One’s individuality is the most important thing about one’s self. We love others for what makes them different, not for what makes them the same. Think of someone you love; do you love them because they are popular, have a large group of friends, or for their most-liked Instagram posts? The answer is almost certainly no, with the rebuttal being that you love them for their unique characteristics, whatever those may be. Essentially, the love you have for others should have nothing to do with their social status, achievements, or looks, but rather how they make you feel when you are around them. In a world where such aspects of someone’s life are held to the utmost importance, the only truly happy people are those who embrace their individuality through the constant rejection of FOMO and the constant acceptance of oneself.
FOMO, aka the fear of missing out, influences people to do things that in reality do not bring them any such joy. Experts further define it as the feeling that you are missing out on a fundamentally important event, no matter how irrelevant or minuscule it may be. This phenomenon dominates the lives of young and old alike and plagues society into believing that there is always something else that needs to be done or somewhere else to be. How did we arrive at the point where FOMO jeopardizes our individuality and convinces us to do things for others’ perception of us rather than ourselves?
Social media is the obvious breeding ground for FOMO, but let’s take a deeper look at why it makes us feel this way, not just how. There is this all-consuming belief in us that we always need to be doing bigger and better than what we are, whether these bigger and better things would make us happy or not. In a way, we’ve traded our individuality for the unachievable desire to fit into the status quo. However, the status quo is an unattainable reality since it is an abstract concept that does not actually exist. Nonetheless, the derivatives of such a concept (i.e. popularity) are almost always the driving forces behind the decision-making processes rather than our own feelings and goals. The worst part is, the majority of people do not realize this altered perception of reality is tainting their decision-making and setting themselves up for constant feelings of disappointment and failure.
The fear of missing out does not necessarily derive from actually wanting to be a part of a certain event or activity, but rather from wanting to fit into the status quo. However, one will quickly find themselves realizing the fictionality of such a concept when they fail to ever become “that person” that their skewed outlook puts on a pedestal. “That person” does not exist.
Everyone has insecurities, highs and lows, good days and bad days – no one is immune to life. However, social media has become an outlet for sharing the best, most picturesque moments of life that skews others into believing that they are somehow lacking in various areas of their lives for not matching with what they see online. People put the best image of themselves on social media; you do not see their flaws or insecurities, hence you believe that they do not exist. Of course, people will post when they go out, see friends, dress up, travel – you get the picture. On the contrary, people do not post themselves at home alone, in their pajamas, being lazy, but that does not invalidate the reality of the situation. Social media has led us to believe that some people live perfect lives all the time, and if you are not, you are missing out.
True happiness comes with the realization that no one else’s opinion is relevant to your life but your own. While most people experience a certain level of FOMO throughout different periods of their lives, the sensation itself is derived from discontent with oneself. Harsh yet true, coming to terms with the fact that it actually does not matter at all what other people are doing, as long as you are happy with yourself, is a freeing realization. People are so obsessed with themselves that they are in reality paying very little attention to what you are doing, posting on social media, etc. as you may think – not to say that their opinion matters.
There is plenty of societal pressure to fit into certain molds, regardless of how you may feel towards them. Freeing yourself from FOMO-related emotions is the only way to find peace within yourself in the sense of doing and being for you, but the process takes time. Experts recommend looking inward instead of outward, meaning that one needs to focus on themselves and resolving internal conflicts within so that you preserve and protect your authentic self from the taint of social expectations and false realities.
I recommend finding something you love without feeling the need to share it with social platforms- whether that be a person or activity – and recognizing the immense joy that being with that person or doing that thing brings you. This immense joy, if you really love what you are doing, should make it so you could not care less about what other events may be going on or what other people are doing. You need to hold onto such joy and embrace the realization that no one really cares about what you are doing as much as you do, allowing yourself to prioritize aspects of your life that make you the happiest when there is no social media involved.
At the end of the day, you only truly have yourself to please, as the emotions of strangers on the internet towards you and you towards them have no real relevance in the playout of your life. From someone else’s perspective, you may be “that person” they strive to be, so go easier on yourself, and focus on the things that lead you to authentic joy. That way, there will be no fear of missing out, but rather a prolonged sense of self-fulfillment and achievement. In a world where self-image is so fragile and sensitive to the opinions of others, be the exception through maturing past FOMO and into a more authentic version of self.