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By Paul Terranova
Editor, MindEdge Learning
February is not a good time for New Year’s resolutions: most will never make it through the month. One of mine this year is to spend less time on social media. So far, it has been easier said than done, as there is no shortage of news, entertainment, and opportunities to keep my screen time up. Simply put, I have bad FOMO—that is, a strong Fear Of Missing Out.
FOMO is the feeling that other people are more successful, having more fun, or living better lives than you are. In an age of social media, this phenomenon is almost impossible to avoid. Who among us hasn’t read an article on the “Great Resignation” in the past year and—regardless of how happy we are with our current jobs—at least briefly thought about what could be?
Studies indicate that people with FOMO will often do one of the following:
- overcommit and then fail to fulfill many of their commitments, or
- choose to avoid, as much as possible, making any commitments at all.
In the second case, the lack of motivation stems from the fear that, in making a commitment, people may lose the chance to engage in another experience that could yield even greater short-term satisfaction. The incessant stress and doubt that FOMO creates can lead them impulsively to follow whatever others are doing, at the expense of their own goals.
Because FOMO can so easily encourage this type of detrimental behavior, it is important that we use our own emotional intelligence to minimize it as much as possible. In addition to spending less time on social media (no simple task), here are four ways to minimize the influence of FOMO:
Find New Meaning in Your Relationships
An effective way to combat feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and exclusion is to foster and strengthen your own sense of belonging. FOMO should be a signal for you to seek greater connections with the people in your life. Making plans with family and friends—whether it’s a simple movie night or a two-week vacation trip—can help remind you of the relationships that matter the most.
Refocus Your Priorities
Once you’ve identified what is causing you to experience FOMO, take some time to acknowledge what you have and what you have accomplished. By doing so, you can gain a better perspective on your priorities. Being able to distinguish between what is necessary for your own success, and what is just a fleeting or unrealistic desire, will help you decide whether you are really missing something important in your life.
Use FOMO Enablers to Feel Grateful
Studies show that feelings of gratitude and appreciation can make you feel happier, lower your stress levels, and improve your well-being. However, very few people can generate authentic feelings of gratitude on a daily basis. What’s more, these feelings will certainly not be productive if you have to work hard just to will them into existence. The solution? Try using social media and other FOMO enablers to remind yourself of what you have and what you can be grateful for—by making sure your media feeds and the people you follow are positive and supportive.
Reevaluate Your Goals and Circumstances
Some psychologists believe that we can overcome FOMO by clarifying our goals and current circumstances.
We as humans are usually really good at evaluating whether our current circumstances match our goals and desired situations. When our goals and circumstances fail to match, most people try to behave in ways that will move them closer to their goals. But FOMO can distort our perceptions, blurring our understanding of what we really want. As a result, long-term personal goals can get sidelined in favor of short-term goals that are less important.
If you are concerned that FOMO is having this distorting effect, you should reassess your goals and current circumstances. Make sure your goals are clear, self-directed, and aligned with your interests and values. They should also help meet your basic psychological needs. This reassessment will help you better evaluate your current circumstances and prevent you from overvaluing others’ experiences while undervaluing your own. Solidifying your goals and reevaluating your current circumstances will foster better behaviors and decision-making.
The negative emotions that stem from FOMO often make us believe that there is something wrong with our current circumstances. Analyzing these feelings and addressing them directly will help you make better decisions that support your long-term goals, circumstances, and health.
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