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Why You’re Suffering from FOMO and How to Get Rid of This Addiction?

Why You’re Suffering From FOMO And How To Get Rid Of This Addiction?

In my twenties, I had this problem. Besides being addicted to cigarette and alcohol, I was also suffering from this strange syndrome called FOMO. Back then, I didn’t know that The Fear of Missing Out existed as a thing. As a disease, sort to say. I didn’t know I was suffering from this either. I found out years later. So basically this is what happened: When I was out, with my friends, in a club, I was always thinking about going to this other club. “Probably the other club is better and there are more girls,” that’s what I thought, continuously, throughout the whole night. My mind was consumed by thoughts about going somewhere else and, as you can imagine, I wasn’t able to truly enjoy the moment.

FOMO is quite popular these days. The internet is swarmed by articles about The Fear of Missing out and how to potentially overcome this state. I’m surprised that the pharmaceutical companies have not invented a medicine yet.

Or they have?

If there are indeed pills and you’re thinking about going to your doctor for a prescription, hold your horses. Don’t rush things and don’t stuff your body with tablets yet.

Probably this article can help you.

Before I explain why you’re suffering from this disease, let’s first take the time to explain what really FOMO is:

What Exactly is The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)?

Let me give you a brief example of what FOMO is:

Let’s say you’re reading this article and you’re astonished by the amazing way I put the words together. Thank you!

However, probably there is this other thought on the back of your mind that is telling you that right now, your friends are probably chatting in your Facebook group and you’re not able to see what’s happening. This is where the FOMO effect kicks in – you start fearing that you’ll miss what others are saying and you won’t be able to contribute to the pointless conversation online.

Probably Sally asked you a question but since you’re not there you won’t be able to answer her now, and later it will be too late. Probably you like Sally. Probably she likes you. But you won’t be able to find out if you sit and you read articles from this random dude online.

These thoughts consume your mind like hungry piranha on a piece of human meat and you close this site, open the chat and you start typing: “Sally, I love you. Let’s hang out.”

If you search in Wikipedia you’ll find out the following definition about FOMO: “A pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent.”1

Put simply, you fear that while doing, reading, watching something, right now, you think that there is this other thing that’s better than your current activity.

Since we live in a super busy world, and we’re connected to the grid, 24/7, there is always something new happening that’s only a few clicks away.

FOMO it’s this itch that continuously tells you to check your phone while you eat, while you’re watching something, even while you’re having sex. “Probably something new happened while you last checked. You must see it, NOW.”

It’s the disturbed feeling that something really cool is happening somewhere around you but you’re not part of it. What exactly you don’t know, but you don’t want to miss it out.

FOMO is Everywhere Around Us

When it’s the last day of your vacation and you’re about to leave, FOMO is this feeling that makes you think about staying one more day.

If you’re a fisherman and you’re about to call it a day, FOMO is the thing that makes you stay, even though you know that your wife is waiting for you to have dinner: “10 more minutes, probably I’ll catch one more fish.”

The FOMO effect also builds up when new technology is released. Even though your current phone is good, you just can bear the feeling that probably the new phone that was just announced is better and you won’t be able to take better pictures on your next vacation, your pictures will suck and your Instagram profile will have stupid pictures.

This feeling is also the reason you’re continuously searching for a new job, a new spouse, a new book to read. “I’m wasting my time with John, he is kind of alright but I bet there are other men with more potential. They will probably love me even more.”

So, that’s why, you broke up with John only to find out that John was fucking amazing compared to your last 10 dates.

FOMO also supports the whole travel industry. While you scroll through your phone and you see pictures of amazing beaches and sexy girls, this feeling grows in you and you start asking yourself questions, like: “Why I’m still here? Pack your bags and go to this beach, stupid! Go have fun. The season is almost over.”

And you go. You take your last savings to spend them in a foreign country only to find out that the pictures are actually better than the real thing.

I was consumed by this feeling a couple of years ago. I was saying yes to everything. That’s why I didn’t have a penny saved until my 25 birthday.

I thought that if I refuse an offer from a friend to go somewhere I’ll miss this cool thing. What It was? I didn’t know but I didn’t want to miss it out.

I was going out a couple of times per week, hoping that every night will be amazing, Thinking that I’ll meet this amazing girl and we’ll have a blast. But most of the times it sucked. I went out. I got drunk. I got home. I followed this routine for years. Why? Because I wasn’t truly satisfied with my life and I thought that somewhere out there is the key to ultimate fulfillment and happiness.

I bet you feel similar in a lot of occasions.

How FOMO Emerged?

The Fear Of Missing Out was first identified in 1996 by Dr. Dan Herman.

He published a piece of content a bit later, in 2000, where he introduced this phenomenon, later called FOMO, to the world. He was able to spot this strange mindset by listening to consumers at focus groups and during individual in-depth interviews.2

A lot of people blame this strange phenomenon to the social networks, but I think that we were always like that.

The new technologies are simply boosting this. We’re now constantly connected to the grid which multiplies this feeling by a thousand.

In 1995, when I was a little boy, I don’t believe the Internet existed back then, I remember that I was feeling stressed when I was home. I wanted to be the first kid on the playground and the last kid to leave, simply because I didn’t want to miss something. If someone did something, or said something, I wanted to be there. 

Why was that? Well, because I knew that being around people will help me build friendships and make more people like me.

So, basically, we have always been concerned about our social standing. Our wellbeing has always been related to what people think about us. It’s deeply rooted in our DNA. It’s like a survival instinct. We want to be part of the world. Have the best tools. Know everything. Because all of these things mean higher chances for our survival.

Back in the prehistoric era, the more people like you, the higher the chances for your survival. And how people like you? You interact with them. You talk with them. You help them. You do stuff that are beneficial for others.

But 10,000 years ago, or even 1000 years ago, you didn’t have anything else to do. Facebook wasn’t invented to tell you that near you there is another club where your favorite brand is playing.

If you didn’t like the beer and the people in the local pub, you went to the second one. And that was it. There was nothing more. No new information was available.

Nowadays, it’s way different.

The tool that allows you to read this article is a gateway to a billion of other ways to spend your time, each and everyone seeming a bit better.

Why You Suffer From FOMO?

Everyone I know suffers from this condition, whether he admits it or not. I myself I’m still a prisoner of this despicable mindset.

Let me tell you why:

FOMO is tightly related to the number of options we are exposed to.

The reason this social psychological condition wasn’t noticed 100 years ago, is simply because we weren’t exposed to so many options.

When you needed a new pair of shoes, 300 years ago, you simply went to the local shoemaker and you get a new pair. You felt 100% satisfied with this purchase because you personally know the dude and also because there wasn’t anything else available. At least not in your city.

Now, when I need a new pair of shoes I have to prepare myself for a long journey. I set a price range first. Then, I think about what kind of model I want. Laces, no laces? Leather, something else? What color? I visit a couple of physical stores and while I go through the models I also scroll online to see if there isn’t something better online.

Since I have a car, I can also visit stores that are near my city.

After a few hours, sometimes even days, I purchase a pair, but am I satisfied?

Not a bit.

“I kind of like these shoes but probably I had to wait a few days for the new collection.”

It might be even worse. If you’ve just purchased something and later you found out that the store is running a promotion right now you will feel terrible: “Damn. I bought these boots for $100 but they are now $60!? What the hell!”

So it kind of looks like this:

If you have a couple of things to choose from you’ll be more satisfied with your decision because there are fewer things to compare it with:

when-few-options
When there are fewer options you’re feeling better once you decide.

Something completely different happens when there are a lot of options:

when-a-lot-of-options
It’s quite the opposite when there are a lot of options. You can’t make up your mind and every decision will feel dissatisfactory.

You can’t be truly satisfied with your decision because there are so many other options that are slightly better or slightly worse. A lot of times we don’t even know.

If you’re at a party, and there are 3 other parties at the same time, you will subconsciously, or not, compare the events. You will check social media. See what others are posting and eventually consider that the party you are right now, sucks.

You’ll grab a cab and you’ll go to the other event. While you’re stuck in the traffic, you’ll check again what’s happening only to justify your decision: “Good. It seems like it’s still the best option.”

However, when you arrive, you’ll see that this party also suck. “What the hell?”

The pictures your friends shared are filtered and they only pretended to have a great time. They did it only for the picture. Because, people, curate what they share on their profiles, as we all know.3

So you decide to go to party number 3. Again, based on a quick social media check.

30 minutes later and $20 more, you find out that this party is worse than party 1 and party 2 put together. Eventually, you call it a night and you go back home disappointed from humanity and questioning the meaning of life. You’ll open your Instagram profile and you see Kanye West sharing a photo in a club. At this moment you’ll hate your life: “If only I can be famous…”

But probably the party where Kanye is also sucks. Probably he is faking the smile. But you don’t know, you’re not there.

Is There a Cure for FOMO?

The cure of this mental state seems so obvious. Yet again, few people actually get it.

In general, this is how you cure illness: You understand what is the cause, you focus your efforts towards this.

So, what is causing your mind to be restless and not satisfied with anything?

The abundance.

What can you do about it?

Limit the options.

Minimalism is a great way to start.

Since FOMO is something that happens inside your brain – you don’t actually feel physical pain when you don’t know which party to choose, you need to realize this. Your mind needs to get it.

There aren’t any pills.

There is an app that will walk you through the steps.

Draw a line and say:

  • I’ll focus my efforts only towards this project;
  • I’ll hang out only with this group of people;
  • I’ll shop only from a few carefully selected stores;
  • I’ll spend X amount of $$$ per month for groceries;
  • I’ll consume less social media.

In short, you need to understand in your veins, that it’s not about getting more stuff, or going to more parties, it’s about focusing only towards a few essential things.

Conclusion

It’s all comes down to learning how to let go. Or learning how not to give a fuck, as Mark Manson puts it.4

Because, in reality, you can’t be everywhere. You can read all books. You can’t watch all YouTube videos, you can’t have all the clothes in the world.

Because in reality, you don’t need them.

We have a limited amount of time and an unlimited amount of things to do. So, thinking that you can try everything is a dull idea to start with.

But understanding that doing one thing, only one thing right, it’s going to make you great.


Footnotes:

  1. I pull the above definition from Wikipedia – link.
  2. You can see one of his articles on his own site: LINK.
  3. If you receive beautiful flowers from your spouse, everyone on Facebook or Instagram needs to know about it. However, if you found out that he is cheating on you, you’ll most probably keep this only for yourself.
  4. The article about not giving a fuck is amazing. The book is also something you should definitely need to check: LINK.

Ivaylo Durmonski

Hi, I'm Ivaylo Durmonski. I write articles about productivity and simple living, mostly. I'm NOT a best selling author but the stuff I publish here might change your life. For real.

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