On any given day, you pick up your mobile phone, check social media, and start seeing all the wonderful things people you follow are doing. As you scroll through stories and posts of your friends, you begin to feel a sense of missing out on experiences or plans, of falling behind or being disconnected from others.

The anxiety of missing out on something important, known as FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), is becoming increasingly common. If you have ever experienced this feeling or would like to learn more about this phenomenon, I invite you to read this article where I explain what it consists of, how it can affect us, and ways we can manage it.

What is FOMO?

The rise of social media has pushed the possibilities of sharing many aspects of our lives to the extreme: what we do, who we are with, what products we consume, where we travel… It is increasingly common for people to share videos or photos of their daily lives. However, there is a tendency to show only the brightest parts of life while hiding the less beautiful parts.

Excessive use of social media, that is, sharing and viewing content on networks routinely, can have effects on our mental health. The most recent studies covering this topic shed light on a relatively new concept: FOMO, or fear of missing out. FOMO refers to the anxiety that people may feel when they perceive that others are living gratifying experiences that we are not experiencing. This concept has gained strength since the popularization of social media, as they provide us access to a great deal of content that can induce this feeling: other people’s achievements, wonderful family vacations, parties with friends, photos with the latest fashionable items, etc.

FOMO o miedo a perderse algo- ¿Cómo afecta a nuestra salud mental y qué podemos hacer al respecto? 2

The social media trap

FOMO is originated by the natural human desire of wanting to belong and connect with others. However, social media and technology have taken this need to an unprecedented level.

Every person has better and worse days, or is more or less accompanied depending on the moment in their life. Constant exposure to social media can create the illusion that other people’s lives are characterized only by positive aspects, that they are full of interesting and exciting events, that they achieve all their goals, and that they are always well accompanied. This perfect image does not correspond to reality.

By comparing our lives, achievements, bodies, and relationships with these illusions of perfection, we can develop feelings of dissatisfaction and negative self-evaluation.

According to the second Digital Consumer by Generation report presented by Smartme Analytics, we use our smartphones on average for 3 hours and 40 minutes. Therefore, it is very important to pay attention to how the use of these networks affects our psychological well-being.

The impact of FOMO on our mental health

According to some studies, FOMO has a significant negative effect on the education, social, economic, and psychological life of young people and young adults.

FOMO is defined as an anxious response that includes a cognitive component (worry, rumination, intrusive thoughts…) and a behavioral component, aimed at relieving distress. It often involves frequently checking social media and messaging services to maintain social connections and avoid missing out on gratifying experiences.

This pattern of behavior has been associated with numerous negative consequences: lack of concentration, problems with insufficient and irregular sleep, difficulty keeping up with studies or work, procrastination, dependence on social media to experience gratifying emotions, high levels of stress in the absence of the mobile phone, and reduced sociability in «real life.»

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Anxious-depressive symptoms are factors that both predict experiencing FOMO and are consequences of experiencing it. That is, people with anxiety or depression are more likely to experience this syndrome, and, in turn, this syndrome can greatly intensify this symptomatology. Something similar occurs with social isolation, which functions both as a cause and consequence of FOMO.

Another main consequence of FOMO is that it becomes a risk factor for developing a mobile phone addiction, which can have a great impact on the social and academic life of younger individuals.

What signs indicate that I may be experiencing FOMO?

The first step to intervene in FOMO is to realize that it is a problem. Here are some signs that can help you identify FOMO:

  • Feeling pressure to constantly be aware of interactions on social media.
  • Constantly checking the computer or mobile phone. Feeling relieved when doing so.
  • Even in the presence of friends, being connected to social networks with the aim of continuously communicating with others.
  • Fear of running out of battery because you cannot check social media.
  • Having the desire to do all the attractive activities observed on social media.
  • Having the desire to buy products or services just because other people have them and show them on their networks.
  • Feeling emotions of jealousy or envy of the activities that others show on social media.
  • When viewing content on social media, feeling that you are missing out on something or falling behind.

How can I manage FOMO?

In a society that promotes the use of mobile phones and social media, it can be difficult to regulate their use and manage the FOMO associated with it. Here are some tips that may be helpful:

  1. FOMO is linked to feelings of dissatisfaction with one's own life. Actively engaging in gratifying activities in "real life" can help us be happier and more connected to life.
  2. Focus on building strong and authentic relationships.
  3. Always be aware that social media is not a reflection of reality.
  4. Try, as much as possible, not to compare yourself to others. Keep in mind that many things that are revered on social media (fame, beauty, or money) do not bring happiness.
  5. Apply meditation or mindfulness strategies to be more connected to the present.
  6. Engage in physical or outdoor activities that involve disconnecting from the phone, helping to reduce anxiety.
  7. Use apps or resources to limit phone and certain app usage.
  8. Work on self-compassion and self-confidence.
  9. Learn to say "no" and prioritize what is important to us.
FOMO o miedo a perderse algo- ¿Cómo afecta a nuestra salud mental y qué podemos hacer al respecto? 4

FOMO can have significant consequences on our daily lives and mental health. This does not mean that we have to limit the use of social networks for good. That is an option that may be good for some people, but not necessarily for all, since it implies sacrificing the positive parts of using them. The important thing is to use them in an informed and conscious way, paying attention to how they affect us.

Setting limits on social media use, working on rewarding activities and cultivating meaningful relationships in the real world are some of the strategies that will help us manage FOMO and live a fuller, more authentic life. By focusing on our own experiences in the real world, we can enjoy life more.

About the author

Emma is a health psychologist at Sinews. She treats adults and adolescents who come for consultation for problems such as anxiety, depression, grief, self-esteem, emotional self-esteem, emotional dependency… In addition, she is a specialist in the treatment of trauma. She performs her interventions from an integrative approach, which includes an exploration of primary bonding relationships from the perspective of the attachment theory, as well as an approach to the problem from a cognitive-behavioral approach to the problem from a cognitive-behavioral perspective, using effective techniques according to each patient’s needs.

Emma Chancellor Díez
Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Emma Chancellor Díez
Adults and adolescents
Languages: English and Spanish
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