FOMO: the fear of missing out

Fomo: the fear of missing out

Missing out on the best and most important experiences – this is a worry shared mostly by young people and is called FOMO. But a counter trend is emerging.

What does FOMO mean?

The abbreviation ‘FOMO’ means ‘fear of missing out’, i.e. the fear of missing out on something exciting. The problem is nothing new, but has been exacerbated by the use of mobile communication devices.

Social media promotes FOMO

Ultimately, social networks are popular platforms for keeping friends and family updated in real time, with all the latest news backed up with photo after photo of exciting experiences. According to media experts, these images often lead to comparisons and negative reactions: anyone who's already fed up with their lives and convinced that others have it better is left feeling even more dissatisfied and sometimes totally envious.

What symptoms do FOMO sufferers display?

The fact that FOMO can lower your mood has been proven by research. In studies conducted on first-year students at American universities, for example, students even reacted with stress symptoms like insomnia. They displayed the worst signs of FOMO in the evening and at weekends. Or when duty called – and they had to sit at home with their heads in their books while the rest of their clique was partying.

Too much choice

Another effect is the feeling of being unable to decide which event is more worth attending. FOMO sufferers therefore keep all their options open – and are then unhappy with the decision they take and unable to properly enjoy the evening at all.

Anyone who's already fed up with their lives and convinced that others have it better is left feeling even more dissatisfied and sometimes totally envious.

Quick check: do you have FOMO?

FOMO is yet to be classified as a recognised disease. Nevertheless, it's a fine line that delineates online addiction, where professional help is advised. The following points provide clues:

  • You feel depressed and frustrated when friends meet and have fun and you're not included.
  • Not knowing what your friends are doing makes you nervous.
  • You feel the need to immediately share online anything you're doing with others.
  • You find it difficult to concentrate when studying or working.

Resist the temptation and overcome FOMO

  • Opt out: To opt out, now and again at least, and not want to participate can be a liberating and life-enhancing experience.
  • Reflect on your media behaviour and practise self-control. After all, suppressing the urge to constantly look at your phone isn't easy, but it’s worth it.

Conclusion: learn to miss out on things

Is there a way out of this? 'Learn to miss out!' writes doctor and talk show host Eckart von Hirschhausen in a magazine column. It may sound blunt, but a counter trend along these lines is indeed emerging: the 'joy of missing out', abbreviated to JOMO.

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