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What Is FOMO (And How to Get Over It and Move on)

Written by Timo Kiander
Productivity Author and Founder of Productive Superdad
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What is FOMO, exactly?

If you’ve ever said “yes” to a party invitation even if you have work to do or purchased a new tech gadget because it’s the latest thing everyone is talking about, then you’ve probably had a case of FOMO – the fear of missing out.

It’s a problem that many of us experience every single day and ends up becoming a distraction in the long run. Our current social and work environment has made this problem worse from the access to social media and other media outlets. This article will look into what FOMO is and how to not let it take control of your life.

What Is FOMO?

Fear of missing out (FoMO) is a unique term introduced in 2004 to describe a phenomenon observed on social networking sites. FOMO includes two processes; firstly, the perception of missing out is followed up with a compulsive behavior to maintain these social connections.[1]

I learned about FOMO by reading a book called Find Your Focus Zone by Lucy Jo Palladino. In that book, she described FOMO with an everyday example: Have you ever felt that you had to pick up the cell phone right away when it rings?

The longer the phone rings, the more and more you experience the fear of missing out. You feel that there is something important you are about to miss if you don’t agree with something. In this example, not picking up the phone immediately leads to this.

The most important element in FOMO is the word “fear.” It makes us do things even when we necessarily don’t want to. It’s logic versus emotion and often emotions win us over. When a compelling option is presented to us, we feel like an outsider if we say “no” to that. We may even fear that we’ll miss the opportunity of a lifetime if we say “no.”


At the same time, we know that we probably shouldn’t say “yes” because we may be spreading ourselves too thin. That or agreeing to something can lead to risks we might not be aware of at the time.

FOMO severity is going to vary a lot in people’s lives. In the case of not answering the phone, it’s not an issue. The person could leave a voicemail if it’s urgent or contact you later. But turning down – or accepting – a business venture idea could result in you missing out on making a lot of money.

Getting over FOMO is as simple as reminding yourself that there are plenty of opportunities, so missing one opportunity probably won’t make a difference after all. Of course, this is easier said than done.

Symptoms of FOMO

When you have a fear of missing out, you are going to experience at least one of the following:

1. Procrastinating — Being Unfocused and Stressed

It’s obvious that when the temptation to say “yes” to a request is too big, you accept yet another task or project.

In practice, you are spreading yourself too thin. Not only are you stressed out by too many activities in your life, but it increases the likelihood of procrastination. This is because you cannot keep up with your schedule and you start finding excuses for not doing something you promised.


FOMO creates fear inside of us. Specifically, it’s fear of exclusion. It’s a base-level fear because it leads us to think if we miss out on this, we’re going to be excluded from future events with those individuals.

It’s very convincing because we are social creatures and the thought that we would be pushed away from our own social circle because we missed one event is terrifying.[2]

2. Losing Out On Money

Sometimes you don’t want to feel like an outsider in a group by making different decisions than everyone else. This is usually caused by fear of rejection.

The fear of rejection is one of our deepest human fears. Biologically wired with a longing to belong, we fear being seen in a critical way.[3]

For example, I have been in internet marketing for a couple of years, and every time there is a big product launch coming, there is a lot of buzz around it.

Since this next shiny object is probably going to make you “rich and famous overnight,” you don’t want to miss out. If you do, others are going to be rich and famous, not you. Unfortunately, in many situations like these, nothing groundbreaking happens at all (no fame, no money, just hard work). It is yet another product launch, which is going to waste your money if FOMO gets a hold of you.


3. Self-Hatred

Missing out on something can lead to the impression that we’re uninteresting, boring, or just plain. Because we instinctively care what others think about us, we still attend events, even if we don’t want to be there.

In essence, we use those instincts as genuine information to bully ourselves into agreeing to anything. It makes us feel anxious and depressed, which may even distract us from being in the moment – the event you had said yes to.

4. Feeling Overwhelmed

Being overwhelmed is one of the symptoms of fear of missing out. When you are unable to say “no,” feeling overwhelmed is destined to happen at some point. There is just too much going on at the same time, and you are unable to focus on anything properly.

5. Information Overload

Another contributor to the feeling of being overwhelmed is information overload. We are exposed to so much information these days through our phones, work, and life that it’s too much for our brains to digest.

Information is essential in our society and for organizations. But the flood of information affects enterprises as well as individuals also in a negative way. [4]

Pair that up with people posting updates about their lives or what they’re doing, it can be easy to blend one person’s life with another’s.


How to Get Over FOMO

There are certain things you can do to get over FOMO.

1. Be Aware of It

The first thing is to be aware of the feeling. Stop for a moment and acknowledge when you are having a feeling of FOMO. Understand that this is a natural (although undesirable) way of reacting in a certain situation. We all wish we could say “yes” all the time, but we’re only human.

Recognizing your emotions and learning to manage them is one of the most important skills you can have. In fact, people who are good at noticing how they feel and can calm themselves down or adjust their behavior are more likely to do well in life, have healthy relationships, and manage difficulties and setbacks.[5]

If it helps, write a pros and cons list of why you should buy a certain product or why you would benefit from going to another event.

2. Be Honest With Yourself and Others

Honesty is one of the best ways to deal with FOMO. And the first person to be honest with is yourself. If you say “yes,” you must understand that you may be spreading yourself too thin.

Second, it is also important to be honest with others, too. They have to be aware that you may not be 100% committed to their requests if you have plenty of other life happenings going on at the same time.

3. Distinguish Online From Reality

Social media is another cornerstone for FOMO, and for many, that can be the primary source that triggers the fear of missing out. As such, a good step to take is to understand there is a difference between online and reality.

In a survey of 2000 Brits, more than 75% admitted to lying about themselves on social profiles. Only 18% said that their Twitter and Facebook profiles accurately represent them. Some 31% said that their Facebook profiles are “pretty much my life but without the boring bits.” And 14% said that Facebook makes them look much more socially active than they are.[6]


Sure, social media will display plenty of positive pictures and people traveling, but it’s also that person’s highlight reel. In other words, it doesn’t show the person smiling through gritted teeth because they don’t want to be there. It doesn’t show the happy couple on social media losing their baggage or feeling sick. There is a lot of context missing.

4. Make a Quick Decision Regarding the Situation

One of the worst things you can do is be on the fence. As long as something is left undecided, it is using your brain capacity for nothing. That’s why it is imperative to say “no” to an opportunity as quickly as possible if you feel you are unable to commit to it 100%.

When you say “no,” you may even regret your decision at first. On the other hand, if you are meant to experience the opportunity at all, it will come available to you at a later time.

5. Reassure Yourself

Just because something is happening doesn’t mean that your worth is directly impacted by it.

Again, what FOMO means is that we have an instinctual fear of survival. Fear is very useful because it serves as a tool for survival.

To deal with that fear, we need confidence and reassurance that we are safe mentally, physically, and emotionally. Missing out on something isn’t as big of a deal.


6. Change Your Perspective

One step in defeating FOMO is to see if a situation or event supports your short or long-term goals. If it doesn’t, focus on everything you have to be grateful for in life at this moment. This can help change your perspective when you have that fear that you are missing out on something greater.

Try spending time with friends and family and improving the important relationships in your life. These are the things that you’ll really regret missing out on and what will ultimately improve your life satisfaction.

7. Ask Yourself If You Really Want To Be There

Obviously, many people live fantastic and wonderful lives, and they show that off on social media or tell you about it. But the question to ask yourself is if that lifestyle is for you.

Because more often than not, the people who are now enjoying that life had to go through many difficulties too.

For example, being a digital nomad sounds like a dream career path. You get to travel around the world, work from a laptop and spend your days at the beach. Although it sounds nice, there are many factors of this lifestyle that will test you, including your patience with living out of a suitcase, getting sick in a foreign country, and also FOMO from missing out on all the events back home.


8. Make More Plans

Another way to get rid of FOMO is to have more plans. If you’re worried that you’re being left out, go and attend more events with people. Introverts have better structured days. Go out and take a new class, learn a new skill, or go for a walk. Fill out your day with things that bring you joy, and you won’t feel like you’re missing out on anything.

How to Turn FOMO into JOMO

One other key strategy on how to get rid of FOMO is to practice JOMO – joy of missing out. This is another sound strategy if previous methods haven’t helped eliminate FOMO. Here is how to do it.

1. Practice Mindfulness Meditation

A great technique to accomplish this goal is to practice mindfulness meditation. Dr. Gupta describes mindfulness meditation as the “non-judgmental observation or awareness that is focused on the present experience.”[7]

FOMO is directly related to the unhappiness someone already feels in their life.[8] As a result, you are looking for experiences to confirm your feelings of doubt.

Mindfulness meditation forces you to focus on what you are doing in the present moment. You are not concerned about what others are doing; you are just enjoying the here and now.

The key is to not pressure yourself into doing anything extravagant. You must allow yourself to enjoy whatever you are doing. It does not matter if you are reading a book, going for a walk, or watching a movie. You need to allow yourself to enjoy whatever it is that has your current attention.

By suspending negative judgments of your life, you begin to realize that your life is sufficient as it is. There is no reason for you to compare what you enjoy doing to what someone else enjoys doing. The funny thing about life is we all think the grass is greener on the other side.


2. Remember That You Do Have a Choice

I remember watching this short video where someone was driving a used car, and someone with a new car drove by them:

The short video is a reminder of how important having proper judgment is to any situation. There are very few inherently good or bad situations. It usually comes down to how we choose to react to those situations.

You could choose to be discouraged by your friend throwing a party at their house, or you can be excited by the fact that you do not have to plan and purchase stuff for a party. You could choose to feel depressed by the promotion your friend secured, or you can choose to be encouraged by the fact you have a secure job in a field you like.

By accepting the fact that you get to choose how you react to everything, you allow yourself the ability to find joy in all situations. As weird as it may sound at times, there is someone who envies your situation over their own.

If you really think about it, there is probably a time in your life when you did not appreciate what you had until it was gone. Think about how simple life may have been when you were younger, and all you wanted to do was grow up, or when your house was always dirty, or you couldn’t afford expensive furniture because you had children.

Yet, when your children grew up and left the house, you realized a clean house and expensive furniture was not as important as you thought.


The Bottom Line

FOMO can lead you to distraction and can push you to do things you really don’t care about. However, there is a way to overcome the fear. Once you learn to handle it, you will feel better and will feel ready to take on more things that add genuine fulfillment to your life.


Don't have time for the full article? Read this.

What Is FOMO (And How to Get Over It and Move on)

Fear of missing out (FOMO) is a unique term introduced in 2004 to describe a phenomenon observed on social networking sites.

FOMO includes two processes; firstly, the perception of missing out is followed up by a compulsive behavior to maintain these social connections.

Symptoms of FOMO include procrastination, fear of losing out on money, self-hatred, feeling overwhelmed, and information overload.

One key strategy to get rid of FOMO is JOMO – the joy of missing out; try practicing mindful meditation and remembering that you have a choice.

Featured photo credit: Erik Lucatero via unsplash.com


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