Stop FOMO From Stealing Your Significance
Times are changing, and social media might be raising doubt around your unique worth
Take a moment and ask yourself the following questions:
- During a one hour period of time approximately how many times do I check my phone, engage in social media posts (passively or actively), play games or simply scroll?
- How many times do I experience a fear of missing out (FOMO), a feeling of unimportance, or a lack of significance because I am not included?
Research reveals that in 2018, we spent 142 minutes a day on social media alone, and that American adults spent over 11 hours per day interacting with media.
When I was 16, the phone had one specific function, it was a tool that I used to create connection by scheduling a time to meet up with my friends (in person). And I didn’t know what my friends were doing when we weren’t together, which gave me the opportunity to focus on what I was doing in the moment.
Fast forward 30 years, my phone is no longer confined to a wall with an outlet, it goes with me wherever I go. And now, I find myself easily scooped up in what other people are doing, which ignites a sense of comparison between what they are doing and what I’m not doing. Why this constant scrolling through the other peoples lives? Because we can. It takes some serious impulse control to stop it.
What are the ramifications of this constant connection to the world?
Some may say there is high value in staying in the know or in being connected to what's happening now. However, what if this constant connection to the world is an addiction that is robbing us of the joy found in the present moment and present people, opportunities and experiences in real time?
I had this sinking feeling the other day when I read an article called Smartphones are Toys First, Tools Second ̶ that my phone had become the boss of me; robbing me of precious moments of life and opportunities to be here now knowing the unique value God has given me in the moment to make a positive impact in the world.
FOMO stands for the fear of mission out. It will be the boss of you if you do not anchor healthy boundaries around how you choose to spend your life each day.
FOMO is fueled by isolation that triggers insecure feelings and constant anxiety. Our basic need for safety, connection, meaning and significance renders us imprisoned by the dopamine loop of checking, scrolling and clicking with the thought that this will bring good news, connection and meaning.
Is the real issue lack of contentment leading to doubt around your unique worth?
When you are not tuned into what the world is doing and you find yourself face to face with yourself in the moment, discontentment will often seep into your mind. This can increase the urge to know and live through what other people are doing in life.
I asked my daughter, who is a junior in college, for an example of "spilling out of yourself" due to FOMO and she nailed it: "It's like when all of your friends are going to a party and you feel so sick that you can't join them. As you lie in bed scrolling, you start seeing all the Snapchats of your friends having fun without you. You start sending Snapchats back to your friends expressing how sad you are that you are missing out and not there with them. It makes you feel like they can have a good time "without you" causing you to question your importance."
What if instead, you commit this week to make more room in your life for the present moment, to anchor your unique worth and value and to step away from depending on events happening in other people's lives to give you a sense of belonging?
Focus on your life, not your friend’s life or anybody else’s life. This constant scrolling on your phone when you have free time is a time thief, a trinket, a shiny object fueled by the fear of missing out.
Your freedom from the smoke and mirrors of FOMO first requires high noticing the amount of time and energy this activity is sucking out of your life. Then, commit to starving the craving to scroll. It might not be easy, but resist the urge at the onset and replace it with a healthy behavior that supports mindful living.
In NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) we refer to this technique as Erase and Replace. In Sherpa Executive Coaching we call it Weakness Mountain: Acknowledge the undesirable behavior, observe when it happens, change it (offer a replacement behavior) and then evaluate and see if it’s working.
They didn’t talk much about “mindful living” when I was a teenager, maybe because we had no choice but to be in the present moment.
Write down your "I Commit To" (a coaching tool from Sherpa Executive Coaching). Commit to specific behaviors that help you unplug and step off the stage of the drama in the virtual world.
For example, I commit to deleting an app that is feeding into my FOMO today. I choose to engage in alternative activities (reading, working in the garden, play with my dog) that are void of all electronics.