FOMO, the fear of missing out, was added to the Oxford dictionary in 2013 and is, according to many sources as “a feeling of anxiety or insecurity over the possibility of missing out on something, as an event or an opportunity”. Back in March, before lockdown in Ireland, people hopped on board the panic buying express to fill shopping carts with toilet roll, dried and canned foods all because of their fear of being without. I also think this was a mild case of FOMO. Things settled down as everyone jumped into the same boat of lockdown. All the lovely shops where we would usually buy the latest trends or potions closed their doors. Pubs, nightclubs, casinos and anywhere other than essential places shut their doors so I imagine the levels of FOMO decreased slightly! There weren’t many exciting posts on social media other than numerous forms of workouts or varieties of banana bread or scones! Nobody’s lives looked that interesting or colourful as people had to adapt to a whole new way of being. Some three months later and piggy banks filled to the brim, FOMO is back!
This week, Monday morning, 8th June as phase 2 of resuming a “normal” Ireland began, people congregated from the early hours of the morning to be the first to get inside the doors of their favourite shop. I’m thinking specifically of IKEA, our favourite place for meatballs and all things home. Even with very strict guidelines in place and possibly a limited supply of certain products, people still waited for the 10 am opening to be set free into the world of what IKEA like to call “the wonderful everyday”. This is just one example and as each restriction lifts and a new phase of freedom emerges, I’m sure we will see a lot more of this.
We talk a lot about FOMO in orientation but in the context of social media and avoiding the trap that so many falls into during difficult stages of adjustment. According to an Irish Times article in 2018 unhealthy social media use has a negative impact on psychological health and can contribute to negative mood and anxiety. People can get angry, upset and resentful if not involved, and FOMO can interfere with the enjoyment of real life. There is often a negative impact on existing social relations when people avoid making commitments to keep their options open. Recent studies have revealed links with fatigue, stress and sleep problems. Distorted social connections and a blur between reality and the virtual world may evolve. It can churn up feelings of inadequacy as others seem to be having more fun, better lives, in happier families while looking like movie stars. Individuals may become so obsessed with checking the onscreen lives of others that real life interactions are neglected.
Next time we are focused on what we could have or where we could be, it might be worth thinking about what we are actually missing out on while distracted by other things. We might just be missing out on the present moment of the conversation that we are halfheartedly engaged in. We might not be smelling the roses that we have in our back garden while we obsess about our friend’s garden that we saw on our Instagram feed. We might take time to remember why stores closed in the first place and how many people suffered in the process. Through time shops will return to normal without the need for masks and 2 meter signage and we will go about our business as we have always done. I consider myself to be an open-minded person but for me, right now, I'm going to avoid joining the queues and the chaos of a different shopping experience. I know that I'm really not missing out on anything. Gratitude plays a big part in managing FOMO I imagine.