FOMO and what it REALLY means

FOMO and What it really means Guest post by Robyna May of Mummy Minx on Kaleidoscope Blog

Post Written by Guest Blogger Robyna May

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I have FOMO. I have really quite terrible FOMO. Fear OMissing Out. If you read the first two sentences, not knowing what FOMO meant, and were in a quiet panic that you had missed something important, you might have it too. I do not think it is unusual in our social media saturated world. We see so much fun and success on Facebook and Instagram and we wonder if we are missing out.

Like a lot of women, I say yes. To most things. It is partially because I want to please and it is partially because what if I say no to something amazing? I have been known to say yes to two events, adjacent to each other, and spend the day in a complete flap trying to squeeze it all in, and of course in my quest to have all the fun, I have diminished it through stress. I have never given much thought to this behaviour, aside to make fun of myself.

Then I heard FOMO described as perceived scarcity. It struck a chord. Am I busy frantically chasing an elusive something because I think there is a shortage? When I see a friend succeed and there is that brief but real pang of jealously, the fear that I have missed out, am I guilty of imagining a scarcity that does not exist? When I get incredibly sad that I will have missed out on an event because of another commitment, do I really believe that no similar event will ever happen again?

When I was a kid my mum was committed to eating healthily. Lollies were scarce in our house, biscuits unheard of. Yet, on a Monday after the weekly shop, there would always be ice-cream, a bag of liquorice and a bag of spiced fruit muffins. Every Monday after school I would gorge on all three. Not because I desperately wanted any of it. Not because I enjoyed the taste of those things together, but I knew if I didn’t, it would be devoured by my sister and dad and I would miss out. FOMO. Scarcity.

Of course marketers and psychologists alike have known about FOMO long before it had an acronym. Making something appear rare gives it instant desirability. “Only a few left!”, “Last Days”, “Get in quick!” are all cheap tricks to make us place more worth on potentially missing out than the intrinsic value of what we are buying or agreeing to and because of the way our brains make decisions, it works. It’s called the scarcity heuristic. We place more value on something that is harder to acquire. It is why, despite a price tag climbing into the thousands of dollars and a two-year waiting list, people continue to buy Hermes Birkin hand bags. We make hundreds of decisions daily. Most of them very small and almost instantaneous. We need to take information, process it quickly and come to a conclusion. We cannot consider every single outcome for every single decision and so we rely on a series of heuristics or mental shortcuts to reduce the complexity of our decision-making. When you throw in the scarcity heuristic, it can affect the logical outcome of a decision. Our cognitive bias distorts our decision-making. 

I might be out to dinner (where I am likely to experience menu envy – another form of FOMO). I have decided on the risotto. I like risotto. The waiter tells me that they have an amazing salmon dish but they only have two left. Would I like to consider that? Two left I hear you say? Well, yes, I would like to change my order.  My friend orders the risotto. Both meals come out and I realise that what I really wanted was the risotto, but my FOMO came into play and led me to a different decision.

When the scarcity card comes into play, we are often so focussed on what we might be missing out on that we are blinded to what we already have. Or even what we might miss if we say yes. If I say yes to everything that comes my way, I miss out on the down-time and the beautiful things that can happen within that time. If I am continually rushing to get to the next big thing, I will miss the small things.

Sometimes the things we take for granted are the rare things, and the things we fear missing out an are actually in abundance.

These days, I have to look carefully at what I am committing to and why. I have to examine my reactions to things and understand where the real scarcity is. There is fun and success in abundance. Saying no to one thing won’t reduce it. Someone else’s success has not taken a portion from a limited pool. 

What IS scarce in my life is the amount of time I get to spend with my boys while they are little. The limited things are the hugs and kisses so freely given now. What will not last is baby scent and cries that can only be soothed by me. If I am to fear missing out on anything, it should be those moments and I shouldn’t let my FOMO get in the way.

Do you have FOMO? Do you think it negatively affects your life and your soul?

Tell us in the comments below.

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About-Robyna-MayRobyna May writes as one half as the Mummy and the Minx, a blog dedicated to empowering mothers and inspiring minxes.  She writes about getting the mojo back into your life after kids and expanding possibilities when they contract after having babies. Her passions are writing and creating beautiful things. She has unkempt hair, a crazy, messy house, a racing brain and a heart overflowing with love.

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4 thoughts on “FOMO and what it REALLY means

  1. I really loved this post and it very much resonated with me. Definitely see the correlation with the level of social media usage from my own anecdotal experience. I’d love to be back at uni right now, studying all of this.

  2. Thank you for this article, Robyna! I have terrible FOMO and I can definitely admit I have missed out on some great opportunities (especially traveling) for fear that I would miss out on work, social events, etc. And really, it is so silly! That time traveling would have contained more valuable experiences than the work or social events that I did (or didn’t!) spend time doing. I have to constantly remind myself of this, especially since I am about to do some traveling abroad for a few months and am nervous about missing out on work back home. Do you have any advice on how to deal with FOMO specifically when it comes to work/jobs?

  3. Hello! Thanks so much for you comments ladies – I only just checked in here. Hugzilla, have you read Nicolas Carr’s The Shallows? Very interesting take on all these things. Marlena, it’s hard isn’t it? I can’t say I have any earth shattering advice, but I guess it’s a matter of looking at what’s available to you (and what will continue to be available to you) and what opportunities have limited life spans. I would ALWAYS choose travel. Travel is one of those things that isn’t always possible during all phases of your life, so seize it whilst you can. Karin – love it – yes, I think I might adopt a swaggering nonchalance as well!

What do you think?