Mental Health

FOMO: The Fear of Missing Out

FOMO: The Fear of Missing Out | Libero Magazine 3

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FOMO: Fear of Missing Out. I think it is time for a new hashtag campaign. #NOFOMO.

I am a FOMO sufferer. It’s an interesting word/acronym as it is usually used in a fun, joking way like when your friends say “Come on! Just come out tonight, we’ll be there.” In your mind, you see your warm cozy bed waiting for you, inviting you to party it up at club duvet. But then a vision of your friends having the most epic night out ever disrupts your fantasy and you say “Ah what the heck. Hashtag YOLO!” and in the pit of your stomach you know the night is actually going to suck.

But FOMO also has a serious side. Not the word itself per se, but the effect it is describing.

The Fear of Missing Out is just that; a fear, and therefore it is a form of anxiety.

We live in a society today where everything is documented and posted online instantly. We post statuses and pictures in the hopes that when we check back in five minutes, that little globe will have a red icon hovering over it. We click and wait impatiently as the drop down menu takes a ridiculous half a second to load. Damn…it’s just another Farmville request.

The result of this constant need to “feel in-the-loop” has fanned the flame of the FOMO.

FOMO generally refers to parties and events but I definitely feel it is also relevant in our day to day lives at work or college.

My struggle with saying no to things has to do with my fear that if I don’t do the task/favour/extra work I’ve been asked to do, the person who did the asking might not like me.

I often agree to doing much more than I am realistically capable of because I want to feel involved, approved of, and important.

What ends up happening (and it seems to be happening to me now, at the time of writing this article) is I end up completely overcommitting and inevitably one side of my life crumbles. At the moment, it is my domestic life. Making sure the fridge is stocked. Making sure the laundry is done. Cleaning my flat. Those little administrative chores I keep meaning to do.

So often, I let the little things slide because I think they are unimportant, but actually when those simple things are left undone, it creates an added stress on top of all my other commitments.

Why do I want to keep busy and involved?

The Fear of Missing Out | Libero 3

Why do I want to be in the loop? Perhaps it is because there is a need to be needed. I am not okay with just being me. When I learn not to base my value on external stimuli, but on the fact that as a human being I have an inherent dignity, perhaps then I will realise, as I once heard an AA member and recovering co-dependent say, “What you think of me is none of my business.”

At the root of FOMO is not actually a fear of missing out, but a fear I am not good enough, that I am somehow not appreciated. There is a tremendous serenity that can come through saying no.

But how can we know when to say no?

Imagine this hypothetical situation where my boss asks me to do an extra project. She says she’ll pay me for the overtime and she might even put me forward for a promotion if the project works out. I know if I say no, the project will be given to Mike who is such an arrogant, smarmy jerk I would never hear the end of it, but I am already committed to a Church event and squash club and my tai-chi classes. Not to mention my best friend is in town.

Sure, there are good things on offer in this situation but what I need to evaluate is if it is the best choice for me. Not for my career or my bank account, me. My whole being: body, mind, and soul.

I can apply this thinking to any situation where I feel compelled to say yes but my gut is screaming at me to say no.

If I feel what I have been asked to do is outside my current capabilities due to time, stress, or another concern, and if my motivation to say “yes” is based on a feeling of wanting to be approved of or liked, then it’s more likely it is in my best interest to say “No.”

Sure, it is easier said than done, but I’ve often found when I’ve managed to say no to something I really didn’t want to do or wouldn’t have been capable of doing, nothing terrible happens. The sky doesn’t cave in and the world doesn’t swallow me up. In fact, the person usually says “Okay.” and moves on. I am left feeling one task lighter, one step closer to club duvet, and a little bit more empowered.

Say no to FOMO!

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Sebastian is learning life by living it. Born in Zimbabwe, High Schooled in Zambia, and living in Cape Town, he isn’t really sure what to say when people ask, “Where are you from?” Seb went to Film School in Cape Town and has worked as a video editor for the last four years. He has battled with anxiety his whole life and has been through two severe episodes, experiencing intrusive thoughts and depression. He is on the road of recovery and has found that peace and a life free of fear is possible.


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