Let me guess: you had to turn down an invite because you were busy preparing for that big audition, on a writing deadline or simply practicing self-care after a busy week teaching power yoga. Just when you were getting settled in to your plans for the night, you open up Instagram and BAM! there are three of your best pals having (what looks like) the time of their lives. It hits you right in the gut, FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Fomo is nothing new, and I'm sure you didn't even need me to explain the acronym. I need no further proof than the sheer fact that my 65-year-old dad knows and uses the term with his thick New Jersey accent. Social media didn't invent FOMO, but it isn't helping matters. In fact, it's scientifically proven to make it worse (more on that in a second). But I want to focus on ways you can talk yourself down from FOMO, and the only FOMO that actually matters. Yes, I believe there is one good kind of FOMO.
Do NOT beat yourself up for having FOMO. I'm sure we'd all like to think we're well passed the point of feeling like that one seventh grader who wasn't invited to Natalie's sleepover party. No matter how old we get, it still sets off a pang that seems to bring back all of our childhood insecurities. While I hope by the time I'm 92 I won't be grinding my dentures because a lady down the hall at the independent living facility didn't include me in her mahjong night, there's a good chance I will. It's okay. It's normal. We ALL feel it sometimes. So drop the shame that there's something wrong with you for even feeling that way at all.
Feel it and let it out — in a healthy, constructive manner. Acknowledge your FOMO. Name it and feel that funny little twinge of jealousy-mixed-with-bummer wherever that emotion lives in your body. Once you're identified the feeling, reach out to someone in your support system: a non-judgmental friend, family member, loved one who you can be totally vulnerable with and just say "Hey, I'm having FOMO about missing _________." Nine times out of ten, getting the FOMO out of your head and into the air by sharing with another person starts to diffuse it immediately. Ideally, your support buddy will remind of the reality of the situation: you didn't miss much, there will be more girls' nights out, and the decision you made to stay in was the right one.
But what if my support buddy is part of what I'm missing out on? Sometimes we have to be our own floatation device. In this case, I recommend grabbing a notebook and pen and writing out the conversation you would have with your support buddy and then what you imagine they would say back. Dollars to donuts (mmm, donuts) you already have a good handle on what your buddy would tell you and it's always good practice to be able to give yourself your own pep talk.
Log off of social media for the next 24 hours. Heck, even 12 hours will do. And when I say log off, I mean literally log out of the app. This is not punishment. This is a hard reset. Because let's review what really happened the moment before FOMO: You were focused on your own life, goals and priorities — until you decided to open Instagram and check on what everyone else was doing or how everyone else was doing. And right now you need to get your focus back to you. Remember what I said about the science behind social media and FOMO? A recent study by the Association For Consumer Research found that simply looking at someone's photos or event on social not only leads you to believe that the event you missed out on was more fun than it may have actually been in reality, it also (and this is the big one) diminishes the joy you feel with your current choices. For more on this study, I highly recommend listening to this recent episode of NPR's Hidden Brain.
The only FOMO that matters. The only FOMO that should keep you up at night, is the fear of missing out on your own life. Every moment spent looking at your feed is another moment you could be creating the life you've always wanted. Every time you let FOMO takeover, you're saying to yourself someone, somewhere is has it better than you. You're devaluing the life experience you're having (which I'm going to guess has some pretty spectacular aspects to it). On personal note, I will say that part of why I felt so darn great when I went on my month-long Social Media Detox was because it really helped me stay present in my own life and stand firm in my daily, and even big picture, decisions. There was no second guessing of whether I should have said yes to a party or wondering why some friends went to a museum without me — because most of the time I had NO IDEA what was going on outside of my own offline existence. And after years of being on social media, I have to tell you to it felt LIBERATING! I've had clients tell me the reason they can't take a break from social is because they could miss out on something, they think it will only make their FOMO worse. Those who happen to take the leap and sign off will tell you, it's quite the opposite.
If you think you're ready to reclaim your focus and energy from FOMO to what really matters to you in your life and career, let's talk!