After a wonderful night out with friends, you come home, and you ritually brush your teeth and off to bed replaying some of the highlights in your mind. In the morning, you make a cup of coffee and some toast and you chuckle from some of the memories of the night before. You had a great time and now you start your day. After work, you are on the phone with your friend and she tells you all the details about her epic night the night before. How do you feel?
Now, lets take a different scenario. You go out that night and in the middle of your time with friends, you check your newsfeed only to see a picture of your other friend having an epic time doing something else. You scroll down your newsfeed only to find many other friends of yours doing so many interesting things. In fact, they look amazing. Everyone is grinning cheek to cheek and look so happy. You’re sitting in line at the restaurant and you and your friend(s) are all checking newsfeed at every lull to see what everyone else is doing, reading, thinking. No one is truly present.
Fear generates emotion. Emotion generates energy. We can consciously choose how to expend that energy but more times than not we let habit lead the way. Moment of pause in conversation? Quick, check your phone! Although FOMO has been a social phenomenon for millennium, with the advent of Facebook and social media it has taken on a life of its own.
Think about it. Back in the pre-social days (certainly not to be confused with antisocial days), people made plans on a given night. After their night out, they might hear about someone else’s evening but they wouldn’t necessarily see everything they missed at 12am on their newsfeed that night. And of course, a picture tells a thousand words.
Keep It Real – No filter
Today, people check what their Facebook friends did and lets face it, nine posts out of ten posts are filtered with the best picture of one of the best moments or all smiles. For example, that picture of the concert is amazing but that moment when the person sitting in back of your friend spilled something on everyone sitting in front of them didn’t make the newsfeed that night. FOMO on Facebook is a little bit like the car commercial with the supermodel.
And what about the intent of your friend’s post? Did they post their experience because they genuinely wanted to share this special or fun or action packed moment with their friends or was it because they wanted their friends to feel like they missed out? Perhaps if we delve deeply and honestly we’ll find a combination of both in our own posts as well.
I know someone who never posts pictures of their children publicly because they know people who are painfully trying to conceive for many years. Imagine such sensitivity when it comes to those couples who post lovey-dovey pictures all the time? Why doesn’t anyone take selfies when they are fighting.
Of course there are different folks and different posts, but lets face it, just like the Jones’ need to one up their neighbors with their newest toys, so too some (but obviously not all) of our friends on Facebook try to one up their neighbors’ newsfeed. In this article, we will not be addressing these approval craving individuals, nor will we get into the reality of narcissism. The focus here is how we can beat FOMO. We all acknowledge the reality, now what do we do about it? In this article, we will take a deeper look at FOMO and offer practical tips on how to simply stop missing out.
What is FOMO?
Oxford Dictionary defines FOMO as “an anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.” Lol…come on Oxford, can we really call this thing an anxiety? As if people are suffering from FOMO and need medication or something? I think not. However, one thing is for sure, FOMO certainly keeps people up way past their bed time and can result in very unusual and sporadic behavior! It also greatly diminishes a normative pleasant social experience. Although, the social norm is constantly changing.
Where does FOMO originate from?
Boredom? Not necessarily. Sometimes we choose something exciting but we still wonder what someone else is doing or what is going on at that other event.
Dissatisfaction? Donno. Clearly we have times when we are satisfied but are still curious if there was something bigger or better or whatever going on.
Not…[breath deep]… being…[breath deep]… present…[breath deep]… in…[breath deep]… the..[breath deep]… moment…[breath deep].
The FOMO Paradox
Did you figure out the FOMO paradox yet? Our fear of missing out on life is actually preventing us from living. To add to the irony, Facebook has only added to this complex by increasing our ability to see everything we missed out on. People are constantly looking at their newsfeed and seeing what everyone else is doing or did recently. One of my dear friends who runs a marketing agency predicted that the evolution of social media will result in those who are in the conversation and those who are not. In other words, you’re either posting and commenting or your not and your a wall flower observing the party from the outermost part of the camp but not engaging in the festivities. Perhaps its no different when visiting your friends’ Facebook walls?
And of course, don’t think FOMO is limited to social media (sorry Oxford!). People have FOMO when it comes to settling down in life as well. Anxiety of choosing a life partner, an apartment, a job and other life decisions often stem from a fear of missing out.
5 practical tips on how to beat your FOMO
Overcoming any fear requires an internal fortitude and commitment to create new habits. Here are my easy suggestions that anyone can implement right away to start building their inner worlds.
- Explore yourself. If you find yourself bored all the time, then it is because you are a boring person. Most people aren’t boring, they just have no clue what they’re interested in. I’ve asked hundreds if not thousands of people to write down ten qualities they’re good at. You’d be surprised how many times people look up in a panic because they don’t know their own strengths! The same holds true for your passions and interests. Explore your inner world and get to know yourself. The more you can identify what your interests are the more you’ll learn to blaze your own path. Take a time out and write down ten things that you love to do.
- Volunteer. Make time in your month to volunteer and put your phone on do not disturb. Don’t volunteer so that you can post a picture of yourself and show the world what a do-gooder you are. Unplug. It is crucial to get out there and do something that requires you to think about other people and empathize with their plight. Is volunteering too intense? Treat a friend to dinner or coffee and focus 100% on how they are doing. Empathy takes time and energy. If you’re not a people person, then something like habitats for humanity or a food bank might be a great option since the interpersonal interaction is less. Either way it is important to remind yourself of how great you have it while to expanding your inner world through the service of others.
- Create content but limit the audience. I know, it sounds antithetical to this entire article to create content for Facebook. However, don’t post it as public. Create a limited viewing audience such as a list on Facebook. Limit is to your closest friends and family that you DON’T feel that you need to impress. You know the type. The people you let your facade down. Create content for them and for their eyes only. When they comment or like it it likely won’t be visible to the greater public. The main thing here is to leverage social media and our ability to share our experiences with loved ones as a way to get creative and think out of the box about new things to do.
- Consume some soul food. For me, Torah is the ultimate soul food. It is those insights and experiences that connect me to something greater that is beyond myself. It is catalyst to those aha moments of clarity that come and go like a flash of lightning in the dark which illuminates your path for a moment. It is also those moments of quiet and deeper mediation. The daily rituals which help us regain our center of balance before, after or during the nonstop buzzing of daily life. Soul food is crucial. Find someone who can serve as a mentor or soundboard for your self discovery.
- Unplug. Find one time each week that you actively and conciously unplug from social media. If a relaxing three hour meal with friends is all you can do then start there. For me, there is nothing better than Shabbat. It is crucial to my emotional well being, my relationships with my family, friends and community, and my ability to be more successful in my work. Shabbat is the ultimate weekly staycation and doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
Self Knowledge Is Clutch
A dear friend and mentor of mine once hosted a conference for several dozen rabbi’s who came together to learn, grow and recharge. I guess you might call it a type of rabbinic vacation. He stunned me during his opening words when he said, “If you are here to recharge your batteries, then you’re doing something wrong.” The same holds true everyone.
Life should not be a constant sprint where we are constantly running on empty and exhausting ourselves with complete disregard for our well being. That’s the rat race mentality where people place themselves on the alter of “some day.” Make time now for all of the necessary aspects of your life. You’re wonderfully complicated and the sooner you realize that the happier you’ll be, at least in theory.
Let me give you an example of how deep you really are. You were engineered with a most incredible technology – body and soul. Its not just a Tony Bennett song. These two elements don’t always get along so well. According to Jewish Wisdom, the body which was formed from the elements of the ground wants to return to its source while the soul, the Breath of G-d, wants to return to its source. One wants to go down while the other wants to elevate itself, the body and the entire world. This conflict rages within every human being and most don’t realize what is going on. The sooner one can recognize this dimension of human personality and identify the different needs the self so requires, the sooner one can achieve an inner peace personally and around the world.
FOMO is the fear of missing out. The opposite of FOMO is experiencing the now. Living in and appreciating the moment. The roadmap to this lofty level of existence requires building one’s inner core and feeding both the body and soul with a healthy and balanced diet of core strengthening activities.
Rabbi Katz is a social entrepreneur and public accountant by trade with a focus on audit and consulting for healthcare and other not-for-profits ($100MM). Most recently he is founder of JPULSE, BulbCourse.org and Shmorganic.com. He is available for consultation and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.