I came across FOMO during my JEE preparation.
After completing a year of coaching, I was struggling. I was getting good scores but being good in a city like Kota isn’t enough. To make matters worse, I got a batch drop in my coaching.
I was the first in my family to prepare for engineering, so being in a foreign place at such a young age and lacking guidance compounded my problems.
Meanwhile, I noticed some students taking individual classes for Maths, Physics, and Chemistry. Forget that many students were struggling even after taking individual classes or some students were doing great simply attending coaching; I got this nagging feeling of insecurity and missing out. This incident started my love affair with FOMO.
So I did join these classes, but the results were the same. The fun fact is that the material is almost the same wherever you go.
You would think that after this, it would sink in. But my FOMO just got worse. It just convinced me that I wasn’t going to the right places and wasn’t spending enough money. I did this for a long time by spending money on books and study resources I didn’t need.
I wasn’t motivated by the joy of studying something new. I was motivated by the fear of not studying something new.
So what is FOMO?
FOMO is a compulsive desire to experience something (or be somewhere) motivated not by what you gain but rather by the fear of what you will potentially lose. You feel like consuming things that you can’t consume now.
You make decisions based not on the reality of the experience but rather on the imagined experience.
The fun fact is that you pretend as if nothing is wrong, but FOMO eats you from inside. You believe everyone is always having more fun than you and that life’s turning point is always the next place/person. You make your life miserable by cramming it up with activities while not being present or appreciative of what’s happening.
FOMO is about accumulating a quantity of experience, but it robs us of quality experience.
The reason behind FOMO
The Paradox of Choice: FOMO is becoming a big issue because our generation has the most options and choices.
E.g., Suppose you are working for a company and wish to switch. Your mind doesn’t weigh the quality of work, work-life balance, perks, leadership opportunities, etc. Instead, it never goes further: “That looks cooler than what I’m doing now.” Congrats, you have the FOMO bug.
The above example is a highly immature and impulsive way of doing things. Just because something seems better doesn’t mean it is better. As there’s always something new and groundbreaking around the corner, you’ll never be satisfied with whatever you have.
That’s what FOMO boils down to — objectification. Not just of others but ourselves. We treat our lives as an itemized checklist, but life is not a video game. There’s no report card waiting for you after you die.
Instead, life is a series of complicated experiences that bring various mixtures of joys and struggles and must be evaluated and decided upon as we go, based on our current feelings and values. Inspired by our insecurities, FOMO short-circuits our ability to handle or deal with any of this.
Cure for FOMO
Start by killing out those fantasies that you’re letting rule your decision-making. The idea of loss in FOMO is always self-invented and imagined.
Better and worse are highly relative things. There is no such thing as a perfect job, perfect partner, perfect trip, or perfect group of friends.
So much of what makes life “good” or “bad” is unpredictable and outside our control. E.g., You might be happy about your new job but sad about your high obesity levels.
All of life’s great experiences come with associated costs. They require investment and sacrifice. It’s normal and healthy to be unwilling to commit to them sometimes. That doesn’t mean you’re necessarily missing anything.
If you think about it, you always miss out on something no matter where you go or with whom. Realizing this one thing will get rid of FOMO.
And sometimes, it’s better that you’re missing those things.
E.g., Switching to a lucrative job might seem significant, but there might be companies with even higher pay or better work. Meanwhile, by working long hours, you are giving up your ability to focus for long stretches at a time, build something more out of your career and skill-set, and reach your full potential.
To summarize, some valuable experiences can be Snapchat-worthy, while others are not. You will never see some of these valuable-yet-unsexy experiences — being alone, maintaining friendships, educating yourself — on Instagram because you can’t take a picture of them. It’s something you build upon within and not something outside of yourself.
Life isn’t about accumulating more experiences but rather focusing exceptionally well on less.