Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media.
This word/acronym is new. It was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013 to describe the social angst tied to the usage of social media and electronics.
The anxiety that “others have a better life” has always been somewhat common among 20-somethings as they find their feet in this world as an adult. They hear of their classmates landing exciting jobs in flashy organizations and can feel overwhelmed as they focus on their college debt and wanting-it-all-right-now. Facebook and other social media amplifies that feeling – “you’re not doing as well as others”.
The social angst of “missing out on something” also hits 30/40-somethings that believe they should have it all together. They embrace the fairy tale story woven through Facebook that others are rich, happily married and quite successful. They might notice a sinking feeling inside as they view the in-your-face affluence of a high-school friend, who posts a dozen pictures of her Hawaii vacation.
Even 50/60-somethings experience intensified feelings of inadequacy, regret in relationships and disappointment in fading career choices. Looking through the lens of social media, it’s easy to say, “Look at Ben enjoying retirement — I should have taken that Federal job when I had the chance. And, Sara’s grandchildren visit her often — mine don’t.”
Even those in the workforce who have a company phone or Blackberry might notice they regularly check their work email in the evening and/or weekends. This is another form of FOMO. The Fear of Missing Out in the workplace has underpinnings of anxiety (such as fear of failure or fear of being judged/criticized). This type of FOMO drives people to be “attached to work” through their electronics, even though they are supposed to be off work and enjoying work-life balance.
Popular writer on psychology and technology, Nir Eyal (author of “Hooked”), states that it’s important to remember that the feeling of FOMO is common and not unusual. Nir offers these tips:
• Delete social media apps from your mobile device. It is not as radical as quitting Facebook altogether but is a quick and relatively easy way to reduce social media use when you are away from the computer.
• Take a hiatus from social media. Try staying offline for a day, a week, or maybe even a month. Examples abound of people cutting themselves off and waking up to the wonders of the real world.
My suggestions to clients include:
• Create a written gratitude list (with pen and paper) to remind yourself of the good things in your life.
• Focus on what you want from life and begin to live your life more fully, in ways that are important to you (not others). I found the book, “Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren a game-changer for me in my early 40’s.
• Have a basket by the front door — any work-related devices get placed in it upon arriving home for the evening. It’s a great place for personal devices too during family dinners and social gatherings.
• Develop a gentle mantra as you use Facebook, “This is not an accurate representation of reality” – so that you can relish in the good things happening to others while not robbing yourself of peace or contentment.
“Comparison is the thief of joy.”
― Theodore Roosevelt