Estimated read time: 7-8 minutes
This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim explains the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), how you might get it and how to beat it.
I spend way too much time on social media. Every minute of down time I have to check what’s happening on Facebook, and I’m starting to feel that it runs my life. I should just cancel my account, but I get anxious when I even think about cutting back. I know it isn’t making me happier, and it’s probably adding to depression, since everyone’s life seems more fun and more successful than mine. Should I just give it up or is there a way to be part of it without it running my life? Also how can I be on it without feeling worse about myself?
You probably have what is now being called FOMO: the Fear Of Missing Out. A recent JWT survey said 70 percent of adults have FOMO, and it causes a serious amount of stress and anxiety. Researchers at Edinburgh University said that one out of 10 Facebook users admit the site makes them anxious (and they feel an unhealthy amount of pressure to come up with inventive status updates and stay up to date on everyone's lives). But in spite of all of this, most people refuse to cancel their accounts.
Facebook also makes many people feel depressed and inadequate. A study conducted by two German Universities found that Facebook created envy and an unhealthy level of social comparison in many users — yet we can’t stop looking at it.
Most of us started using Facebook because we wanted to stay connected with other people, but now it feels like a competition where we must constantly prove our value and define our existence. There is no doubt life would be less stressful if you canceled your social media accounts. You would get more done and spend less time comparing yourself with others, but we all get why you can’t do it. You might miss something — and the fear of loss is a powerful force.
The fear of missing out might show up in other areas of life, too. It may compel you to record every episode of your favorite show so you don’t miss it, even though your life would go on just fine if you missed it. You may buy things you don’t need if there is an amazing price for a limited time. You might even struggle with ordering in a restaurant, because you are afraid you might miss out on whatever you decide not to get. You may stay uncommitted on your weekend plans, because you want to check all the options before you commit. You might struggle with making all kinds of simple decisions because every choice means missing out on the other options.
This fear could also cause problems in your relationships. You may hesitate to marry this girl or that boy, because you might miss out on someone better who could come along later. But, if you don’t marry that person and decide to wait for a better one, you might regret that and wish you’d taken this one. (This is FOMO at work, and it can create anxiety everywhere!)
Here are a couple suggestions for easing FOMO and having a healthier mindset about social media:
1. Put choices in perspective. If you miss the finale of your favorite show, is it really going to matter in the grand scheme of your life? If you order something for dinner you don’t love, does it really matter? The degree to which you suffer over these small things is totally in your control. If you miss a party because you weren’t on Facebook to see the invitation, it is not the end of the world. Ask yourself this question often: Ten years from now how much is this thing you are missing going to matter?
2. Accept that you are going to miss some things — and you will be fine. Missing some things doesn't change your value or diminish your life. Whatever choice you make brings different lessons or experiences with it. Choose to see those as your perfect journey at this moment.
3. Trust that your choices are the right ones for you. Every time you make a decision, you are nudged by your gut in that direction. Trust that these nudges mean something. Whatever choice you feel nudged to make, will create your perfect next lesson. This helps you let go of the other options without regret.
4. Make a rule against comparing yourself with other people. You cannot base your self-worth on how you compare to others. There will always be someone who has more friends, has more fun, and is more clever, witty and photogenic than you are. Switch your focus online to what you can give instead. Post things that life, serve or educate others instead of just running a PR campaign about how awesome you are. Also remember, there is no person on the planet who got signed up for the same classroom journey you did. You are a one-of-a-kind soul on a totally unique journey through life, and there is no space where comparing yourself to others serves you. We all have the same value. (If you struggle with this, consider getting some help from a coach or counselor to work on your self-esteem.)
5. Choose gratitude for every small blessing in your life. Start a gratitude journal or take some time every day to meditate on what’s right about who you are and what you have.
6. Refuse to wallow in regret, it’s a waste of energy. It does you no good whatsoever to waste today regretting a past decision you cannot change. Let it go and focus on today. It is the only place you have any control.
7. Limit the time you spend online. Get out and do things in the real world instead. Find some interests, hobbies or projects to do. Studies have shown that people are more happy when they are busy and active and off their devices. You may want to make a rule for yourself and only check social media once or twice a day at a certain time, instead of all the time.
8. Remember life isn’t a contest, race or competition. The goal of life is to become the most loving, fulfilled happy contributor to society you can be. It is not about being better than anyone else. It is about learning and loving, so choose to focus on learning, growing and giving to others. You can’t experience fear when you are actively choosing love.
9. Remember that Facebook is not an accurate picture of real life. People only post the stuff that makes them look good. In real life everyone has struggles and problems. Facebook is mostly a PR campaign to sell an image of success and happiness. You can’t compare this highlight reel with your real life. If certain people and their posts make you feel inadequate, you can always unfollow them. That way you are still friends but don’t see everything they post.
I would also recommend doing some work on your self-worth so you know your infinite absolute value is the same as every other soul, no matter what you do or post online. I’ve written many articles on this you can find on my blog.
You can do this.