It’s true that most of us want to have all the nice things others have — things that can boost our social status or make our lives more convenient and fun.
We want to earn millions. We want to own a luxury car and a mansion, and have a successful business. We want to be in a place where things seem fun and glamorous and exciting — a place all our peers would dream of.
Of course, I could be wrong. There could be other reasons why we desire those things. Maybe we want to go to that concert because it’s our dream to see our favorite artists play our favorite music. Or maybe we want to earn more money to support our family and prepare for the future. Not bad.
But what if… it’s just FOMO?
What is FOMO?
FOMO, or the Fear of Missing Out, is a compulsive desire to do or want something because other people do or have it. It is a desire rooted in fear, rather than love and purpose.
- We want to be at a party or concert because all our friends are there and we might regret for not attending.
- We want to invest in an investment scheme because majority of our friends and relatives already did (even though it’s obviously a ponzi scheme).
- We want to go to the beach because most of the people in our community are there. Because isn’t that fun?!
Author Mark Manson wrote about FOMO, too. He said:
“FOMO is self-invented psychological torture. It’s a figment of our mind’s worst imagination. It’s that irrational belief that everyone is always having more fun than you, at all times. That life’s epic moment is always just around the corner, and you’re a dumblefuck dickface for staying home and not participating in it. It’s the irrational belief that the next place/person/event is going to be the perfect one and you’re missing out by focusing on wherever you are or whatever you’re doing.
The problem is that FOMO influences our decisions. It triggers social anxiety. It makes us feel that something is missing in our lives. Or, is there actually missing?
The reason we experience FOMO
One contributing factor of FOMO — guess what — is social media, particularly Facebook and Instagram.
Since we are hardwired to feel envy, we desire the things our friends posted on their social media accounts — the new gadgets they have, the places they’ve been to, the food they ate, the experiences they have, and so on. Social media provokes insecurity.
You know that feeling, right? That feeling of inadequacy every time we see the glittering posts of our so-called online friends/connections.
And even though we know how it feels, still, we keep coming back to it. Crap. What’s wrong with us?
The FOMO Loop (and how to break it)
Yes there is a loop. And who knows you’re probably into it now:
Social Media → Compare → Insecurity → FOMO
Easy to understand, right?
Now we know the loop. It’s time to break free from it.
The first step is common sense: stop social media.
I know it’s not easy. We live in a social media-centered society. So if you can’t — I can’t either — use it with purpose. Or at least minimize. Here, I detailed how I use Facebook with purpose.
What about Instagram? I don’t use Instagram (perhaps someday if necessary). And maybe, you don’t need it, too. Or if it’s for your business or art, use it with purpose. Don’t use it to check what others are doing.
Remember that in order to break the loop, you must first change your mind about FOMO — you must first realize that FOMO is not beneficial to your overall well-being. It can ruin your life. And you don’t need to repeatedly fall victim into it.
Also, realize that mindlessly scrolling on social media doesn’t help you live a good life. It doesn’t make you a better person. It only triggers you to compare your life with others and feel insecure.
So this is how it goes. If you stop or minimize social media, the higher the chance you avoid FOMO and protect your inner peace. And who doesn’t want that?
But let’s say, you can’t eliminate social media, and you can’t use it with purpose — this is hard.
I suggest, give up your fantasies of having a perfect experience, and give up the idea that you need nice things to be happy. Don’t expect too much.
Ah, stop making excuses. Because that is highly possible.
These guiding principles may help you.
Guiding Principles for Overcoming FOMO
Kudos if you made your first step. I know it’s hard. The next step is to work on your guiding principles. These principles can help you stay focused, reminding you that FOMO is irrational — it’s just motivated by fear.
Below are my guiding principles. I’m not forcing you to embrace these principles though. But it works for me. Of course, you can make your own guiding principles, or reminders, or whatever you call it.
- Know what you really need, want, and love in life. Know your priorities and what truly matters to you. Focus on them.
- Don’t depend your happiness on external factors. Happiness is an inside job. You can be happy right now if you truly want it. How? (See #4)
- It’s not the end of the world if you missed out. Let me repeat that. It’s not the end of the world. In fact, when you missed out, you gain more time for what truly matters.
- Practice gratitude: You’re alive. You have everything you need. You don’t need to be somewhere else. You don’t need that huge amount of money. You don’t need more material possessions. You are okay, and that’s enough.
- Everyone is learning. Don’t be affected by others’ decisions, activities, preferences, and agendas. Their life is different from yours.
As Mark Twain famously said:
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”
Just because everyone is doing it doesn’t mean you should do it. Just because everyone has it doesn’t mean you should have it.
If you’re tempted, go back to your guiding principles.
I still have occasional bouts of FOMO though. But those guiding principles do wonders. They keep me grounded.
Right now, I’m trying my best to practice JOMO: Joy of missing out.
Yes it exists. And you might be surprised I’m not alone with it. Go google JOMO. You’re welcome.