In generations past, a young person’s greatest fear may have been world war or a stock market crash. Today, my generation, Generation Y (loosely defined as those born between 1980 – 2000) has a new, great fear. It’s been officially called FOMO and it’s the “fear of missing out.”
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and a host of others have become a double-edged sword. While they inform and inspire us in new ways, their service is so temporary that any meaningfulness quickly expires. We’re left wanting. We live every minute knowing that our peers are having conversations and experiences without us. The very problem of disconnectedness that social sites try to cure, they also create.
We’d never say that the status updates of friends, celebrities or the businesses we like are really THAT important. But look at what we do. We text and drive, putting our lives at risk. We scroll through our Twitter feed on a date. All day long, we trade being present for the prospect of something different. It may not be better, but there is a chance that it might. And we can’t step away.
Because falling behind hurts.
Sure, I don’t actually care where Suzi went for happy hour. But it’s not about Suzi’s happy hour. The very thought of not being up-to-date means I could be irrelevant and unknown. I can deal with war or economic crisis, but I can’t deal with irrelevance. The need to be liked is at my core, it’s a basic human need. Indecision and the fear of missing out are not the underlying problems, they are symptoms of a greater insecurity.
What makes FOMO so dangerous is that we feel like we can live with it. That we can manage it.
But staying plugged in because we fear missing out forces us to do just that — miss out. We stop living when our heads are buried in a screen. We miss memories with family and friends. We miss slow conversation and meals. We miss coffee dates, hikes and our kids’ funny faces. We miss quiet time to dream and pray. We miss the experiences that create true life.
Want to fight back? Here’s 3 ideas to fight FOMO -
Ask “What Is Motivating This?” – Why do you always need to be ‘on’? Is it a self-worth issue? Do you want to be part of something? The Internet is a dangerous place to satisfy this. I believe the deepest validation comes first from our faith, then from our loved ones. Focus on these things.
Turn It Off – Give yourself ‘social hours’ if you have to. Information flow has become like any other drug. And at some point every addict has to wean himself off the drug. I know people who have given up Facebook and are much happier. Why? They realize that not knowing what the whole world is up to allows them to embrace the few stories they truly care about.
Do an Inventory – At the end of every day, ask yourself, “was what I learned worth it?” or “did these relationships change me for the better? How would your life be different if you didn’t learn what your social streams showed you? The answer? It wouldn’t be. Trade some of your ‘on’ time for things that will have greater impact on your life and legacy.
QUESTION: How do you battle FOMO? Do you see it as a significant issue in your life? I’d love to see your feedback in the comments.