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FOMO Meaning and Why You Should Care

FOMO stands for “Fear of Missing Out.” It is a psychological phenomenon marked by the fear of missing out on a supposedly positive experience, rare purchase, or investment opportunity. This fear often leads to feelings of anxiety, insecurity, and inadequacy.

Do you feel pressure to always be in the know of things on social media, follow fashion trends, or have trouble saying “no” to events? It’s likely FOMO.

Everyone’s been through FOMO. It’s natural to feel this way. The amygdala, responsible for determining whether or not an event threatens one’s survival, is the source of FOMO. This region of the brain interprets the feeling of isolation as a threat, leading to feelings of anxiety and even stress.

FOMO Meaning and History

The marketing expert Dr. Dan Herman takes credit for coining the expression “fear of missing out.” However, the term FOMO was used initially in 2004 by Harvard student Patrick McGinnis in an article published in The Harbus, the Harvard Business School student newspaper.

Since then, it has served as a springboard for and a constant source of investigation. During the 2010s, the term “FOMO” was added to numerous dictionaries. In 2011, it was a top contender for the American Dialect Society’s Word of the Year.

The term FOMO gained popularity in the 2010s as social media use became more widespread and the harmful effects of FOMO on mental health became more apparent. Various strategies have been developed to help individuals manage FOMO, including setting boundaries on social media use, prioritizing self-care, and focusing on one’s own goals and values.

The Role of Social Media

FOMO is not a unique phenomenon of the present day. It may have been triggered in the past by missing out on important events or opportunities, such as a religious ceremony, a social gathering, or a business deal.

However, the rise of social media, the internet, and e-commerce has amplified the feeling of FOMO in modern society. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have made tracking other people’s activities and experiences easier, leading to a heightened sense of comparison and competition. People often feel pressure to keep up with the lifestyles and achievements of others, which can lead to a constant feeling of FOMO.

In recent years, “fear of missing out” (FOMO) marketing has evolved as a tool to induce people to make purchases, increase interest in new concepts, or show up at events. Thanks to this type of marketing, customers get prompts to take action by invoking their FOMO.

Displaying the time remaining until the promotion ends, fostering healthy competition by indicating the number of other people checking out the bargain, and encouraging experiences by presenting actual proof with user-generated stories that other people are enjoying the event or product are all examples of FOMO marketing methods used by business and corporations.

More Causes of FOMO

  • The need for validation: Many people feel they need to be accepted and validated by others and want to take advantage of opportunities that could give them that.
  • Comparison and competition: FOMO can also come from competition or comparing yourself and your mindset to others, where you feel you must keep up with or beat your peers.
  • Uncertainty and unpredictability: FOMO can also result from the fact that life is unpredictable. The “you only live once” (YOLO) ideology can make one feel the urgency to be a part of everything. Else there’s a feeling of missing out on something important or exciting.
  • Personal values and goals: When a person’s values and dreams don’t match their current experiences or opportunities, they may feel something more meaningful or fulfilling is missing about them.

Ways To Fight FOMO

  • Set priorities by finding out your personal values and goals, and put experiences and chances at the top of your list that fit with them.
  • Limit your use of social media by taking breaks from social media, and try not to spend too much time scrolling through feeds. Stop following accounts that make you feel like you’ll miss out.
  • Be mindful and live in the now. Instead of worrying about what you could be losing out on, you can focus on appreciating and enjoying your current experiences.
  • Instead of just trying to keep up with everyone else, do things that are important and fulfilling to you.
  • Practice gratitude by focusing on what you have rather than what you lack. This can help shift your perspective and reduce feelings of FOMO.
  • Build a strong network of positive people around you. Instead of hanging out with individuals who bring you down, spend time with those that build you up.
  • Think practically about your expectations. Realize you can’t be in two places simultaneously and do everything. Recognize that it is okay and does not diminish your value or worth to miss out on some experiences.

Identifying the root cause of FOMO is the first step toward overcoming it and living a more fulfilling life. As soon as the symptoms of FOMO are identified, it’s easier to tackle.

Effects of FOMO

Increased Anxiety

FOMO makes people anxious because they feel they must constantly check social media or go to events to ensure they don’t miss anything important. Anxiety is part and parcel of FOMO.

Mayank Gupta and Aditya Sharma, authors of a 2021 study published in The Global Journal of Clinical Cases, write that feelings of FOMO are linked to a variety of unfavorable outcomes, such as:

  • anxiety
  • lack of emotional control
  • lack of sleep
  • reduced life competency
  • emotional tension
  • adverse effects on physical well-being

Reduced Self-esteem

Suppose you feel down on yourself because you aren’t having as much fun or success as others. In that case, you’ve likely been making unhealthy comparisons between yourself and others, an effect of FOMO.

Poor Decision-making

FOMO can cause people to make hasty decisions, such as spending too much money, saying “yes” to too many activities, or taking unnecessary risks. All because you don’t want to be left out.

Social Isolation

In an ironic twist of fate, those who experience FOMO may eventually miss out on even more. This happens when they become overwhelmed by their attempts to keep up with their friends and eventually withdraw and keep to themselves.

Distraction and Reduced Productivity

FOMO can be a big distraction. You may find yourself spending too much time checking social media, responding to messages, or going to events because you want to be included.


MOMO and FOMO are two distinct concepts that relate to the impact of social media on human behavior and psychology. MOMO (“Mystery Of Missing Out”) is all about the unprovable hunch that someone else is having fun without you and that you weren’t invited.

Paranoia over the existence of a secret social scene among one’s peers is a common cause of this phenomenon when an individual notices that their peers are not posting as frequently as they usually would on social media. For instance, you may wonder why no one is posting about the birthday party you couldn’t attend or Instagramming food pics.

FOMO and FOBO are related to social anxiety and the fear of missing out, but they differ slightly. FOBO (“Fear Of Better Options”) often leads to analysis paralysis, in which an individual cannot decide and becomes stuck in a cycle of indecision and anxiety.

Breaking free of FOBO is about making the “best” decision and avoiding the fear of making a “bad” choice.

One may be afraid to commit to a particular choice or decision because they’re worried there might be a better option out there that they are missing. FOBO can be particularly prevalent when multiple options or choices are available, such as in job searches or dating.

FOMO Alternative

For valid reasons, JOMO has become a societal alternative to FOMO. “JOMO” is an acronym for “Joy Of Missing Out.” It’s the reverse of FOMO and refers to the enjoyment or fulfillment you get from staying home and doing something you enjoy, as opposed to feeling compelled to go out and mingle or participate in particular activities.

JOMO is the realization that you need not do as much as others to feel content. It’s about appreciating the benefits of stepping away from your phone and other electronic devices to engage in a pastime you love.

For example, as an alternative to attending a party about which you feel lukewarm, you may stay home and fulfill a personal interest, such as catching up on a good book or watching a film you’ve been meaning to see. Doing so allows one to feel JOMO on something that might not have been as enjoyable as what one ultimately chose to do with their time.

JOMO is a gentle nudge to put yourself first, appreciate the benefits of downtime, and relish the pleasures of isolation and self-care.

This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.

Photo of author

Amaka Chukwuma

Amaka Chukwuma is a freelance content writer with a BA in linguistics. As a result of her insatiable curiosity, she writes in various B2C and B2B niches. Her favorite subject matter, however, is in the financial, health, and technological niches. She has contributed to publications like ButtonwoodTree and FinanceBuzz in the past and currently writes for WealthofGeeks. You can connect with her on Linkedin and Twitter.
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