Season 2,
45 Min

Episode 48: Is FOMO our latest mental affliction?

April 10, 2017

Does it feel like everyone else is having more fun than you? Taking better vacations, going to trendier bars or cooler art exhibits or playing with newer tech gadgets? Do you worry when you step away from your iphone or email in case you miss something important (even when you’re not expecting anything)?  If so, you could be suffering from the latest in our line of modern mental ailments — there was Affluenza, Comparativitis, and now, FOMO — the Fear of Missing Out.

This is the information age after all, and with the spread of technology like iphones and ubiquitous internet access, the information is coming in from all angles, from all our many apps, and at all times of day or night.  It’s no wonder then that if we unplug for any length of time we are filled with a certain level of anxiety — that we are missing something.  That we are Missing Out.


In this episode, Clay and Sarah discuss:

* What is FOMO and how it became so prevalent (TED talk here)

* The experience of FOMO in our social lives vs. FOMO in the workplace

* Whether introverts and extroverts experience FOMO differently

* Romantic vs. Classical approaches to FOMO (courtesy of The School of Life)

* The role of celebrity culture and social media in nurturing our FOMO

* The Great Gatsby – FOMO of the Roaring ’20s

* Methods of coping with FOMO


At it’s most fundamental, the Fear of Missing Out reveals a lack of presence to what is going on in our lives right in front of us.  And instead, it encourages us to always look further afield for that greater happiness — the better Saturday night, the most up-to-date information, the latest technological gadget. As Seth Godin points out, this attitude kills the creative spirit.

In addition, this culture of overconsumption of information and online content gives us a sense that there is a right answer to every question.  If we don’t know something, we can find it.  And so, we stop trusting our own judgement. (Great article on this aspect here.)

Tara Brach points out that the first step is a desire to be free from this constant tug.  In a great interview on the Tim Ferris Show, and in her own talk on the subject, she emphasises the vast benefit we can get from stepping away, retreating, getting perspective (doing exactly what FOMO tries to convince us will lead to our ruin!)  Instead, she insists, we should feel the fear without acting on it.  Feel the FOMO, but refuse to be driven by it.

And as an article on lifehacker reminds us (and it is almost a relief to hear and accept this!) — You are missing out!  Somewhere, everywhere, things are happening without you.  You aren’t going to be the centre of the next big thing or the life of every party.

So — great news! Now that your greatest fears are realised, you can relax! And get on with the life going on right in front of you.

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