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FoMO Fear of Missing Out: Benefits and Consequences

FoMO Fear of Missing Out:  Benefits and Consequences

Some of you may be very familiar with the acronym FoMO, while others may be hearing it for the first time.  FoMO is an abbreviation for the “fear of missing out.”  It was added to the Oxford dictionary in 2013.  It is becoming common in developed countries, especially with the millennial generation.  However, Dr. Dan Herman states that it affects nearly 70% of adults in certain countries.  FoMO is defined as an emotion based on the belief that there is something exciting or interesting going on that you may be missing out on.  FoMO is not all bad though.  Let’s look at some of the benefits and consequences that FoMO has on our world and us today.

FoMO Dr. Terri Wenner/ Created with Canva

The Benefits of FoMO

Let’s start with the positive.  A desire not to miss out on something fun, interesting, or exciting can be a very good thing.  It may prompt you to get up early or do something outside your comfort zone.  Not wanting to miss out on an upcoming Spartan Race or Tough Mudder can motivate you to train hard, lose weight, and improve your general health.  You might push yourself beyond what you thought was possible and achieve great things.

I recently completed my doctoral degree and I must admit that part of my motivation was FoMO related.  Most of my colleagues had already earned their doctoral degree.  There were frequent reminders that I did not hold the same credentials or respect that they did.  I also knew that my career options as a university professor were limited without this degree.  This left me with a low-level fear that not having the degree would leave me missing out on wonderful opportunities.  In this case, my FoMO gave me the push I needed to accomplish something I didn’t think was possible.

The Consequences of FoMO

On the other hand, not everything about FoMO is good.  When any kind of fear has a hold of you, you can easily become controlled by it.  Much like an addiction, the fear guides your decisions and behavior.  Let me give you a few examples.  You may not feel like paying your car payment.  But the fear of having your car repossessed causes you to pay the bill.  Being afraid you won’t fit in your wedding dress or suit pushes you to exercise and eat healthy.  Concern over not passing a test often prompts people to study harder.

While my examples have positive outcomes, not all fears are beneficial.  The fear of missing out may cause you to focus on the negative things in life.  It becomes like watching a shopping channel on TV and being unable to make any purchases.  Temptations are constantly dangled in front of your eyes, but every time you can’t have everything you want.  You want to be more places than you can physically be at one time.  There is a desire to leave the door open for a better opportunity.  You become obsessive about knowing about and being involved in everything you see as the best option.

Always looking for something better and focusing on what you can’t have has the potential to cause great anxiety and even depression.  How can you relax if you always need to stay aware of options?  Can you find contentment if you’re always seeking a better choice?  How can enjoy deep relationships if you’re splitting your time between 3 parties instead of choosing just one?  The craving not to miss anything often causes you to overbook your life, be constantly stressed and usually running late.

You Can’t Escape:  7 Ways FoMO Affects All of Us

If you’re reading this and thinking about those poor people with FoMO, think again.  Living in a developed or developing country puts you right in the middle of the FoMO cycle.  So, even if you haven’t fallen into the trap personally, you are still being impacted by it.  Here are 7 ways that FoMO is affecting you and the way you live.

  1. Choices.

    In years past, there were only a few options if you wanted to purchase something new.  Today, we literally have hundreds of choices for every product imaginable.  Recently our family had to purchase a new washer and dryer.  We had the choice of going to several local stores or shopping online.  Regardless of which we chose there were tons of selections involving different prices, colors, styles, and options.  FoMO pushes you to explore every single option so you find the absolute best product at the best price.

  2. Marketing.

    The marketing world knows that up to 70% of people are driven by FoMO to some degree.  So, they design marketing campaigns to draw you in and to win the sale.  Maybe you’ve heard phrases like, “the best choice,”  “you deserve it,”  “don’t miss out,” or “while supplies last.”  Or maybe you’ve noticed that once you have searched online for an item, personalized advertisement efforts show you pictures of 10 more similar options.

  3. Electronic Communication.

    Our interest in not missing anything is fed by the instant access to electronic communications.  We can receive emails, texts, and chat messages including pictures in a matter of seconds from just about anywhere in the world.  Unlike mail delivery that comes, once a day, electronic communication comes constantly even while you are sleeping.  So, there is a constant temptation to check to see if anything important or exciting was delivered, no matter what time of day it is, or what is going on.

  4. Increased Transportation.

    When I grew up, we had one family car and when dad was at work, we had no transportation.  Today, it seems that as soon as teenagers reach the legal age, they not only get their license but also get a car to go with it.  And we have economic ways to travel by plane, train, and cruise ship as well.  Travel agents appeal to our desires to see many places around the world too.  So, in order not to miss out on seeing the world, too often we rack up credit card debt so we won’t have to miss out.

  5. Instant Gratification/ Delayed Payment.

    Lately we rarely need to wait and when we do, it makes us crazy.  We have fast food and convenience stores when we want to get a bite to eat.  There is a gas station on every corner, so if one is overly crowded, just move on to the next one.  Need a new appliance, new furniture, or a new car?  Buying on credit, getting a loan, or using a delayed payment plan are all good choices.  There is rarely a need to save and buy with cash, unless you are personally convicted to do so.

  6. Social Media.

    I love and use social media on a daily basis.  But there are times when I need to disconnect for my own sanity.  People convey what they want others to perceive on social media.  They announce huge successes, they show your their luxurious vacation spots, and show off their glamorous new attire.  If you look at social media as reality, you can quickly think you drew the short end of the stick.  Through increased awareness of what others are doing, FoMO flares up again.  We may feel like we all need a Caribbean cruise, or a swim with the dolphins.  Even if you can’t afford it, you buy tickets to the next great adventure and off you go.  Of course, you soon post your own pictures (or videos) and inspire someone else to follow in your tracks.

  7. Unbalanced Resources.

    As human beings living here on earth, we have limited resources.  There are only 24 hours in a day, money does not grow on trees, and we do need to sleep.  So, when we add things to our schedules, or make purchases, we drain our resource pool.  When we don’t want to miss out on the 3 parties we were invited to, we may need to leave earlier than we wanted to, be watching the time closely at each place, and bring several changes of clothes.  We may also need to purchase extra gifts draining our bank account.  Not to mention you arrive home exhausted and didn’t get to relax and enjoy the company of your friends.

Reflection Questions

  1.  Do you recognize yourself as a victim of FoMO?  If so, be sure to check out the resources below by Bloom and Jellstrom for concrete steps to help you manage better.
  2.  Is there someone in your life that is quickly going down the FoMO drain?  Consider that it might be time to have a heart-to-heart talk with them and help them regain control of their life.


Bloom, Linda & Charlie.10 ways to overcome fear of missing out. Psychologytoday.com

Herman, Dan. Understanding FoMO.

Jellstrom, Aimee K. How to manage #FOMO in 4 easy steps. Readwrite.com

Texas A&M University. (2016, March 30). FOMO: It’s your life you’re missing out on. ScienceDaily.

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