Why FOMO Is Actually Social Anxiety And What You Should Do About It

Why FOMO Is Actually Social Anxiety And What You Should Do About It

You’re probably rolling your eyes at this point when you hear the term FOMO (fear of missing out), but bear with me because it turns out that FOMO isn’t about fear of missing information. It’s about feeling anxious that you’re missing out on bonding time with your social group. Here’s what to do about that anxiety.

Image from mussikatz.

When you scroll through your Facebook feed or Snapchat stories and see your friends doing something fun together, you probably feel a little concerned why you weren’t invited. NPR’s Hidden Brain podcast (21:28) explains more:

In all of our experiments we’ve found that it’s really more a function of an anxiety that something might happen in a group experience that will shape the group history in the future that you may not be part of and that will undermine your group belongingness.

For example, you head to a family reunion and your friends back home decide to take advantage of sunny weather and have a BBQ in the park (not a once-in-a-lifetime event). Seeing their photos might make you feel like you’re missing out on time together even though you don’t regret going to the family reunion. Even though you feel bothered in the moment, you have a few options to get away from the FOMO mentality.

  • Make plans to spend time with your friends. If you’re feeling anxious about the bonding you’re not there for, make other plans with your friends so you do get that time together. You might even consider smaller group or one-on-one plans to create a feeling of being close.
  • Focus on what you are doing that makes you happy. Being distracted by what others are doing (and what you aren’t) can take away from your experiences. Keep your attention on what you’re doing that brings you enjoyment.
  • Don’t worry about sharing on social in real time. The easiest way to skip FOMO caused by social media is to not go on social media. Of course, that’s easier said than done and we all have photos and videos we want to share with our circles. Try to upload those after the event is over so that you don’t get sucked into the newsfeed spiral of seeing what everyone else is doing when you should be happy in what you’re doing.

Social anxiety and stress isn’t something that disappears completely, no matter how confident or secure you are, but you can take some steps to comfort yourself and get back to focusing on what really matters.

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