FOMO Induced Anxiety

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Photo of people sitting next to each other, all looking at their phones

In 2004, in an article for the Harvard Business School, Patrick J McGinnis coined a new word – FOMO – the Fear of Missing Out. Simply put, FOMO is the fear that other people are getting something that you are not – so you are missing out. Since McGinnis first coined the term, there has been a growing realisation of how important FOMO is – and in particular, its impact on anxiety, depression and other mental disorders.

FOMO has become far more prevalent in the age of social media, and it works like this …

Jo has lots of friends on social media. When her friends do something interesting or exciting, they post about it. Jo also follows several good looking social media influencers. These influencers get lots of photos taken of themselves (and, believe me, they have trained themselves to pose so that they look really good). They choose the best photos to publish. Jo also follows other people who have really interesting hobbies and publish photos of the highlights.

So Jo is bombarded with pictures, videos and other posts which are all exciting – the people sho follows at their best. She spends several hours every day keeping up with all her friends and those she follows.

Now Jo compares her life with the lives she sees on her phone. Her own life is filled with a lot of drab, boring times and just a few exciting or interesting times. Her own appearance looks dull and boring when compared with the beautiful pictures that the influencers post.

So by making this comparison, Jo’s life and looks are way down the scale when compared with all the highlights – the very best of the lives and the best of the pictures – that she sees on her phone. And this comparison, even though it may be entirely unconscious, creates stress – it creates a fear of missing out. Maybe she is not doing enough. Maybe she should look more like the influencers. More stress … more anxiety.

There is a skill to becoming content with who you are and what you are doing with your life. When you compare yourself and your life to what you see on social media, you are always going to be disappointed. FOMO has become the mental disorder of the Internet Age.

So ask yourself a few questions:

How much time do I spend on social media each day? (You phone may have a “screen time” monitor that will tell you this.)
Is that time well spent?
Would you be better off or worse off spending less time on your phone?
On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy does being on social media make you?
How content are you just to be happy with who you really are?

If you are still struggling making the changes that you need to, and you want some help, then you can always contact me. Here in my clinic in Fleet, I help people who are only just coping with anxiety and stress. I use hypnotherapy to help them regain control in their lives.

Photo by ROBIN WORRALL on Unsplash

Tim Maude

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