Do you Suffer from FOMO?


Do you Suffer from FOMO?

The fear of missing out has made it harder to check out of the rat race.

November 20, 2014

You know the feeling. You hear a buzz or a ding and you automatically reach for your phone or tablet. It’s almost Pavlovian, this urge to check the alert as soon as you become aware of it. But those digital distractions may have you missing out on something more important: work-life balance.

Our hyper-connected society is leading to a newly coined “disorder” known as FoMO or the fear of missing out. It could be the fear of missing out on social media updates, news, work, personal communications, whatever. A study in Computers in Human Behavior noted that “FoMO is characterized by the desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing” and then comparing your life with theirs. This fear can drive you to become a workaholic – so you don’t miss out on promotions or face time with the powers that be – and sabotage your work-life balance.

There’s another way this fear manifests itself, in a more social realm. Say you’ve been invited to join your friends for a weekend cruise. You know you can’t afford it, but the idea that your friends will enjoy an experience without you makes you push back your financial worries and agree. You just don’t want to miss out on the fun.

The thing is overextending yourself to stay connected takes a real toll, mentally, physically and financially. Fear of missing out can also trigger anxiety and depression, as you constantly compare yourself to others in your digital circle. It’s the latter that can prompt you to overspend in an attempt to keep up with the hundreds of “Joneses” on social media. Hyper-connectivity can also wreak havoc on your real-life relationships, since constantly checking your phone in a meeting, while with friends and family or while driving (you’re not doing this are you?!) can annoy others or worse, endanger lives.

The potential cure? Disconnecting from all (or most) electronic communications. On purpose.

One writer did just that. Self-proclaimed “most connected man in the world” Baratunde Thurston – whose life is so mobile he gave up his lease – cut off most of his digital ties for almost four weeks because he was simply burned out. That meant no Facebook posts, tweets, check-ins, Vine videos or Gmail chats. More important, he banned anything business related (he prepared his work partners ahead of time) during his digital detox. He was on to something. This kind of multitasking taxes our brains and can result in anxiety, less sleep and lack of focus. Disconnecting, thoughtfully, gives you back more quality time for yourself and your family and allows you to mentally and spiritually recharge.

Even if you can’t completely unplug, you can give yourself a break each day. Psychologists recommend a 10-minute break to help reset your brain and return to a calmer state. It helps, too, if you use the time for a walk, meditation or some other solo activity that discourages distractions.


Here are some suggestions to help you unplug without scaring your colleagues or family.

  1. Schedule a vacation. Preferably at least two weeks. Then do everything in your power to cross each item off your to-do list before your vacation starts.
  2. Alert your key colleagues and loved ones to your digital and physical absence. Give ample notice that you’ll truly be unavailable and for what period.
  3. Alert everyone else. A week before, send an email to those who communicate with you on anything more than an occasional basis, alerting them to your departure.
  4. Turn off automatic alerts on your mobile devices. It takes time, but you won’t get the hundreds of notifications you usually do, helping to clear out your mental inbox.
  5. Set your away message for email. Be courteous, but firm. Include emergency contact info if you like. Make a plan to check in with anyone who’ll worry in your absence. You can do this by phone or even snail mail.
  6. Take a deep breath. And enjoy.

Sources: Baratunde Thurston, Danah Boyd and Brian Fitzpatrick

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