Zu Magazine is a publication of Zu Media. Below is an article from Issue 2: Contentment

Zu News Editor-in-Chief | Jamie Roebuck-Joseph

“FOMO,” or “the fear of missing out,” was adopted by the Oxford dictionary in 2013 and is defined as “the anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media.”

Sound familiar? According to Science Daily, almost all millennials suffer from FOMO.

Science Daily’s “FOMO: It’s your life you’re missing out on,” reports that twenty-four percent of teenagers are online constantly. With perpetual stimulation from an online audience, it’s clear why millennials and young adults feel obligated to be involved in activities they see or read about.

Recent studies of FOMO have represented feelings of dissatisfaction. This means that being too involved in other people’s lives online may lead to  feelings of inadequacy. The study shows that when people compare their lives on a daily basis, it’s easy for them to get sucked into the FOMO trap.

In 2016, Time Magazine published an article about the seriousness of FOMO in our generation. The article cited research by Science Direct which said FOMO stems from being in a state of unhappiness.

So, why do people feel the need to indulge in social media (not including business accounts, etc.) even if it may lead to unhappiness or discontentment?

Terrence Deigh, a senior criminal justice major, believes that social media is a facade and that people aren’t really “missing out on anything,” even if they feel like they are when they scroll through social media feeds.

“I think it just gives people something to do, and pass time with,” Deigh said. “I got sick of Instagram and seeing what everyone is doing all the time. I’d rather be doing something beneficial to myself with that time.”

In a study done by Texas A&M University, the problem isn’t necessarily social media itself, but the individual.

The problem with FOMO is the individuals it impacts are looking outward instead of inward,” Darlene McLaughlin, M.D and assistant professor at Texas A&M University Health Science Center College of Medicine said.

“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,” she said.

FOMO extends beyond social media, especially among college students. Social media can cause a disconnect between an individual’s grasp on reality. Embracing individuality helps students’ health by creating a sense of autonomy. 

Without finding contentment in individuality, the symptoms of FOMO can settle in.

For example, it’s OK to stay in on a Friday or Saturday night to get ahead on homework or spend time working toward a long-term goal.

Friends may come back from a night out and say those dreaded words: “You missed out. It was so much fun!” Guilt could arise despite the fact that a week’s worth of homework was done or important internship applications were completed.

A night out will always be there, but the discipline it takes to improve work ethic towards life goals can be more difficult to accomplish.

Eradicating FOMO takes honest reflection from those who are affected by it. Although not all people who fear missing out suffer from anxiety, the negative effects of the experience persist.

Author Lauren Thompson of Texas A&M University research said, “This incessant worrying about what everyone else is doing only causes us to miss out on our own lives even more.”

It’s easy to be sucked into FOMO, but it’s not easy to find contentment with a relentless hustle mentality. To get rid of FOMO, try a few of these remedies:

  1. Write down what exactly is causing your FOMO.
  2. Hang out with other groups of friends who practice different lifestyles.
  3. Practice ‘mindfulness’––the awareness of every activity and what its importance.
  4. Savor the actual moments and experiences and don’t broadcast them on social media.
  5. Enjoy the process of letting go of things that have no value in the bigger picture.
  6. Fast from social media for a set amount of time.

Life behind a screen doesn’t only drains batteries. It drains mental and spiritual health as well, but with these tips, FOMO can be contained and hopefully eradicated.