The Only Thing We Have to Fear is…the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

fear, missing out

Hi…My name is Brad…and I’m addicted to fear.

I’m not worried about monsters in my closet or fretting every minute of my day on the state of our modern political system or global warming (although seriously, people, we need to start doing something about those issues.)

Instead, I spend way too much brainpower each day worrying about all the things I’m not doing, places I’ve not been, friends I’ve not seen and events that I’m not experiencing. I make this condition (of which I only recently became aware) worse in this always-on, social media job I have. Every day I see friends and coworkers attending interesting events and meeting fascinating people, and I want to be there with them.

Caterina Fake (the co-founder of Flickr and Internet entrepreneur) helped to define FOMO over a year ago. Since then, bloggers and psychologists alike have written countless other articles discussing the impact of FOMO on their personal lives and society as a whole. When it inspires us to create and expand beyond our current state, FOMO can drive engagement with each other and produce the content that powers the growth and influence of the social web.

Unfortunately, FOMO limits as much as it inspires. As Yoda once said, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” When fear fails to motivate us toward positive change, it causes nothing but resentment. If I do nothing to change myself, to change my circumstances, then I will stay in the same place today I occupied yesterday, stagnating and growing nothing more than jealousy in my heart.

In researching this topic, I found some sage advice from my Internet mentor, Leo Babauta. According to Leo:

‘The truth is, we could run around trying to do everything exciting, and travel around the world, and always stay in touch with our iPhones and Crackberries, and work and party all day long without sleep … but we could never do it all. We will always be missing something.

And so, if we cannot help missing out, what is a saner alternative than letting this fear drive us? Let go of it, and realize you have everything right now.

The best in life isn’t somewhere else. It’s right where you are, at this moment. There is nothing better than exactly that.”

I’ve made changes in my life over the years because I wanted to do something different, something more with the time I have to spend on this spinning blue ball. True change, however, requires that I not only minimize distractions but also put more time and energy into productive activities such as art, exercise and tending to those relationships that add the most value to my life.

Dissatisfaction is an artist’s greatest motivator. Great artists see imperfection in their world and seek to improve upon it with thir own unique point of view. No one can solve my dissatisfaction but me. I can bitch about things and give into FOMO, or I can harness this energy roiling around in my chest every day and become the change I want to see. The choice is mine.

*Photo credit Loretta Prencipe under Creative Commons Licensing.