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FOMO - Fear Of Missing Out

Fear of missing out (FOMO) describes when a person feels increased anxiety or stress from missing out on social events or not having been invited to attend in the first place. FOMO feelings are typically amplified for frequent visitors of social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, where users see a continual stream of pictures, videos and comments of parties, events, outings or other life activities that they may not have been invited to or able to attend.

FOMO Goes Mainstream

While FOMO originated as millennial-speak, the acronym has become so mainstream that the Oxford English Dictionary added it in 2013 (along with other 21st century terms like selfie and emoji): "Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media."

The Effect on Young (and Not So Young) Adults

FOMO can be used by some as motivation to be more social or active, but in most cases the overwhelming amount of activities seen on social networking sites and the inability to attend all of them or be a part of each event can lead to feelings of stress and depression.

FOMO Graph
Image Source: Alex Blum Consumerism Blog

Keeping up with the Joneses

FOMO also frequently manifests as a 21st century version of "Keeping up with the Joneses," both for young and mature adults. The negative feelings of stress and depression from FOMO can be amplified when the constant stream of social media content shows so many others having (or appear to be having) exciting experiences or reaching milestone accomplishments, especially if the person seeing them feels unable to keep up or compete with their peers.

Dealing with FOMO

FOMO has become so prevalent that some mental health professionals have termed it an epidemic among young adults and a pervasive mental health syndrome for all ages.

A 2013 survey by MyLife.com revealed 56 percent of people are afraid of missing out on events, news and important social network status updates, and that the percentage has continued to rise each year, particularly among millennials, who are spending increasingly more time online and connected to social networks.

More recently, an article by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) suggests that people need to face their FOMO to beat it. Recommended action steps include:

  1. Admit you have a problem.
  2. Switch off the chatter.
  3. Practice mindfulness.

More information on dealing with this type of anxiety, presented by the ADAA, can be read here.

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