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What Is FOMO and How Can I Manage It?

By: Danielle Bertini, LPC

Have you ever heard of, or even experienced, the word FOMO (fear of missing out)? If you have, it was probably used casually in a day-to-day conversation. “If I don’t go to that dinner, I’m going to have real FOMO.” However, behind the seemingly innocent acronym hides a darker reality. FOMO can cause significant distress, as it can cause people to live their lives through the filters of what other people are doing.

In fact, FOMO is not just a modern-day phenomenon. Social comparisons have been around as long as people have had the ability to think, evaluate, and compare their lives to those of others. However, the difference between FOMO today and FOMO in the past is the sheer number of people we have access to compare our lives to. Before the internet and social media, comparison to others’ lives needed to happen with people in our immediate vicinity, usually close peers, family, and friends/colleagues. 

However, now, we can access literally millions of people living lives very different to ours and often compare our lives unfavorably in seconds. The danger is that FOMO can be highly problematic, as it keeps us trapped in a cycle of looking longingly at other people’s lives and choices, then feel detached from our own lives, then turning to social media for solace from dissatisfaction and/or reassurance, and then repeating this same cycle. DPsych (2021) offers some tips on how to break this cycle.

  • Recognize that we cannot have it all at the same time.

There are only so many hours in the day, and only so much time, energy and money. This forces us to have to make certain choices over others. These choices can be small, like choosing yoga over reading or watching TV, or larger ones, like law school or medical school. Once you can understand that you will have to say no to some things to pursue others, the happier you will be.  

  • Define your values.

Another important component to managing FOMO is understanding what your core values are and choosing to make decisions that are aligned with them, rather than making choices based on fear of loss. An example of this could be if you really value your health, you might find it easier to say no to a night out filled with alcohol and yes to a Saturday afternoon bike ride. 

  • Commit to things you want to do. 

Sometimes FOMO and jealousy can show us that there are things we want to explore or need to bring into our lives. For example, if you get FOMO every time someone around you gets a dog, maybe those feelings will settle if you were to adopt one yourself? Are there any themes in your moments of peak FOMO?

  • Manage social media use and remember that social media shows a highlights reel, not real life.

It’s hard to feel contentment when there is constant exposure to new and sparkly options. However, remember that social media and advertising is designed to involve you in a relentless search for new and better. Sometimes it’s better to settle for an option that satisfies most of what you need rather than relentlessly seeking the “best” option. 

  • Lean into what you do have. 

Ahona DPsych (2021) discusses how it’s important to lean into your own life. This means noticing the nuances and the positives, developing an investment in it, and practicing gratitude. These can be key components to combating FOMO and embracing our real, and sometimes less than perfect, lives. 

If you find yourself struggling with managing FOMO, you may find it helpful to talk with one of our therapists at Symmetry Counseling in Chicago. You can contact Symmetry today by calling 312-578-9990 to get matched with one of our licensed counselors. 

References

DPsych, A. A. (2021, June 17). Managing the fear of missing out. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/prisons-and-pathos/202106/managing-the-fear-missing-out. 

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