Confession: I’ve been known to have severe FOMO, socially and professionally. And, as I’m sure you know, I’m not the only one. In fact, this concept became so popular that scientists from the University of Essex conducted several studies exploring the “fear of missing out” phenomenon. And what they found is not terribly surprising: “FOMO is associated with higher levels of behavioral engagement with social media.”
Why? Because this feeling’s “characterized by the desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing.” And what better way to do that than with social media? Kellie B. Moore, a writer and contributor to Verily Magazine, has fallen victim to it before. And she stipulates that, when you consistently “connect” with people (Facebook-stalking included), you become vulnerable to the comparison game.
“I wasn’t using social media to be social. I was using it in a mindless, habitual way. Instead of feeling joyful about the exciting things happening in my friends’ lives—especially having children and buying homes—I started feeling jealous,” shares Moore.
Think about it: When you go on LinkedIn, for instance, you see a slew of announcements along the lines of, “Rob is celebrating three years at Green Apple,” and “Julia has a new job. Say Congratulations!” Your first thought probably isn’t, “Wow, Julia, what a great gig!” Instead, it’s probably closer to, “Ugh, everyone’s getting these great new opportunities except me.”
Or, what about when your friend Kate posts photos of her “workcation” from a beach in Key West? I bet when you double tap that picture to “like” it you’re really glaring at Kate through the phone and adding a minus to the pros and cons list about your job. She gets palm trees and sunshine and what do I get? A charming gray cubicle.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Your career’s stressful enough without you making all these unfair comparisons. But the trick isn’t simply eliminating the incessant and mindless screen time. In her book The Joy of Missing Out: Finding Balance in a Wired World, Christina Cooke says you should try to find joy in missing out, appropriately called JOMO.
To do this, you first must accept that you’re going to miss out on things that other people don’t—you can’t always work at the super cool company, or receive a sweet promotion on a regular basis, or travel every inch of the planet on your company’s MasterCard. Sure it might not be fair, but to sound totally cliche, life isn’t fair.
When you come to terms with that (which is, of course, easier said than done), you can start seeking pleasure in knowing that rather than spending every moment obsessing over what others are doing and achieving, you’re choosing to do something more valuable to you and your day. For example, instead of hitting up her Twitter feed each morning, Moore decides to write in her journal. And for me? Well, once upon a time I thought being included in every meeting made me super important. Until I realized I wasn’t needed in most of them and was having trouble finding time to get my work done. Now, instead of filling my calendar with unnecessary meetings, I block off chunks of time to dedicate to my projects. My productivity’s increased substantially, and I feel a lot less scatterbrained.
“The joy of missing out doesn’t come from what we miss,” Moore explains. “It comes from investing more in ourselves and what we love to do.”
Abby works in health education and prevention at a university in Washington, DC. When she’s not trying to make the world a healthier place, you can find her taking selfies with her cat (Mildred Meow Meow), hunting down the city's best grilled cheese, or zipping through the city on her bike, named Libby. Say hi on Twitter.More from this Author