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Psychology behind FOMO

“Life mein kitna bhi try karlo Bunny, kuch nah kuch toh miss hoga hi, toh kyu nah jaha hai wahi ka maza le?” – (Naina, Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani)

(In life, no matter how hard you try, you ought to miss out on something, so why not stay right where you are and celebrate the present?)

In a world where every scroll, every swipe, and every click exposes us to many possibilities, it's easy to feel the pang of FOMO - the Fear Of Missing Out. Whether seeing friends embark on exotic adventures, attending glamorous events, being in a picture-perfect relationship, or simply witnessing someone else's seemingly perfect life unfold on social media, FOMO has become an omnipresent force in our daily lives.


However, FOMO was here long before social media. Social media only became a Bonnie to its Clyde. "FOMO includes both the perception of missing out, which triggers anxiety, and compulsive behaviors, like checking and refreshing sites, to maintain social connections; it is closely related to the fear of social exclusion or ostracism, which existed long before social media," says Natalie Christine Dattilo, Ph.D., an instructor of psychology at Harvard.


When it comes to the first use of the acronym FOMO, the credit is often given to Patrick McGinnis, a writer who used it in an article he wrote for the Harvard Business School magazine, The Harbus, in 2004 (McGinnis is now a venture capitalist, best-selling author and has a podcast called FOMO Sapiens.) In his article, McGinnis used "fear of missing out" to describe why people overschedule themselves.

McGinnis has an intriguing take, which signifies that FOMO also exists in professional lives! A lot of LinkedIn users are also reporting this phenomenon. Here, FOMO exists in the form of anxiety about not getting the right internship, not volunteering in the right places, or not getting the right opportunities to make a stellar resume. Youngsters are therefore found enrolling for endless certifications, hence the 'overscheduling.' 


FOMO is not limited to youngsters only; it voyages well beyond the waves of age. It is essential to understand that FOMO arises from the threat to our need for "Love and Belonging." It is the fear of not feeling like a part of our social groups. The term 'Social hunger' only stresses the vitality of the need for belonging, which is crucial for some, and why experiencing FOMO can affect certain people negatively.

FOMO, though not a diagnosable condition, can have symptoms like- Anxiousness, Negative thought patterns, low mood and even withdrawal, isolation, and difficulty in concentration.


FOMO can also bring out strong feelings like that of regret and, therefore, may, at times, hit harder than imaginable. FOMO also highlights the paradox of choice that exists; going back to Naina's dialogue from YJHD, one cannot be at all places all the time. 

We are no omnipresent beings; if we were, it would take away the little joys of humanity, like being wholly present in the moment.

Therefore, to combat FOMO, Jim Elliot advises, "Wherever you are, be all there."

A simple-sounding herculean task!

But Social Media has again come to its rescue; it came up with JOMO- Joy of Missing Out! JOMO is the 'emotionally intelligent antidote' to FOMO and is about being present and being content with where you are in life.

It has also come up with an equally exciting term, 'ROMO' Relief of Missing Out! Equivalent to missing out on the event which otherwise would have sucked the life out of you!


So, my dear, the choice is yours- FOMO, JOMO, or ROMO?

I'd like to leave you with a quote by Theodore Roosevelt: "Comparison is the thief of joy."

Knowing the dragons will help you slay them one by one!

As for the rest, you are wise enough.

-Rinaaz Nadaf

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