Ah, FinCon! For the last three weeks now, it has been quite painful for me to log on to Twitter. My digital friends are either raving about what a cool party FinCon 2018 was or how they have ALL already bought tickets for FinCon 2019. My mind can tell me all it wants that traveling all the way from Mumbai to Washington D.C. needs me to check on a lot of factors and with the continuously tumbling Indian rupee, just calm down for now. But when my rational side is not taking over, all I feel is major FOMO or Fear of Missing Out.
To the uninitiated, FinCon is the coolest party for Personal Finance enthusiasts, especially bloggers. There is nothing like this in India, or probably anywhere else. While it’s great to see everybody else already buy their tickets and book their slot, it would mean a big monetary and time commitment for me, which I cannot foresee or predict 11 months in advance. However, the aftermath of FinCon 2018 was so many more Twitter folk far more familiar with each other. The feeling of having missed out in 2018 has so far turned into a strong FOMO for 2019.
What is FOMO or Fear Of Missing Out?
Wikipedia defines FOMO as “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent. This social anxiety is characterized by a desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing”.
Let me break it down with another example. Suppose you have a group of friends that you hang out with. They all live close to each other whereas you are a little further away. Suddenly you see a photo on social media of all the others with their better halves smiling away at dinner. Do you feel left out? Do you feel you missed out on what would have been a fun night and a rewarding experience? Those feelings precisely are today defined as FOMO, which even finds itself featured in the online version of Oxford dictionaries!
FOMO is not necessarily about experiences. With one of my colleagues, FOMO can literally be about anything – food, gossip or even the latest work being done in the team. As you can imagine, FOMO is most commonly incited by the new age addiction of social media.
I found this quote from a Science Daily article really enlightening – “FOMO is especially rampant in the millennial community because they see a peer achieving something they want, and somehow in their mind, that achievement means something is being ‘taken away’ from them,” said Darlene McLaughlin, M.D., assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine and a psychiatry and behavioral health specialist with Texas A&M Physicians.
How is FOMO harmful?
Even though FOMO derives from a common human instinct of loss aversion (preference for avoiding loss over acquiring gain), it is not a habit that can boast of any merits. In fact, over a long run, it is pretty harmful to us mentally, and sometimes financially too when it ends up driving a lot of our money decisions.
Lower self esteem
If we start looking at any experience or anything owned by anybody else as more attractive, an obvious impact of such a mindset is bound to be reduced self esteem. Nothing you yourself do will feel good enough or as good as what you observe other people doing and believe you are missing out on.
Missing experiences you are actually a part of
You are out with your family for a nice dinner. You can just not keep your hands off your phone and keep scrolling through social media with pangs of envy as you see the holiday pictures of one friend after the other. You might mistakenly believe that social media is at that point your escape from maybe a droning uncle, but what you are doing is missing out on a real life moment that you should have been fully present at.
Losing the difference between what you want to do and don’t
There is a plan made by a few colleagues to grab some drinks on a Friday evening after work. Intrinsically, all you want to do after the tiring week is go home, change into PJs and watch Netflix or read a book. But, you don’t want to be missing from the possibility of fun or of missing out on the gossip that would inevitably be discussed. What do you do? You say yes to something you don’t really want to do.
Loss of gratitude
What do we feel FOMO for? If someone loses a job, do we have FOMO? If someone is going through a divorce, do we have FOMO? Nope! We only observe the best parts of everyone else’s life to get those feelings of missing out without pausing even once to absorb the extent of blessings we ourselves have in life.
Need for perpetual social approval
Why do you travel? Is it for the new experiences and a taste of varied cultures? Or is it to be the subject of envy and keep up with all your other friends to show that you can take selfies at as many places as they did a few months back? FOMO can end up dictating your life and making sure each of your actions is done keeping in mind social approval. If we thought “log kya kahenge?” (what will people say or think about us?) days or mindset was behind us, it has only been accentuated by FOMO.
How to deal with FOMO
Now that you are convinced (hopefully) that FOMO is not a healthy habit to have, let’s see what you can do to tackle it.
Do some introspection
One of my favourite blogs, Art of Manliness gives this great advice on countering FOMO. They have four simple questions that you should ask yourself before giving in to this feeling of FOMO – 1. Is this something I really wished I was doing? 2. Is this feeling telling me something I need to change? 3. Is this something that is viable for me right now? 4. Is this an accurate representation of reality? Hop over to the article to understand better what they mean by these questions.
Grass is greener on the other side
When I was a kid, I used to love the proverbs we were taught in school and some have stuck on in my head till date. This proverb is one that I try to keep in mind at all times. It’s about remembering that we feel FOMO when we observe only the good or the flashy parts of someone’s lives. However, each person has his or her own struggles which we may or may not be privy to. Even for FOMO worthy experiences or things, they may not be all good. The holiday pictures that you are feeling FOMO for might have painful real life travel stories behind it like a stolen passport or bad hotels. All you see is the aspect displayed out for social approval.
Counter it with gratitude
Try this out for a few days – notice your feelings and every time you think you are beginning to get that irksome feeling of FOMO, just write down one thing for which you are grateful in your life. You can do this anywhere, including a digital note on your phone. I have been keeping a gratitude log in my bullet journal for the past few months and I can vouch for the fact that I am happier with it.
Ensure you don’t miss out on the present moment
Being mentally present at the place that you are physically at, is highly important. You could very well be fretting over experiences or things that you are missing out on while being in the middle of something you could be enjoying to the fullest. One way to do this? Keep your phone away for an evening out or something which deserves your full attention.
Try to de addict from social media and your mobile phone
I might now be sounding like a broken record but I can’t stress on this enough. I have observed so many of my friends and colleagues mindlessly browsing through social media feeds. I am not innocent on this count either especially when it comes to being a semi addict with my phone. However, I consciously try to not look at my phone consistently, especially on weekends. Similarly, with social media, I do not believe in the extreme measure of completely deactivating accounts. Most people end up going back at it with a vengeance. I have found uninstalling the apps to be a big help in itself as the browser interface is just not as good or as addictive.
Just the realisation of the moments that you are being a victim of FOMO and a conscious call to reduce that feeling is going to take you on the right path. Start with small but consistent measures and you will feel the burden of showcasing you are having as much fun and getting in on all experiences possible lifting from your shoulders.
Do you notice your FOMO moments? What do you do about them? Let me know in the comments below.