FoMO—fear of missing out—is killing you. Silently, slowly, it’s oozing into every crevice of your mind, expanding with every panicked beat of your heart like an epoxy of insecurity.
In a way, this new-age phobia is a byproduct of our techno-driven lifestyles. The fear of missing out is enhanced through social media feeds the same way Instagram distorts our perceptions of beauty: we have an irrational belief that other people’s lives are somehow better than ours because of a fun status update or a pretty picture.
This phenomenon is not just annoying; science indicates FoMO will completely undermine your happiness if you let it.
Research conducted by psychologists at the University of Essex in 2013 revealed that FoMO is not a new concept, but it’s becoming more common now that social media offers a window into others’ lives. The FoMO-afflicted often ignore the things they find pleasure in because they are too busy pining over not being a part of what their friends are up to.
Lead psychologist Dr. Andy Przbylski found that FoMO most commonly affected individuals under age 30 who placed high value in social factors. Those who suffered the most from FoMO’s effects were individuals whose “psychological needs were deprived,” which explains why they would seek validation through trolling social feeds.
FoMO is typically associated with the perception that one’s social rank is not as high as it should be, or feelings of inferiority. Please see this study establishing some interesting conclusions about the ways in which inferiority can trigger depression, anxiety, stress and self-harm.
So, yeah, FoMO is bad. It’s terrible. Tossing all scientific findings aside, anyone could tell you that comparison is the root of all self-loathing; FoMO is comparison intensified by a radial tilt-shift that makes everyone but you glow.
FoMO can tear you down and distract you from the fact that your life is probably very similar to the lives lead by those you envy.
Somewhere, there is a nerdy girl in sweatpants and glasses pounding out an article on some psychosocial issue instead of having a drink with friends. I probably follow her on Twitter and most likely I’ve wished my Thursdays were as throwback-y, my skin as flawless and my life as carefree as hers.
Or, maybe she’s a follower of mine and the scenario is reversed.
It doesn’t matter. We’re all trapped in a Sartre-esque existentialist Hell doomed to wish we had others’ happiness without any of their pain.
The point is, FoMO kills. Well, I just mean… remember that people’s lives on social media are a façade, and that you are as equally capable of crafting a life to be coveted as they.