends you want to keep anyway.

Leave an Open Door

When you post your notice about taking a vacation, make it an “I” message as they say in modern communication classes. It could go something like this, “I need to focus more on my classes. I will be taking a break from the Internet (Facebook, Twitter or whatever) for ___________ days. If it is crucial that you reach me for any reason, you can reach me at me@somewhere.com (your email address or a special email you set up for this purpose).

Creating a way for people to communicate with you lets them know that it really is about your stoping your social media FOMO, not about cutting them out of your life.

There might be some of your Internet contacts that you would be happy to not hear from again, but that is a different situation and requires a different approach. The goal of your open door is to be sure that you don’t miss out on important things: births, deaths, birthdays and family get-togethers.

Set up a schedule to check your special communication email, have it on your laptop or desktop computer at home and do not check it at any other time.

Next Steps


  • Delete Facebook Off Your Phone. This might sound like sacrilege, but there was a time when the only thing a telephone did was to make voice calls. At one time, you had to walk to the booth on the corner to make a telephone call if you were away from home, and you often had to have exact change to make the call. Facebook notifications that pop up randomly or when one of your friends posts something will interrupt your train of thought making it almost impossible to focus on the work you have at hand.


  • Avoid Using Text Messaging or Messenger. Texting has gotten to be the new way to communicate bad news or upset feelings without having to face the other person. Some supervisors even use text messaging to fire unwanted help. It almost seems as if we have reached an age of uncaring discourtesy.


Withdrawal Symptoms

In the first few hours after you make the decision to take a social media vacation, you might find yourself fighting the impulse to check your email, check your Facebook page, check your Twitter account.

If this is the case, you know that you have developed a strong dependency on your social media contacts. That is why it is important to completely delete your social media off your phone or even to go so far as to invest in a plain, ordinary phone that has no Internet access at all.

Admire the Roses, Smell the Coffee and Hold a Conversation

A young man who had been deeply enamored of computers since he was eleven developed the early stages of carpal tunnel syndrome. His doctor had him wear braces on both wrists and thumbs for several days and put him on a very strict computer diet: only such usage as was essential for work.

His wife was amused. At first, the man was bored and more than a little frustrated. Then, he read a book. He called a friend and played several face-to-face board games. He washed the dishes, vacuumed the rug and went for long walks.

He bought a rose bush and planted it, beginning a love of growing roses and gardening in general.

You might find that when you vacation from social media, you become more sociable with friends and family. Because humans do like to be occupied, you might finish that book you started, take up painting, learn to play the guitar or any number of things that could replace the many hours you spent on social media.

Changes in Brain Chemistry

Addiction to drugs makes a noticeable change in brain chemistry. This is understandable. But researchers have discovered that long sessions of computer use also make changes in your brain. Chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin occur naturally in the brain in response to certain activities.

Playing computer games or reading page after page of social media keeps those pleasurable emotional responses and those releases of chemical flowing until the brain reaches a state of fatigue and simply stops responding to the signals.

The good news is that unlike a physical addiction to drug use, the brains of people who have participated in studies having to do with Internet addiction return to a more normal state after several weeks away from their digital siren.

Is FOMO or Fear of Missing Out Justified?

In many cases, when you return to your Facebook or other social media, or to the Internet and email, you will discover that you haven’t missed much at all. Unless you use email or social media to contact your business associates, you will probably find that you might have missed sending birthday wishes to someone or you have a new page of baby pictures to visit.

You might find that several people have sent you invitations to their Facebook games, hoping that you will help them out with “free” widgets for their efforts. But for the most part, nothing much will have changed and not very many people will have noticed your absence.

Meanwhile, you have noticed the real world around you. You have cleaned your house, planted a garden, written a book or learned how to play a musical instrument or some similar thing that you thought you would never have the time to complete. These are real things that can be displayed or enjoyed in the world offline.

Don't be afraid to test your friendships.

When You Find It Hard to Break Away

There can be real reasons not to completely abandon your Internet, email or social media connections. As mentioned, it could be the primary way to connect with family members or friends who are physically distant.

Your job might require you to have a Facebook or Twitter account and to check it regularly. But if you find yourself checking your social media every five minutes or so, then you have a problem.

The good news is that help is at hand and you don’t have to do it alone.

Help for your FOMO

Once again, FOMO or the Fear of Missing Out is an irrational response that keeps you checking your cell phone, email or Facebook page to see who posted what. You want to know if anyone “liked” your latest post or responded to what you thought was a choice comment.

You make sure you celebrate freindaversaries, send birthday and promotion congratulations and respond with appropriate horror to the latest political travesty. Liking, posting, responding all makes you feel connected. It can be very difficult to give that up, especially if it has taken up a good portion of your time every day for several years.

Take Back Control & Fight FOMO

A website blocker such as FindFocus allows you to take back control of your brain. The best time to use this site blocker is when you are rested, well-fed, and feeling good about yourself.

You are at your strongest and best at that point. This means that when you set up the internet blocking app, you are putting your best self in charge of what you view, when you view it, and for how many minutes or hours.

With FindFocus you can set up business hours on your computer and deny yourself access to those tempting websites and programs that aren’t part of your working day.

You can schedule checking your email or social media so that you aren’t really missing out. Instead, you are delaying gratification. The ability to delay gratification is a significant stage in personal development.

Psychologists have found that the ability to enjoy something even if it arrives a little late has a significant correlation with the ability to work toward long-term goals.

Social media, email, computer games, and similar Internet “goodies” are short-term pleasure fixes that cause the brain chemicals that respond to pleasure to spike in much the same way as a handful of jellybeans causes blood sugar to rise.

Daily, real-world occupations are the meat and potatoes of life. If you refrain from eating too many jellybeans, there just might be the occasional canape or filet mignon come your way. But those don’t usually materialize from “liking”, “tweeting” or otherwise interacting with social media.

Help Others To Find Focus

Stop Wasting Time Online & Get Things Done

"I turn it on whenever I need to focus.  Really liking it."
Brett McKay from the artofmanliness.com


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Martin Boeddeker
 

Martin Boeddeker is the founder of FindFocus.net, the One-Page Productivity Planner and the mind behind the FindFocus Distraction Blocker for Mac. He studied industrial engineering and management in Germany and worked for some of the biggest companies in the world. With FindFocus he wants to help people to get rid of what he calls DigitalADD so they focus on the things that truly matter in life.

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