I vividly recall how I felt on January 24th, 1977. My eighth grade classmates were all abuzz over a TV mini-series that had debuted the night before – Roots. It seemed that everyone had seen it but me. I had no idea who Kunta Kinte was and had to sit idly by as everyone else discussed the show and bonded over the shared experience. I was missing out. It felt terrible. I developed FoMO.
The term "FoMO" stands for “the Fear of Missing Out” and was coined by author Patrick McGinnis in 2004. But the feeling itself is as old and as much a part of our humanity as the natural desire for love and inclusion. Unfortunately it can cause us to do what it is we are afraid of in the first place – miss out.
FoMO causes intense anxiety and insecurity and strikes deepest at the heart of adolescents, like the 13 year old me. But I was fortunate because in 1977, FoMO was tempered by the fact that we often didn’t know what we didn’t know. You could miss out on stuff and not even be aware of it. Not so today. Because of our connectedness through social media, especially with young people, everything everyone is doing is now "out there". One way to make sure we don’t miss out and have that yucky disconnected feeling is to constantly check status updates. You have to know what everyone is doing so you can do it too. FoMO is at least partly to blame for the psychological dependency on technology we currently see. Would you rather lose a finger than your phone? Studies show that many of us would.
An Invisible Mind Block
Letting the fear of missing out drive our decisions is a Virtual MindBlock because it prevents us from doing things that are more in line with our goals and values. We become obsessed with the unimportant and lose focus on the important things in our lives and work.
A student may skip studying in order to join her friends for a movie.
A business professional may decide to sit in on meetings that don’t require him because he fears possibly being left out of important decisions.
We miss out on present conversation and personal interactions because we are constantly checking our little black mirrors.
No mo FoMO!
There is a liberating freedom in embracing uncertainty, and now there is a counter movement - JoMO: The Joy of Missing out. I love it!
It means we can peacefully enjoy the act of intentionally skipping activities and engagements. We can use our neocortex (our brain's decision-maker) to decide to opt-out of being always up-to-date and in-the-know. Sure we won't know everything that's going on - but we'll be fine.
I'm fine and 40 years later I still haven't watched Roots.
Think well and be well.