According to behavioural scientist, Nick Hobson, FOMO, or the fear of missing out, has always been around, it’s just we now have a formal nomenclature to describe it. FOMO has us wondering if other people are having more fun than us, doing more exciting things than us, or living a more fulfilling life than us. And while they are at it, are they creating ‘in’ jokes or catchphrases so we will never fit in again?
With FOMO the fear is focused on being left out and left behind.
Social media and smart technology allow us to keep tabs on anyone and everyone – all of the time. A tendency is fast developing among young people to not fully commit to something in case they have opted for the wrong event/outfit/relationship. Something more amazing could be coming around the bend, so it’s better to remain flexible.
However, trying to keep up with the Jones’ is exhausting. Scientists have found that those who experience FOMO are more likely to miss out on sleep, and experience more fatigue. We know that the blue back light to screens stimulates the brain and disrupts sleep patterns, but it seems that many young people are so anxious not to miss out that they stay awake into the early hours on their devices waiting for their friends to nod off first. Just in case something happens while they are asleep.
One study revealed that even the rumour of something we may have missed is enough to create FOMO. So, the only way to combat it is by keeping all the tabs open to follow twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp…and constantly scan for updates.
As you can imagine, this has a profound effect on energy levels. Those working in mental health fields are recognising the need for ‘technology fasts’ where gadgets are switched off for a period of time to allow the person to relax or engage with different activities or relationships more fully. For distraction is a key symptom of FOMO, and can undermine the ability to concentrate. Combined with exhaustion, it can develop into a listlessness where a person drifts through the day without having achieved anything in their own right. This in turn can negatively impact self-motivation, self-worth and self-esteem. FOMO can also lead to psychosomatic symptoms such as a fast heart rate, sweating, headaches, and nausea.
Good sleep hygiene is important. The NHS has a few articles dedicated to the subject but I’ve included a link to their page showing how many hours sleep children of different ages need to function well and grow: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/how-much-sleep-do-kids-need/ It makes interesting reading. Sleep is not something anyone, of any age, should miss out on.