‘Fear of Missing Out’ is a term for restless people who constantly check Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter for updates. Shilpa Agarwal lists some signs to watch out for
It’s 7 a.m., and by the time you have picked up your morning newspaper and are reading this, chances are you have already scrolled your Facebook and Instagram newsfeed multiple times to devour updates about your friends’ lives. The morning coffee won’t taste as good until you know the previous night’s shenanigans of your million friends. If you check updates on your phone more than 20 times a day, then you are a victim of this disorder called FOMO.
FOMO — Fear of Missing Out — is a new term in the psychological circuit. Though considered a modern illness, clinically, it is not a diagnosable condition yet. Restless teenagers and even adults, who are unable to stay away from their phones, and constantly check Facebook updates and WhatsApp messages or relentlessly update Twitter to tell the story of their lives or share what they read/listen to/watch, are a common sight, of late.
Underlying FOMO is worry — a feeling that we will be left out while everyone else is enjoying themselves. This is a natural consequence, unless we see through the real nature of social networking. The picture out there always appears rosier than it actually is. No one puts photos of how depressed they actually look — rather, people only share the airbrushed version of their lives. But the truth is we all feel alone and that is why social networking is such a hit in the first place.
When we are at a party, we keep glancing at our phones rather than enjoying ourselves. Group chats are so tempting to check even during an important business meeting.
The constant connectivity when you are in your car/office /kitty party/restaurant or even toilet makes you belittle the life you are leading.
We want to attend the latest baking workshop as much as we want to attend the much-awaited music concert. Sucheta Ottikkutti, 19, of Raffles, says, “Often, I have to be in more than one place at a time and though I eventually decide where to go, it can sometimes be a very hard decision.” Well, unless you are Kamal Haasan in Dasavatharam you cannot possibly be in more than one place at a time.
FOMO can have a serious performance-related impact. Because the mind always wanders to wondering what one is missing out on, focussing on studies or work can become increasingly difficult. The brain can get used to such fragmented attending, but it would find any task requiring focus and a longer attention span, extremely difficult. Sometimes our relationships and social lives may seem close to nonexistent, with our phones constantly pinging from Twitter and Instagram updates of friends hanging out or showing off their relationships.
R. Padmashini shares, “The Facebook statuses of friends irritate me to such an extent that I quarrel with my husband at times. I missed my honeymoon because of early pregnancy and seeing pictures of newlyweds upsets me. It seems like FOMO is going to plague my mind lifelong. To regularly see what I miss annoys me as my new mom status doesn’t allow me to be the social butterfly I used to be.”
Sadia Raval, founder and chief psychologist, Inner Space Counselling Centre, says, “Clients don’t often seek help for FOMO, but instead seek help for their inability to concentrate, sense of loneliness, purposelessness or relationship difficulties. FOMO is a condition that gets picked up during sessions of therapy, and then gets addressed as psychotherapy, involving holistic healing. Only after people become aware of the extent of their restlessness, and recognise their tendency to check status updates as unhealthy, do they make attempts to modify the way they use social networking.”
Keeping the problem in check
First, take off your self-pity glasses and realise that your life is just as good or as bad as anyone else’s. As prevention, it is important to be aware of one’s habit to consistently shift from important tasks to checking phones, laptops, etc. To take time out every day and do nothing in that time is essential for healthy living in a stressed urban system like ours. A technology detox from time to time can help too.
We must learn to enjoy ourselves without the nagging need to be aware of every little detail about others. Don’t give in to the pressure of FOMO and attend that colleague’s dinner that you’re dreading.
The grass might be greener on the other side, but why care!