How Amazing Is Your Fabulous Life? Understanding What Is FOMO

FOMO With FriendsA news reporter chased me down on the Upper West Side the other day asking whether I could share my thoughts on FOMO. I had no idea what he was talking about.

FOMO, you know, the fear of missing out! Doctors are diagnosing kids with FOMO more frequently nowadays because schools aren’t allowing kids to have their smartphones in class all day. They start to suffer from anxiety and lack of concentration for not being able to keep up with what their friends are doing,” the reporter explained.

My initial reaction was, “Oh, the cruelty!” for not allowing a smartphone in class. When I was in business school, the only way I could get through the torture of Operations Management class was to play online poker tournaments online! My phone and laptop allowed me to feign supreme concentration as I practiced my poker face. Shhh, don’t tell my professor.

The skeptic in me kicked in as I asked the reported, “C’mon, FOMO. Really? Just another new catchy term for an age old affliction coined by therapists to make some extra bucks. How can there really be FOMO when everybody on Facebook is always on permanent vacation? Friends are always checking into wonderful restaurants and clubs on Foursquare, which of course is connected to Twitter and then back to Facebook just to make sure everybody knows what they’re up to. Our amazing lives are fabulous!”

UNDERSTANDING THE FEAR OF MISSING OUT

There seems to be two angles to FOMO:

1) The actual fear of missing out on things your friends are experiencing due to having to work, lack of money, or just not knowing. You want to be included in all the pictures in exotic locales for everyone to see. You want to party with the random celebrity in the back room to tell a story. The list goes on as you don’t want to be a lonesome loser while all your friends are having fun. If you can’t join your friends in Bali, the next best thing is to follow along their journey with envy while you’re stuck at a miserable job shuffling papers. With some chutzpah you keep up by checking in to some fun local bar or tweeting out some delicious food after instagraming a selfie of your beautiful self of course.

2) The need to constantly stay connected online. Some common traits of FOMO sufferers include, but are not limited to: sleeping with their phones, putting their notifications on vibrate so they can be alert for a 2am booty call, walking through stop lights because they’re mesmerized by their phones, and always having a charger whenever they go out the door. I’ve done it all except for keeping my phone on vibration mode because I love my sleep too much. With how cheap and easy it is to stay connected, I think it’s practically impossible not to share your life online. It just depends on the degree.

The last time I went a full day on land without recharging my phone was… never! I could blame the crappiness of an iPhone’s battery life or I can admit that I’m always on my phone. When I was watching marathon four hour tennis matches at the US Open (e.g. Hewitt vs. Youzhny), my anxiety level would inch up as my battery life went below 50%. The last thing I wanted to do was get up from my unassigned seat to leave a thrilling match to go charge a phone and not get back into the stadium. Crowds stress me out, but I needed to stay connected so I went for some juice after the second set.

So what the hell am I doing on my phone that is causing it to last under six hours before needing to recharge? Let’s check right now what apps are open and I’d like to know what you’ve got open as well.

* Twitter – Twitter is my preferred means of checking the news and seeing what’s going on in the blogosphere. I usually have three to five conversations on Twitter a day as I really enjoy the banter. From Twitter I’ll click on links to read interesting articles and the rabbit hole goes from there. I’m @Financialsamura.

* Facebook – I hardly check Facebook except when I’m traveling and need to kill time. I keep my online and offline line lives separate, but am slowly incorporating the two as I get deeper into this journey of working full-time online. Facebook is one big vacation soiree that can be fun or obnoxious. Facebook seems to be the app the sucks up the most amount of battery life while doing nothing.

* Safari – I do my best to approve comments and respond to comments on Financial Samurai. For some reason, my Akismet spam filter puts 90% of all comments into a pending box which needs my approval.

* Mail – I’ve got multiple accounts for multiple purposes: business, personal, real estate rentals, etc. Something is always coming up that needs addressing. I do my best to respond to everyone within 24 hours, especially if it’s business related.

* Notes – I’m constantly writing down post ideas, dreams, to do lists, or funny sayings.

* Calendar – Got to get in the habit of checking the calendar first thing in the morning in order to not flake or double book.

* Feedly – Easiest way for me to keep up with hundreds of blogs.

* Maps – Always open to never get lost, especially as a visitor in NYC.

* Messages – Who talks on the phone anymore?

* What’s Ap – Have a tennis team group chat where we give each other crap all the time.

* Camera – Gotta capture the moments! Each snap seems to take 1% battery life.

* Weather – What am I going to wear?

* US Open App – Got to keep up with all the match scores!

* Clash Of Clans – The best free game to kill hours of time on end. They got an office right here in SF and we plan to get lunch.

With all these apps open, no wonder why my phone doesn’t last more than six hours. Besides, a large part of my livelihood is online given I’m a blogger who writes 5,000+ words a week and constantly interacts with my community and the blogging community. This makes me wonder what’s everybody else’s excuse is for always being on the phone when they don’t have a blog or an online business. Hmmm.

stanvstomas

Wawrinka vs. Berdych at the US Open. Going on the 9th hour of watching at 9:30pm.

MY BIGGEST FEARS RELATED TO FOMO

My biggest ongoing concern is having a reader type up a long comment that gets stuck in spam purgatory. I’ve had a number of complaints from readers over the years accusing me of censorship. All comments are admissible if they are respectful. The software just locks all of them up by default. I’ve also got to work on letting go and not being so responsive to comments.

My other fear is missing out on some business opportunity due to a lack of responsiveness. The business world is super competitive and there is a strong correlation with the amount one hustles and the amount one makes online. Given I’m only half way in my new financial journey, I’m got to be on the ball to seize financial opportunities. Every day I pretend I’m broke to keep motivation up.

Other than these two “fears” I don’t fear missing out on too much anymore because if the fear of missing out becomes great enough, I just go do it. I was very hesitant about going to Europe this summer because I didn’t know anybody who I was meeting except for one and it is a pain in the ass to fly to Mallorca from San Francisco. But my friend kept saying “you don’t want to miss this trip” which generated enough FOMO that I booked what turned out to be a summer to remember.

Financial freedom has enabled me to keep FOMO at bay and truly decide what it is I want to do. So for those who are seeing a therapist on figuring out how to cure FOMO, perhaps the honest cure is to just make enough money where you never miss out. That’ll be $300 please. (See: How Does It Feel To Be Financially Independent?)

There’s a self-correcting mechanism for everyone. At one point I felt I was experiencing TOO MUCH in NYC and needed to take a break after going to the US Open six times for 6-11 hours each session. I didn’t want to go clubbing for the fourth time in one week after watching Empire Of The Sun perform on Peer 29 until 10pm. What I in fact longed for was to return to my old routine of writing for several hours in the morning, having lunch with a friend, taking a nap, playing a couple hours of tennis and going to sleep before midnight.

IT FEELS TOUGH BEING YOUNGER TODAY THAN BEFORE

Before the internet and smartphones, we only had several neighbors to keep up with. Now we are constantly bombarded by what hundreds of friends and acquaintances are doing all the time. In the past it was OK to just chill and do nothing on a lazy Sunday afternoon. But now, it feels off doing nothing if we see our friends on Facebook posting pictures of a boozy brunch at a music festival out in Montauk.

We could have one hundred friends each do only one fabulous thing a year. But if each of the one hundred friends posts details of their trip it will seem as if everybody is always living it up all year around! I really empathize with those in their 20s or those who are struggling financially. We all want to travel, go to concerts, participate in events, and drink endless amounts of Crystal. But when a cocktail costs $19 at Gramercy Park Hotel, you just might have to show up drunk and order only water!

For those who fear missing out, don’t worry too much as things get better over time. You will naturally experience more things the older you get that will preclude you from wondering what your friends have done. Pics of epic powder runs off the back bowls of Vail? Awesome dude. Traveling first class on an Airbus Dreamliner from LA to Singapore to eat some chili crab? Can’t believe you drank $500 worth of single malt whiskey on the way over. Diving with whale sharks in Belize? Not scary at all. $500 dinner for two at Jean Georges? Try the maine lobster and gnocchi with a 1991 glass of château d’yquem for desert next time.

If you don’t have the patience for experience, then I highly recommend you try cutting internet off for good chunks at a time. Start with one hour of not checking your phone or laptop and progressively increase those blocks of time by an hour until you can go for three to six hours at a time without connecting. Try and cut down the number of social media platforms you use. I refuse to join Pinterest and spend more than five minutes a week on Google+. Finally, turn off all your notifications so that you check only when you want to. Your productivity will increase as you respond to messages in chunks. Your anxiety will gradually normalize as well. Being in the moment instead of always on the phone improves relationships.

I long for a simpler world with less distractions. I think we’d all be less fearful of missing out and more happy with what we have. Very importantly, our financials will be in a much healthier position if we can stop the infinite madness of trying to keep up. But then again, where’s the fun in that? Don’t forget to bring your charger.

Empire Of The Sun NYC

Sun is going down for Empire Of The Sun concert on Pier 29, NYC 2013.

Readers, do you fear missing out? Do you think there is now a much larger “keeping up with the Joneses” phenomena than ever before which is making more people miserable than happy? Or should we rejoice at the current state of society since everybody seems to be really happy on Facebook and other social mediums? Maybe life is what happens when “what if” runs away with “why not?”

Regards,

Sam

 

 

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

You can sign up to receive his articles via email or by RSS. Sam also sends out a private quarterly newsletter with information on where he's investing his money and more sensitive information.

Subscribe To Private Newsletter

Comments

  1. says

    I thought is was a joke at first but then I have to look at how much I am on my laptop and iPhone. Between checking emails, texts, twitter, etc. I am on the net a lot! I had to catch myself when I was telling my your brother he was on facebook to much since to everyone else I am on the computer too damn much as well. I understand but hey when I was in school the only things we had were pagers. Times change and I remember my mom thinking we were crazy with pagers and $100+ Jordans.

  2. says

    “My other fear is missing out on some business opportunity due to a lack of responsiveness.”

    This is totally me. I don’t have FOMO about that many things, but I do experience it when it comes to freelancing. I reply to emails at lightening speed. I don’t want to move too slow and miss our on something!

  3. says

    I have to force myself to “miss out” on things, especially when it comes to social media. I avoid facebook, twitter, etc because I find they end up sucking time like no other. Missing out on what people I hardly know had for dinner or the latest picture of their dog has so far had few deleterious effects on my life. I think people need to unplug from the internet once in a while and just enjoy what’s around them.

    • Steve B says

      David,

      Your last line says it all.
      When I was working I used to really wonder exactly what everyone was doing
      staring into their smartphones all day. I finally came to the conclusion that whatever
      it was, it was not more important than just “enjoying what’s around them”.

      Yes I am older than the typical reader on this board, but I do I have a smartphone,
      and could care less about FOMO. Perhaps we should think about FOYLGB, that would be
      Fear Of Your Life Going By. Cheers

  4. says

    It’s not a big deal for me. So what if I miss out on a few things, it’s not the end of the world. I guess it’s easier on introverts in general. I only check Twitter and email on the phone and that’s already taking too much time away from the real world. People can wait a few hours. It’s not a huge deal.

  5. nbsdmp says

    I think this is a huge problem these days. Honestly, one of the things that I’m most proud of is that I am the 1 person in America who is not actually on Facebook. I get made fun of, but there are people starting to agree it is a huge waste of time & actually detrimental towards true friendships. You are spot on, people wanting to show how amazing their lives are…as a side note on a slightly related subject, I happened to re-read the book “Stop Acting Rich” again, it should be required reading before you can graduate high school or sign up for Facebook.

      • nbsdmp says

        From what you’ve written about, I’m pretty sure you follow 99% of what the guy is saying in the book. It still is pretty interesting reading about how we all get suckered into spending on stuff we don’t need or has little intrinsic value.

        I probably only follow about 85% of what he says, but should probably do a better job moving forward.

  6. says

    I used to always stress about missing out. Now I look forward to it. I look forward to turning my phone off sometimes on a week. The one thing I try to do is deactivate Facebook for a month every now and then. Simply because I get tagged in all kinds of pictures, people want to send silly private messages and so on. It’s important to focus on getting shit done.

  7. says

    I always have my email, safari, messages, and reminders apps open. I use maps too but I always shut it down as soon as I’m done bc that is a huge battery drain. I have multiple camera apps at easy access but I also shut those down if I remember bc of battery. I need to have my phone nearby all the time but I don’t feel the need to check it constantly unless I’m at work. I always check to see if I got any text messages literally every few minutes even though I have an auto notification. That’s probably my biggest distraction but it’s also a fun one to have. It’s good I didn’t have a laptop in class when I was in college or I never would have gotten anything done.

  8. says

    My phone is essentially a $400 Twitter app. I rarely go more than an hour or so without checking Twitter. But for me the real FOMO has nothing to do with other people. I fear missing out on the things I want to do through not having the time/money/opportunity to do them. It really pushes me to become as independent as possible in a lot of areas of life.

  9. says

    Seems like there are degrees of FOMO. Some sound like fear of not keeping up with the Joneses. I don’t really care which friends are eating at what restaurant without me. I usually eat at home. I do check Facebook a couple times a day, but many friends are posting a political diatribe that I don’t want to get involved in. Email? Mostly spam. I might get a couple important emails that I respond to. Then again, I don’t have nor want a smartphone. They cost too much.

    I suppose it is the younger generation that goes around thinking, “I’ll give you my smartphone when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.”

  10. Jason says

    I definitely do not have that fear, except for work-related emails. We’re a 24/7 operation and I don’t want to be unresponsive if something were to go off the rails. But, once I close up shop, work-wise, I can see myself becoming a very offline person. I’m never on facebook or any other social media and don’t get that many texts or emails either. Most of my online stuff is paying bills and business-related things.

    But, I do think that it’s harder for young people these days because of these constant distractions. When I was going to school, there really was no internet to speak of, including email. So everything was by phone call.

    I’m surprised that there’s so much controversy around kids having cellphones in school. To me, it’s obvious that cellphones should never be allowed.

  11. says

    I have not experienced FOMO. Similar to what Joe said, I check Twitter and Email on my phone regularly, but not much else. I don’t get too worried about being up-to-the-minute on everything. Life is too short and I already don’t have enough time as it is!

  12. says

    As they say, comparison is the thief of joy.

    The more disconnected I am, the happier I become. I’m not there yet, but getting rid of my cell phone data plan went a long way to help.

    I predict a cultural pushback on “always on” in the upcoming years.

  13. says

    If you have FOMO, you probably are a follower and boring anyway. To paraphrase an old boss, I create FOMO in others vs. having it myself. On a more serious note, I find that my son (and fiance) have a much more interesting life than most. If I wanted to do as much as they do, I would. Therefore, others would feel they are missing out. It is up to the individual to have a good life without regrets. This syndrome sounds like an excuse for a deeper problem!

        • says

          I agree. As I wrote towards the end, it gets better as we experience more:

          For those who fear missing out, don’t worry too much as things get better over time. You will naturally experience more things the older you get that will preclude you from wondering what your friends have done. Pics of epic powder runs off the back bowls of Vail? Awesome dude. Traveling first class on an Airbus Dreamliner from LA to Singapore to eat some chili crab? Can’t believe you drank $500 worth of single malt whiskey on the way over. Diving with whale sharks in Belize? Not scary at all. $500 dinner for two at Jean Georges? Try the maine lobster and gnocchi with a 1991 glass of château d’yquem for desert next time.

  14. insourcelife says

    What helped me was switching my cell plan so I don’t have data anymore. I am still distracted by Wi-Fi but definitely less than before.

  15. says

    Being a dad of three I can certainly see a degree of FOMO in my children. Their generation post status on everything. New sneakers, clothes, being out, etc. I guess it almost a new form of peer pressure for teens, trying to keep up with their friends.

  16. says

    I can see why its a “real thing” as can certainly believe that many teenagers suffer from it in the world of social interaction.

    However, FOMO doesn’t really bother me too much. If there is something that I really want to do, or something that I really need to know, it usually has a way of finding me.

    If I miss out on one or two things, c’est la vie, its never really a big deal (for more than 15 minutes anyway)!

  17. says

    I don’t have FOMO at all; great for not getting sucked into hours on Facebook or Twitter, but probably bad for blogging.

    I’m also tired of people crossing the street staring at their phones. I wonder if the stats are increasing on pedestrian/auto accidents? And, yes, apparently everyone on Facebook is on continuous vacation leading fabulous lives!

  18. says

    No FOMO here – I’m too old for that %#%@.

    But on the other hand…I recently acquired a smartphone so that I wouldn’t miss out on my kids while they are very, very young and I’m at work (video chat, MMS, etc.)

  19. says

    I suppose I had a slight case of FOMO when I was younger as it pertained to social activities, but it really wasn’t all that extreme. Now I’m so busy with work, family, etc. that I actually have DOMO = Desire Of Missing Out! Seriously, I find myself being much more selective these days and often passing on or ignoring certain stuff. I’ve never been smart phone dependent.

  20. Gina says

    The reporter may want to interview my husband The Caveman, who does NOT HAVE a cellphone. Yes when he is on call from work, he is forced to carry that one, but doesn’t have a personal cell phone. Co-workers make fun, friends make fun, perfect strangers make fun,
    but he will not relent. He just doesn’t want anyone to get ahold of him if he doesn’t want to.
    Maybe it’s an engineer personality type introvert thing. Facebook, nope. Last minute call to bring home bread, nope. It can be frustrating for me, but I am used to it. What does he do with all that extra time? Works out, walks the dog, online chess.

  21. says

    I might have a little of that with Twitter, but for the most part I think I tend to not be concerned with any kind of fear of missing out most of the time. It’s a matter of wanting to be in control, rather than have the need for information be the controlling figure.

    I’m sure there are pros and cons to having this lack of worry about missing out. Maybe it’s kind of necessary these days?

    • says

      Good to hear Ray. Yeah, I’ve turned off ALL my app notifications so I check only when I want to or think about checking instead of checking when someone sends me something. It’s helped A LOT.

  22. says

    Man, what a great year to go to the US Open! I’ve been meaning to get there for my 4th time for the past few years but I guess I haven’t let FOMO on the US Open actually push me hard enough to get there. 2014 will be a different story.

    I too am an entrepreneur with multiple business emails, rental property emails, personal emails, etc. and find myself having those twinges of anxiety when the phone gets too far away. I’ve been getting better at checking my email later and later each morning as to not allow my day to get hijacked by a mini fire that needs to get put out.

    Thanks for another great read and maybe I’ll see you at the US Open next year!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *