FOMO: Fear of Missing Out

Have you heard of FOMO? Fear Of Missing Out. I’m months and months behind on the trend pieces but it is something that has been on my mind lately.

“FOMO is the fear that everyone else is having more fun, more excitement and more rewarding, anecdote-worthy experiences than you” said the Telegraph wrote last year.

I’ve never been a huge fan of trendy acronyms or portmanteaus (Don’t even get me started on “YOLO” or “glamping”), but FOMO so perfectly describes a real problem that affects twenty-somethings travelers and civilians alike. It’s partially the fault of social media; Facebook is constantly showing us that everyone else is apparently having the most interesting and fulfilling lives, and partially what I think is a natural part of being in this hard, strange and exciting phase of life.

Basically what I’m saying is that I’ve been suffering from FOMO for nearly ten years now.

The first few years of my twenties, when I was studying and then working full time, I felt FOMO acutely, even though I didn’t have a kicky name for it. I knew I wanted to travel, explore the world, have crazy adventures, but my circumstances wouldn’t let me do it.

Then I started traveling full time, and for awhile, everything felt perfect. I truly was “living my dream” by traveling, writing, exploring the world. Aside from paying for guest houses, street food and travel insurance my expenses were quite limited and my free time was endless. For maybe a year I stopped worrying what everyone else was doing and just concentrated on myself.

It didn’t last.

When you travel a lot, FOMO can hit you in some weird places. Over the past few years I’ve missed dozens of birthdays, events and spontaneous fun. I missed my ten year high school reunion because I was on my way down to Mexico. My friends had stories and inside jokes and memories that now have nothing to do with me, and it kind of sucks, because that’s time I can never get back.

I’ve written before that our twenties are hard because everything is so much of a choice. Living well means leaving some stuff out, and even if you are okay with that, really okay, it can still smart.

I’ve started to make my peace with FOMO though, because I know nobody’s life is as glamorous as they make it out to be. People who follow me on Facebook probably think I spend all my time traveling to glamorous destinations, having adventures and eating weird food. Maybe you think that too, but the depressing truth is that 85% of the time you’ll find me glued to my computer desperately begging my brain to come up with 800 words on the national parks of California.

When it comes down to it, everyone aspires to live their life to the fullest, and hardly anyone feels like they are achieving it. The antidote to FOMO isn’t to try harder, do more and be everywhere. The antidote is to chill out. What matters is not what you have, but how you react to it.

It’s not easy, but this afternoon, instead of constantly wishing for more, I am going to try to appreciate what I have. I’m going to log off Facebook, sit outside in the warm sunshine and read a book.

This post was written by me, brought to you by SCTI.

7 thoughts on “FOMO: Fear of Missing Out”

  1. Hey! I haven’t heard of FOMO either but I know what you mean and as someone said above “the grass is always greener..” and all that. I travelled a lot in my 20’s and married late. You don’t want to know how late LOL! Even though I chose to live abroad, my child goes to international school, I met my husband on the stage, etc… I sometimes miss the suburb lifestyle of “2 houses, 2 cars, the nanny and Au Pair” thing that my British peers have!!

    Ah well. Better not. I probably would have been bored within a year, or caused a scandal or something!

  2. I have definitely felt the “fear of missing out.” I felt it before I studied abroad back in college. However, leaving and studying abroad was the best decision I made during college. I really didn’t miss out on much. Now, I’m preparing to leave to teach and live in Spain for a year – at least – and I get this feeling from time to time. However, while I know I’ll miss out on some things, I know that I’ll be doing and seeing things that other never will and, more importantly, that I want to. I really like your take on it: to chill out. That’s the key.

  3. I’ve never heard this acronym before but I’ve been suffering from “the fear of missing out” since I was a young girl. I’m 46 now and with my family being spread all across the US I’m much more content with knowing that we can’t be everywhere at all times. I guess there are worst things we could suffer from. Wanting to see and do everything and be with everyone that matters most to us isn’t so bad. 🙂

  4. I think we all have FOMO, however to stress ourselves out about what we are missing out on is a total waste of time and energy. Especially if you are doing what you want to be doing in life. For me i always get a little envious of people when they tell me their travel tales and then i stop and think and realise i am constantly travelling. Like you said you need to appreciate what you have and where you are right then and there. And when it comes to what you have missed back home, I am sure most people back their are more envious of the time your having away than you are of the times they are having at home. But thats life, we always want more.

  5. “When it comes down to it, everyone aspires to live their life to the fullest, and hardly anyone feels like they are achieving it.”

    YES. That is the truth, and you just have to remind yourself of it every time FOMO comes and sneaks up on you.

    I totally get it, though. Just a couple weeks ago I was super jealous of a friend traveling to Australia to go cuddle koalas and dive the Great Barrier Reef. And I was on a beach in Thailand at the time, have just finished up volunteering for a week with elephants. And yet I was genuinely feeling envious and like my life wasn’t nearly as exciting. It’s INSANE, but, then again, nobody says FOMO makes any sense. The grass is always greener, as they say…

  6. I’ve never come across the acronym FOMO, either. Must be something that all those young whippersnappers say. Like YOLO. I despise YOLO.

    Anyway, I get what you mean completely. I get emails from readers who assume I’m living this exciting life, always eating new food, travelling to new places, and in teaching students who constantly sass me out. In reality, I have some classes that are so silent that they can be painfully awkward, often chomp down on fried chicken, and as for tonight? I’ll be spending my Saturday night writing blog posts, editing photos for said blog posts, watching YouTube videos, and then hopefully I’ll be curled up in bed no later than 11pm, because I’m thoroughly exhausted.

    I think it’s easy to assume that everyone else is always having more fun than you are, but really, they’re not, at least not all the time. People edit what they put on social media – I would never write an update like, “Woke up. Made my bed. Commuted for 50 minutes each way. Taught. Came home. Ate Haribo for dinner. Sleep.” Which, in reality, is how some of my days are (and sometimes the Haribo part is true, too). We pick the most amusing or exciting morsels of our day, and publish those for the world to see. I’m living how I want to live, and I’m enjoying it, even if every day isn’t necessarily full of adventure and wonderment.

    Keep on doing your thing, and remember, you inspire so many people (myself included). Now quit reading this long-ass comment and go drink a cocktail for me.

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