Boy, if there ever was a seductive siren it is the Fear of Missing Out (FoMO.) It has been around since earliest times. FoMO has had many iterations over the centuries. The poorer hunters got the lesser cuts of the catch; and the lesser choice in women. Later, in the 1950s, it became “keeping up with the Jones’s.” Now it has become 1500 friends (you’ve never met – yet feel you must answer every text, post, instagram, etc., and always be (for God’s sake) at least equal.
As if keeping up with the neighbor’s wasn’t stressful enough, our “new” world of social media has upped the ante exponentially. We now have the entire world to fear we need to keep up with. I don’t know about you but I happily renounce that challenge. (I personally have enough pressure from the fear of missing out on what I already know I love.) I think modern social media and the electronic devices that serve as its infrastructure leads to ever increasing feedback indicating that no matter what you do it is never enough (bullying is an outgrowth of that as well.) And by extension you are not enough. That crescendos into ever greater despondency. AND IT IS SO NOT TRUE!!
What are some unintended negative results of FoMO?
• IF you ever wanted to make sure you never found true love – this is the way. Always looking at dating sites makes it so that there is always someone “better” out there. That leads to a fear of commitment. Fear of commitment can quite easily lead to never having what you desired so much at the start of the search. And, as an added bonus: you get to feel the one that got away was the only one good enough. Not a healthy emotional state to use as the soundtrack in the search for meaningful love.
• Think of how many athletes (e.g. Jose Conseco, Lance Armstrong, and others) let FoMO run their lives – only to ruin them with the loss of what they so desired: and so much more.
What causes FoMO?
• Greatly simplified, the part of the brain which is a key component of emotion and long-term memory is the Amygdala. It is a fairly primitive part of the brain. It is involved in survival. If we feel we are missing out on the best, we will feel we are unworthy of the best and within us as that “virus” grows; we, more and more; feel we never will. This cascade can lead to depression, suicidal tendencies (if unchecked) and if you remember the Santa Barbara Massacre: murder.
What about the affect of Social Media?
• Aside from those mentioned above, FoMO leads to electronic device immersion. Though all consuming; it eventually ends up a letdown. Eventually everyone over immersed in electronic media burns out and is left hungry for a life. For no matter how much we call it virtual (which used to mean “real”) it is not. Having a huge collection of pornography never is the same as having an active sex life.
• Worse yet FoMO leads to feeling that every text must be answered at every moment, that one needs to be part of everything all the time. That leads to texting while driving. Now, I am pretty sure texting while driving has caused more deaths than brain tumors from cell phone radiation.
What can you do to regain control?
• Go on an electronic device fast! Now don’t worry you will survive.
• Seek solitary pursuits that have personal meaning and disconnect you from the virtual world (e.g. exercise, meditate or read (if you remember what a book is.)
• Let go of regret and blame. Your not being on all the time did not cause any drama in anyone’s life (other than your own – and that’s why we are having this chat to begin with.) You will not miss any great opportunity to enrich your life – you will only miss another opportunity to feel less than enough.
• Find the Buddha within and instead of jealously and loss of self-esteem; make a real friend by asking that “friend” to tell you about their trip to India instead of stewing over your having never gone.
• Find and count your blessings. Every one of us has a unique gift that we alone can give to the world. HAVE A FoMO ON THAT!
• Go find it and find a peace and happiness by following your own path. Give to the world instead of counting what you don’t have.
• Go read to kids dying of cancer. Nothing changes perspective more than that.
When do you know you might need to seek help?
• Have you lost friends because whatever and whomever you have is never good enough?
• Do you have no friends?
• Are you involved with electronic social media more than 6 hours a day?
• Are you losing sleep over what you might be missing out on?
• Does life worth living seem impossible to achieve?
• Do you need drugs for anxiety, depression and/or sleep?
• Have you walked into a ditch while texting?
REMEMBER: NOT WANTING TO MISS OUT ON ANYTHING VIRTUALLY (pun intended) GUARANTEES MISSING OUT ON EVERY REAL THING!!