Has FOMO infected you?

photo-634069_1280Do you have FOMO? Apparently it’s rising to epidemic levels in the western world, and many of us are going undiagnosed. Are you one of its victims?

FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out, is a mutation of the old “keeping up with the Joneses” or “the grass is always greener on the other side” behaviour presenting in a social media form. Psychologist Rebecca McGuire-Snieckus at https://psychologies.co.uk/self/are-you-on-247.html describes it as ‘a type of anxiety, a sort of anticipatory regret, brought on by being aware of so many alternatives, by seeing other things that you could be doing, or having, or being.’

FOMO is considered responsible for some of us needing to check our status every two minutes or text when we drive. It keeps others of us awake at night and looking at smart phones in meetings so we don’t miss out. It can also be responsible for not wanting to reply to any social invitations, just in case a better offer comes up. It really messes with some people’s lives.

I didn’t even know FOMO existed til I read an article about it on our school’s website. (Check it out if you have young people who may be suffering from this, they have a few articles on it; http://www.e-quipped.com.au/2015/04/13/the-fomo-plague/.) That’s probably not surprising since the term only made its way to the Oxford Online Dictionary in 2013. There’s not been much study done yet, but apparently it can be triggered by a little chemical release in the brain the first few times you start on (eg) Facebook and get a pleasant surprise when you discover something new. The addiction comes when you have to keep checking back just in case there’s a new piece of information.

At heart, FOMO links back to a sense of scarcity, the idea that you might not have enough good in your world and that someone else might have it better.

‘The good news? According to Forbes, ‘FOMO, like most things, is a choice. When you know what’s going on, you can name it and claim it. Then decide if that’s really how you want to spend your precious time.’ http://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2014/03/27/do-you-have-fomo-fear-of-missing-out/2/

Should you be infected, here’s my top three tips to set you on a path of recovery: Firstly, decide to live more in the physical here-and-now world rather than an electronic one. Look at your own coffee and enjoy your own meal rather than admiring everyone else’s. Trust me, they taste a lot better! Secondly, re-create those little feel-good brain hits by appreciating the people around you and the world outside. They’re worth noticing. And finally, consider placing some limits around your smart phone use. Remember, it might be clever but you’re actually smarter! Choose to stay in control of it rather than the other way around.

If you’re concerned that maybe you do have this bug, there is – surprise, surprise! – a website where you can take a simple test to see. Check it out here: http://ratemyfomo.com/