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Are You Caught In The ‘FOMO’ Cycle?

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Imagine after a long day at work you decide to curl up in bed with a good book, nice coffee, and soothing music in the background. Not to mention, you are so excited about it. Then, as you were just going with your plan, a notification alert on your phone grabs your attention. And as soon as you press the notification icon you see a friend has uploaded pictures of an elaborate dinner. Similarly, in another post, you see all your friends at a house party enjoying their lives.

A few moments earlier, you were relaxed and blissfully enjoying your plan. Contrarily, now you’re feeling restless. As you scroll through countless stories of your friends doing fun and impressive things, your restlessness continues to build and build. It is very relatable, right?

All of a sudden, the weird combination of emotions like self-loathing, envy, inadequacy grabs you.

Welcome, You Are Caught In The FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) Cycle!

Representative image only.

FOMO has become increasingly common among social media users. Let’s put some light on what causes Fear Of Missing Out and how it affects you?

  1. Problematic social media use

The term is defined as an unhealthy excessive form of social media use. Also, it is characterized by a lack of control over the behaviour and continued behaviour despite adverse life consequences. Some studies suggest that those who experience FOMO check other people on social media to relieve their anxiety. Unfortunately, the more you check other people the more you may find events that you are missing out on. Therefore, using social media to reduce anxiety can become another source of FOMO.

Remember That The Internet Is The Medium Rather Than An Activity

Hence, one should understand unhealthy the excessive use of social media and video games can be potentially addictive. There is one more particular form of problematic social media use. The use of social media during conversations with co-present others. This practice is called ‘Phubbing’ (derived from phone + snubbing). Phubbing is the act of snubbing someone you’re talking with in person in favour of your phone. Quite simply, it’s phone snubbing. While it might sound like a clever term, phubbing can have serious consequences on relationships and thus on mental health.

  1. Stalking other people

Okay, let’s be honest mostly everyone who uses social media has stalked someone. Whether it’s an ex-girlfriend or boyfriend, your long-ago school mate, ex-colleague, etc. Stalking can make you feel good for some time. But as a matter of fact, it’s an addictive behaviour, non-productive activity, and a total time-waster in the long run.

Stalking is no laughing matter. It can take the form of relentless neurotic nature. A person may develop jealousy, narcissism, Obsessive-compulsive disorder, manipulative behaviour, etc. As Erica Jong once said, “Jealousy is all the fun you think they had.”

  1. Life satisfaction

A study on Self-Determination Theory explains it very well. It suggests that people are motivated to grow and change by three innate and universal psychological needs. SDT states that one’s ability to self-regulate behaviour is based on the satisfaction of three basic psychological needs:

  • Competence — a capacity to effectively act on the world
  • Autonomy — self-authorship or personal initiative and
  • Relatedness — closeness or connectedness with others

Fear of Missing out reveals itself through worries. Such as being out of touch with events, experiences, and conversations happening across our extended social circles. It also fuels a compulsive desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing.

According to SDT, FOMO is a state of self-regulatory limbo. It arises from deficits in psychological need satisfaction. Specifically, individuals who are low in basic need satisfaction gravitate towards social media use. Because it is perceived as a resource to get in touch with others. Also, a tool to develop social competence, and an opportunity to deepen social ties.

  1. Marketing and Advertising

As humans, we naturally want to be a part of things. We want to know what’s going on, we want to be connected. Hence, therein lies the value of Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) marketing. FOMO marketing involves creating a sense of urgency in the minds of consumers. It focuses to get them to react and ultimately buy. While it’s often a source of anxiety for many people, but it can also be a powerful marketing tool. Commercial industries have successfully exploited the concept via FOMO-based advertising appeals.

In an era that’s sometimes referred to as “the attention economy.” FOMO marketing can be a real game-changer. We live in a hyper-connected world with endless status updates, breaking news, and events unfolding in real-time. Thus, there’s pervasive anxiety that we may miss something important. There are several ways when FOMO marketing has used to rise above the noise and connect with consumers. Such as showing that something is in demand, limited time offer, deal of the day, showing how many people are buying, discount for early purchasers, etc.

  1. FOMO over the life span

The older you get the more you become aware of the fact that you are mortal. Thus, it may trigger the terror of running out of time.’ This feeling increases the anxiety of missing out on rewarding experiences. The concept complies with The terror management theory (see Terror Management Theory: Mortality Salience).

Thought, there might be a quite difference between the reasons for experiencing FOMO in adolescents than in adults. But the effect and cognitive experience would be the same. For example, adolescents might experience FOMO on vacations, festivals, etc. While adults might fear missing out on rewarding investments, career opportunities, etc. Similarly, older adults might fear seeing more of the world or see their grandchildren’s lives.


FOMO certainly instils anxiety and depression. Even though we need to push back against framing this ‘fear of missing out’ as a mental health condition, McLaughlin says. FOMO is an emotion, driven by thoughts. It can create fear and anxiety which leads to a mental health diagnosis. It’s a symptom of a larger problem at hand. You are in an era that demands your attention. It mires you in distraction. Also gives you endless opportunities to feed your FOMO. You’re wired to compare yourselves to others. Despite knowing where that leads to a medium where everyone is cutting corners to look their best. This is the unavoidable reality of living in the always-on, ever-connected Digital Age.

So far, you have learned what causes FOMO and how it affects you. But remember you can still handle your FOMO by knowing it, controlling it, and use it for life purposes.

“If one only wished to be happy, this could be easily accomplished; but we wish to be happier than other people,

and this is always difficult, for we believe others to be happier than they are.”

— Montesquieu

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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