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The FOMO pandemic: Get the cure.

by:
Laurie Campbell

Is it just me, or are all those social media posts showing photos and videos of lavish dinners, fabulous trips, and fancy new toys getting out of hand? Could it be that too many of us are joining the online herd these days, clamouring to prove that we’re as cool or even cooler than others in the lifestyles we lead and the material goods we possess?

Actually, I know it’s not just me thinking in these terms. Any quick stroll through today’s social media networks tells of what some are now calling the FOMO pandemic.

Doubtless you’ve heard mention of FOMO by now, which translates to “fear of missing out.” Since 2013, the acronym has been added to dictionaries. In essence, FOMO is the feeling of anxiety or insecurity that comes with missing out on an enjoyable event or other positive experience, especially one discovered through social media. Through FOMO, people strive to match the experience of others, or do them one better, then share the news online.

FOMO is the feeling of anxiety or insecurity that comes with missing out on an enjoyable event or other positive experience.

Seems to me that in spirit this condition is nothing new. Before the Internet age, we called this sort of thing “keeping up with the Joneses” or simply “bragging rights” mostly targeted to close circles of family, friends, and associates. Social media networks, though, have widened the reach, showing that FOMO is engaging vast and growing in numbers within our society, particularly Millennials who are joined at the hip with today’s omnipresent communications technology. 

Key findings of a new study show that a quarter of Canadians surveyed admit to being afflicted by FOMO.

This month RateHub.ca released its first ever Cost of #FOMO report. Key findings reveal that a quarter of those surveyed admit to being afflicted by the condition. Of these, nearly half are Millennials (aged 25 to 34), 70 per cent of whom believe that they are overspending and digging deeper debt holes because of FOMO (I’d say these figures are probably low since embarrassment or personal blind spots tend to inhibit full disclosure of the truth).

If we extrapolate the survey’s findings based on the national population, we see that millions of us in Canada are catching the FOMO bug – a very unhealthy thing.

“When you're so tuned in to the 'other,' or the 'better' (in your mind), you lose your authentic sense of self.”

According to behavioural health specialist Dr. Darlene McLaughlin, "FOMO is especially rampant in the Millennial community because they see a peer achieving something they want, and somehow in their mind, that achievement means something is being taken away from them.

“The problem with FOMO is the individuals it impacts are looking outward instead of inward. When you're so tuned in to the 'other,' or the 'better' (in your mind), you lose your authentic sense of self. This constant fear of missing out means you are not participating as a real person in your own world," Dr. McLaughlan said.

I would add to her analysis by saying that fear in almost all its forms breeds irrational behaviour, and that includes irrational spending that goes against sound principles of goal setting, budgeting, and saving. If our self-esteem depends on how well our experience and material worth stack up against others, we’re bound to act and spend unwisely. FOMO represents a hole that can never be filled, since there will always be others who appear to have more blessings in life.

Consider taking a break from social media. Get in touch with the living, breathing human beings around you.

Is there a cure for this malady? Well, yes there is. It’s called being an individual.

As Dr. McLaughlin suggests, it’s what’s inside that counts most in people’s lives, and well-grounded individuals do not follow the herd. They know that they largely are in command of their own destinies and that life is best lived on one’s own terms within one’s own means. Individuals live in the real world. They do so with gratitude for the abundant blessings that come in the form of family and friends they can actually touch, and communities they can actually experience.

Maybe it’s time more Canadians took the cure.

Consider taking a break from social media. Get in touch with the living, breathing human beings around you. Get out and about with them. Explore all your senses while sharing experiences, thoughts, and feelings that – quite outside of any notions of social status or material gain – are great to enjoy for their own simple sake.

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