FOMO: the fear of missing out. The popularity of this acronym has always puzzled me.
I suppose that, as a generation, we are more susceptible to FOMO than any other. Three seconds on our smartphones and we can ogle someone else’s photographs in great detail. We can watch their videos. We can even shop their closets.
If we stopped at admiration and support, then this global interconnectedness could be a good thing. But, when people begin to cite FOMO as the reason to make a decision, I start to wonder. Is fear a good motivator? Has it ever been?
The Truth about Fear
What exactly is fear? The words “emotion” or “mood” don’t quite capture it.
Fear has power. It can paralyze, it can mobilize, it can even delude and corrupt.
Fear is inspired by the dread of the worst possible scenario. It ruminates in the recesses of our minds, and eventually comes hurtling towards the center.
And the problem is, fear can be fed. Like a fire, it is often kindled by the very intention of putting it out.
How exactly do we feed our fears? We obey them. We listen to them. We let them control us. And as we do those things, our fears grow. Slake their thirst for attention and their appetite will only become more formidable.
The Problem with FOMO
I don’t want to be driven by fear.
I don’t want to make decisions because I’m afraid of what will happen otherwise. The overwhelming threat that I will “miss out,” it seems, never goes away. And the more I obey it, the more power it has over me.
And this is why I think you and I need to throw FOMO to the winds. There is nothing honorable about it, just as there is little to admire about any other kind of fear.
10 Reasons to Toss FOMO out the Window
Reason #1. FOMO distorts our deep desires and dreams.
All the time we spend pursuing someone else’s version of happiness is the time we are NOT spending pursuing our own. The worst thing we can do is to confuse someone else’s passion with our own.
Reason #2. We will always, inevitably, miss out on something.
Can you be everywhere all the time? Neither can I. No matter what we do, we’re going to have to skip something. Better to skip someone else’s opportunity than our own. Better to live on purpose.
Reason #3. Fear teaches us to compare and to envy.
Why do we fear missing out? Because the phrase “missing out” means that someone else is experiencing something that we aren’t. If we choose to be afraid that someone will have something we don’t, then we’re allowing ourselves to envy them for that. And don’t get me started on envy.
Reason #4. We fail to live in the moment– our moment.
Have you ever wondered if someone has felt FOMO towards what you’re doing? If what you’re doing is admirable, then enjoy it! It’s probably worth your while.
Reason #5. Fear makes us defensive, not ambitious.
Let’s pursue our goals out of ambition, not defense. Fear tells us that our biggest priority is to protect ourselves from harm. Instead ambition places us in harm’s way to show us that we are bigger than our fears.
Reason #6. FOMO turns our lives into one long bucket list.
In case you think that life is a bucket list, I hope you’ll think again. There is richness in moments that don’t count for much in the way of resumes and accomplishments.
Reason #7. FOMO takes away our freedom.
In a strange way, fear– even the kind of fear that makes us want to do everything that everyone else is doing– can take away our freedom. Rather than choosing something simply because we love it, we choose it because we’re being told to choose it.
Reason #8. FOMO doesn’t make us an expert at anything.
Usually I find that the context for FOMO is to try something (perhaps everything) once. But as a result, you’re necessarily not able to try one thing many times– to the point of actually committing to it and becoming an expert. And while all of us can easily be a jack of all trades and master of none, perhaps we should spend more time mastering something– anything.
Reason #9. Discernment is an important skill to cultivate.
If we are one of the world’s fortunate (which, if you’re reading this, you are), then we have to learn to make choices well. We have to say yes to something, and no to many things. If FOMO makes us feel as though we have to say yes to everything, then we won’t know how to say our very best yes to things that actually matter.
Reason #10. Fear is the worst motivator.
Do we really want to choose something because we’re scared to go without? Do we really want to chase a lifestyle for fear of falling behind? The funny thing about fear is that it cracks the whip, but never offers a reward. In fact, the more we give in to it, the more power it has over us. And who wants to answer to a boss like that?
The FOMO Antidote
I wish I had an answer for everyone who genuinely fears missing out. What I hope– for myself and for you– is that as we look deep into our hearts’ desires we will be able to latch onto something that matters. Something that will push us from the inside out.
Nelson Mandela is credited for saying, “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”
As we cultivate hope, we can start to lose sight of our fears. At the very least, they’ll have less power over us.