The term “FOMO” was officially coined in the Oxford English dictionary in 2013 to mean “fear of missing out.”
However, the concept of FOMO has unofficially been around much longer.
This phenomenon is largely attributed to social media, but feeling left out, rejected or lonely is an experience dating back as far as humanity. To our ancestors, inclusion meant protection and survival. When the wolves were literally at the door, being part of a group was a matter of life and death. Not to mention the need to partner with others to perpetuate our species.
But beyond survival, we want to feel included for many reasons. We are social creatures and it’s part of our fabric to belong with others. No man is an island.
So, when we see our friends and family having fun without us, its natural we feel a little sense of being left out. Sometimes it’s a twinge and sometimes it can lead to feelings that are even more deeply unsatisfying. In fact, FOMO from social media is now linked to a myriad of issues from lowered self-esteem to feelings of sadness and anxiety.
If we’re so afraid of being left out, why do so many of us still hold back when it comes to being included? How can we battle FOMO and get what we really want?
FOMO Indicates a Deeper Dissatisfaction
At it’s core, FOMO isn’t really about a missing invitation to the party or wishing you had your friend’s cute haircut. FOMO is actually tied to a deeper dissatisfaction with our own lives. We may scoff and think, “No, not I!” But in truth, if we’re comparing ourselves to others we’re coming from a scarcity mentality.
The world is abundant. There is plenty of satisfaction out there for all of us! If we’re embracing a growth-mentality and working toward bring in more of what we need into our lives, we may realize we each need something different. When we forget the world is abundant and there’s enough to go around, we feel jealous and insecure.
You see, when we’re not on a transformational path, we are nagged by the feeling that we should be doing something more, that we’re missing out on things. We have a vague sense of lost opportunities. This is what the existential philosophers call “ontological guilt,” and we try to drive it out of our conscious mind through soft addictions: watching television, gossiping, texting, shopping and a hundred other things that distract us from the nagging voice in our head telling us we should be doing more.
We Engage Our Soft Addictions
So, we feel we need more in our life and worry we’re unfulfilled. But we’re avoiding that persistent fear by engaging our soft addictions. What’s the biggest buzz today when it comes to soft addictions? Social media!
From our free time to our political climate, social media has taken over and vastly changed the way we interact, socialize, and spend our time. Even a former Facebook executive recently stated he wouldn’t allow his children to spend time on social media because he felt it was damaging.
Now, not to berate social media’s value. As a tool for staying in contact with friends and family and setting up “IRL” (that’s ‘in real life’) meetings and events, Facebook and other social media tools are great. They are a fun platform for sharing with others.
Social media becomes damaging when we use it as a substitute for those important face-to-face interaction: when we use our phones to “phub” (phone snub) others at the dinner table or during conversation; or, when we become obsessed with comparison and “checking up” on what we’re missing out on.
When FOMO comes into play, it indicates your social media use might have veered into soft addiction territory. (Take our soft addictions quizto see if you’re over-indulging.)
We Don’t Ask for What We Need
So, how do we battle FOMO? How do we get what we need in our lives so we stop that twinge of jealousy and fear we’re missing out?
The answer is simple—we need to learn to ask.
Asking isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Many of us have been raised with the idea to be “strong” we need to be independent. We may view relying on others as an indication of weakness.
In reality, the opposite is true. Enlisting the help and attention of others is a way we expand our abilities and power. We achieve more when we understand we need to reach out and engage with those around us.
At the core of asking is yearning. When we yearn for something, it’s deeper than just a “want.” Yearning indicates a longing from our heart and soul. We may yearn to feel included, acknowledged, loved. We may yearn to feel valued.
Everyone yearns. When we feel dissatisfied and left out, it’s often an indication those yearnings aren’t being met.
Asking for what you yearn for is a little frightening at first. It’s hard to ask someone to love you or value you. It might even sound laughable at first. “Love me?”
But asking for what we need is a skill we can and should build. It’s easier to start by practicing with small, low-stakes asks. What happens if you ask someone for the time? To hold the door? To help you carry a box? To pass the salt?
The next time you catch yourself struggling, reaching, or going out of your way in the name of independence, consider asking. Then work up to the larger and more important asks. Request the attention of your coworkers and boss. Ask for your spouse to help you with housework or to take you out on a date. Ask to meet with friends for coffee or brunch (rather than scrolling through their Facebook feed).
As you stop hiding behind your soft addictions and get more practice asking, you’ll feel amazed at the engagement and connection you’ll experience. You see, sometimes we don’t realize while we’re feeling FOMO, so is everyone else. We’re all longing to connect with each other. We all have yearnings we’re hoping to fulfill.
So, the next time you catch yourself comparing your life to the lives you see in your newsfeed, take a step back. Ask yourself what you’re really yearning for and how you can ask for what you need!
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