At some point, we’ve all experienced FOMO, also known as the fear of missing out. While this not-so-pleasant feeling certainly existed before the internet, we can thank social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram for giving us many more opportunities to feel bad about ourselves.
No, we aren’t social media haters — in fact, we believe that there are some truly impactful ways that we can use these platforms for good (more on that later). But in the same way we might enjoy a fine wine or a delicious piece of chocolate, we say: All in moderation. Because mental health experts are discovering that too much FOMO can lead to serious mental health issues.
The fear of missing out can negatively impact us in two main ways: (1) depression (due to feelings of exclusion, or like we don’t measure up, and (2) burnout (by cramming our schedules, burning a hole in our wallets, and pushing our ourselves to the limit to keep up with the figuratives Joneses). The latter has led some experts to determine FOBO — the fear of burning out — is more concerning than FOMO.
So how can you kick those feelings of FOMO to the curb? Simple! Give yourself permission to miss out on things that don’t give you joy. Any introvert will tell you that missing out now and then is not a bad thing. Plus, saying “no” can be a an excellent way of putting your self-care first and a perfectly good excuse to save money at the same time.
(Warning: Sorry but we’re about to throw another acronym at you)
HOW TO EMBRACE JOMO (THE JOY OF MISSING OUT)
Achieving happiness is not about keeping up with Facebook friends or counting the number of likes you get from sharing your perfectly filtered brunch pic with all of your Instagram followers. When it comes to happiness in the digital age, the equation is simple.
Happiness = (Self) Connection + Boundaries
The longer you’re separated from your phone, the more you’ll find you’re connected with yourself and people that are physically around you. How do you do that? By setting boundaries. If you’re not sure where to start, keep reading for some ideas to help you cut back on your social media and technology use.
Step 1: Step away from your phone.
If you find it hard to part from your device, the first step would be a good old reality check. Try the Life Cycle app to see a breakdown of how much time you spend on your phone — you might be shocked at how much of your day is actually spent staring at a tiny screen. But if that isn’t enough of a motivation booster, you can unplug by physically separating yourself from your phone — hide it, if you must — for a period of time. Out of sight, out of mind… right? If this sounds like torture to you, start with 15 minutes, then incrementally build it up over time.
It’s also a good idea to replace your (bad) habit with a (good) one. So instead of sitting on your hands, counting down the minutes until you can grab your device, do something fun in the real world! Bake cookies, go for a walk, or read a good ol’ fashioned book. Whatever it is, it should help you detach from your phone for longer than you ever thought possible.
Take this survey to see if technology is have a negative impact on your mental health.
Step 2: Schedule some down time where you can reflect on your day
Now that you’re a pro at distancing yourself from your device, try scheduling some time to simply reflect on life. You know what that means? No homemade cookies or walks with your dog to distract you this time! Instead, take a few minutes to ponder your day, or be mindful of what you are feeling in the moment. By the way, did you know that journaling is a gateway to self-reflection and can benefit mental health immensely?
No time to write? No worries. Devoting a few short minutes (when you first wake up in the morning or before you go to bed at night — you know, when you’d be reaching for your phone anyway) to think about your day’s goals or to look back on the past 12 hours is an act of self-reflection that takes mere moments.
Step 3: Practice gratitude
Did you know that saying “thank you” (and really meaning it) is good for your mental health? If you don’t believe us, consider this: A group of scientists found that happiness goes up by 10% and depressive symptoms go down by 35% for each grateful thought we have. The good news is that practicing gratitude is the perfect add-on to the reflecting you’ll be doing in Step 2. So when you think back on your day, for example, make it a habit to also think about at least one thing you are truly grateful for. Let those feelings sink in, and you may just fall asleep with a smile on your face.
BONUS Step! Use technology for good
So we all know about social media and its negative effects on mental health. But what if we used it for good? And we don’t mean by simply re-posting a thought-provoking quote that’s been getting the rounds. We mean using social media to make a real impact in your community or — think big — the world! If you’re passionate about an issue, why not start a group? Or a charity. Or a movement. (Told you we were thinking big.)
The idea here is to use social media for important things, things other than mindless scrolling that only results in time wasted and serious cases of FOMO. (Think: Kardashians). Not only will you feel good doing good, you’ll be taking back a bit of control. Remember: what you dedicate your time to is how you define what is important to you. And on that note, it may be time to do a social media purge where you unfollow all those “friends” and pages you don’t really care about. You decide what you see in your feed!
During a time in history when we are constantly “connected”, we are encouraging you to connect in a different way — with yourself and your (real) friends… in (real) life. This is by far the best way to avoid FOMO. And by setting boundaries, FOBO won’t become an issue either.
Ready to embrace the joy of missing out? Good. Now go hide your phone!