Daily we are bombarded by hundreds of images and words that suggest we are not enough, there is a magical way to achieve true happiness and we are missing out on life and what others have.
We are fed the message that being ‘connected’ at all times is the holy grail of life and when we aren’t we are missing out on something.
You’ve seen the posts, on Facebook or Instagram or similar sites, of your ‘friends’, some of whom you haven’t even met, sharing their magnificent lives with witty comments, amazing photos and more holidays that you thought it was possible to have.
Add in the street side billboards, the 24 hour media seeking to fill the airwaves and magazines extolling worthiness and value – perhaps its unworthiness – through the latest fad and our senses are overwhelmed with ways to ‘be’ and things to have. FOMO is the advertisers’ dream.
Within some of us, perhaps more of us than want to admit it, this all helps to feed FOMO – the fear of missing out. This fear, like all fears, comes from a place of self doubt, worry and low self esteem. It feeds a lack of self worth, the shame of not being good enough and undermines our ability to make decisions.
FOMO taps into feelings of inadequacy that are often be linked to earlier experiences in our lives and have been reinforced over the years. Being the last chosen for a football or netball team at school may not be as far in the past as you think it is!
FOMO is the fear that makes you go out to a party because you’re scared that people will have a great time and you won’t be part of it or you’ll miss meeting your perfect partner only to realise, usually pretty darned quick, that you’d rather be at home having a long soak in the bath.
When you feel that you haven’t got the ‘right’ answer to your performance at work, in the gym or in life and you feel others have that’s FOMO at work.
FOMO can make you wonder if the grass really is greener than where you find yourself or who you find yourself with! Endless comparisons with endless possibilities are FOMO’s trademarks. It creates distrust within ourselves about ourselves and every part of us, our thoughts, feelings and actions, are effected. FOMO is never having the opportunity to be present and focused solely on one conversation, one person or one activity. You are continually distracted.
Although FOMO shows ups in all sorts of ways, technology is perhaps the one many of us relate to. Before you get the idea I’m against technology I’m not. The advances that have been made over the years have been amazing.
One challenge is, rather like someone aiming to lose weight and still having to eat, our lives have become inextricably linked to using our phones and tablets for activities in our everyday lives. Perhaps the growth of the mobile is why fewer people are wearing wristwatches?
The greatest challenge though is a chemical one. One of our basic desires to seek and connect gets fulfilled easily by our phones. Each time we send and receive a text message we feel connected to someone instantly. Whether we get a reply immediately or if we anticipate a response our body gets a hit of dopamine.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centres along with regulating movement and emotional responses. It enables us to see both rewards and take action to be rewarded. Texting is being caught in a dopamine loop.
Sometimes your dopamine loop drives you to keep seeking pleasure and reward even if you have been rewarded! Unpredictability also stimulates dopamine production in your brain. When something happens that you didn’t expect you get a boost of dopamine and text messages, along with social media responses, are unpredictable. How do you feel when those dots appear telling you someone is replying?
Most of us know we will receive text messages throughout the day, but you don’t exactly know when or who it’ll be from, right? It’s unpredictable. It’s exciting. It increases our dopamine, and we want more. Texting and posting on social media can be an exciting and exhausting dopamine fuelled emotional roller coaster.
FOMO means checking your mobile when you wake up, continually throughout the day, during meals with friends, talking with family, when you’re at a concert, as soon as your plane touches down, walking along the street and last thing at night.
Your actions become, at best, a habit and, at worst, an obsession. Some would might even say an addiction. Take your mobile. Aside from texting, if you’ve ever left your mobile at home, been unable to get a signal then you can feel bereft. And if your battery goes below 10% you can feel its the end of life as you know it!
There are many ways to counter FOMO and I’ve decided its time to embrace JOMO – the joy of missing out. It hasn’t been easy.
JOMO requires extra effort and deciding to leave the path of least resistance that many of us tend to follow. You have to turn the tables and be comfortable with doing your own thing. Its not about becoming a social outcast. Far from it. Its deciding to make decisions that feed and nurture you rather than threaten and undermine you. You will get help though. Deciding to take an action and following it means dopamine is released!
JOMO is deciding your own route, writing your own story consciously and being able to say ‘no’ because you’d rather be in the bath having a long soak and being fine with that. Others will decide what they think of think of you whether you go or not!
JOMO builds faith and trust in you and your decisions. It starts slowly and grows steadily over time. Deciding when you check your phone, realising Facebook is about egos as well as events and actually talking to people you are physically in contact with makes a huge difference to how you feel about you.
In many ways it comes down to perspective. Social media isn’t your life. Its a distorted view, a snapshot, of what happens in other people’s lives. Your life is your life and comparing it to others is always going to leave you feeling inadequate.
When you begin with JOMO you may stumble and be confused. That’s OK. I did and still do. Its new and it takes time to get used to things. I’d find my phone in my hand and had pressed the Facebook ‘tab’ before I’d even realised. Be kind if you do the same. Notice it and then decide if you want to go ahead or not.
JOMO means introducing some thinking time to decide ‘why’ you want to take an action. Habits take time to break. Is it because you’re wondering how Fred is and you haven’t seen him for a while or maybe you’re bored and its a time filler?
I know it can be hard to stop and pause. Noticing how you are feeling and reflect on what’s going on in your life are patterns that can feel alien and yet they make a big impact on the fulfilment we feel through our lives. And remember you will get help from dopamine – its going to be released every time you feel you have succeeded.
Technology has undoubtedly increased choice in our lives. It is also a double edged sword. Whilst it can help us live lives that are full, fulfilling and connected, it can create feelings of dissatisfaction, inadequacy and disconnection. FOMO and JOMO are part of that mix.
FOMO controls us and JOMO frees us. Yes, I know its another choice to make. Let me help you. The first step to JOMO? Buy a wristwatch!
Ways to Embrace JOMO
• Banish your devices from your bedroom – you can invest in a cheap alarm clock to wake you up
• Turn off automatic notifications on your phone
• Buy a wristwatch to tell the time with
• Have set times each day when you are off line
• See how long you can go each morning after waking up before you check your devices
• Use the expression “let me get back to you on that” before you rush and accept invitations. This gives you space to see if your day is overloaded.
• Remember ‘what good is the power of yes if you never say no’
Enjoy the day you create.