Fear of missing out, or FOMO as some people refer to it, can be a real pain in the arse. How often have you not heard friends, family or colleagues tell you about this latest show on Netflix, movie, book, or videogame that you absolutely have to check? I’ve had my fair share of these experiences and in fact, there’s still no sign of stopping. Of course, it’s always nice if you can share your experiences with other people and that is what most of these “recommendations” come from, but it can also lead to an overwhelming sense that you have to check these things for yourself, because otherwise you’re missing out on something great. The human psyche is built on us being group animals, and as such fear of missing out can become a real problem for yourself. But how do I deal with it?
Realising that time can only be spent once
If you read my blog often, then you know I’m an avid gamer and in my early days of gaming I quickly learned that it’s impossible to possibly play every single game that is being released, so I’ve come to rely on several review websites to determine whether a game is worth my time or not. Of course, over time you develop your own personal taste and you get a sense of which games you will like just by checking some gameplay footage, or a trailer. I apply this same logic to whether or not I should watch a series or movie, or read a book. The bottom line is that you can only spend your time once and you want to spend it wisely on something that is worth your time. Some would probably argue that videogames, movies, series and possibly even books are a waste of time in general, but one should never underestimate the need for proper relaxation and for me videogames are a primary source of relaxation (even if the games can sometimes be frustratingly difficult).
The problem I think a lot of people experience is that there’s just so much stuff out there screaming for our attention and whenever we hear someone close to us recommend them we feel kind of obligated to check them out. Often I ended up adding all of their recommendations to my wishlists, watchlists, etc. Does that sound familiar to you? Then you’re probably suffering from FOMO as well. Especially when combined with a feeling that you really need to clear up time to check said things out. But to be honest, most of those things on my Netflix watchlist that I put on there are still there, unwatched. In fact, I’ve been considering if I still need Netflix, because I rarely watch anyway. Most of my “screentime” goes to playing videogames, because to me that’s almost like reading a book.
Spending your time wisely
So, we established that you can only spend your time once and that in this sea of content from all these types of media, it’s impossible to ever do it all in a lifetime. Then what’s important is that you don’t spend your valuable time on something that isn’t worthwhile. And for sure, you won’t always know this when you dive into something. I’ve played so many bad games, read a whole bunch of horribly written books and have probably seen too many bad movies to make up for two lifetimes. Still, it should be all about doing what you enjoy doing in your free time and I think this is one of the important bits of wisdom I want to share. FOMO is about letting others dictate what you should be doing in your free time. Subconsciously you’ll think that if you don’t you’ll deprive yourself of something really good. Ultimately, however, consuming media should all be about what you enjoy. If that happens to coincide with the recommendations, by all means, indulge in them. But otherwise, just be honest with yourself and consider if you really are missing out on something when you’re already missing out on more than 99% of all the things that you could be doing in your lifetime.
Why it’s important to choose for yourself more often than not
Choosing yourself is not per definition a selfish act. In fact, I learned the hard way that you need to do this, in order to be able to be there for others. I need time alone, I need to spend time doing the things that I like doing for relaxation (which often happen to be things that can be done alone). One thing I love about my relationship with Bren is that we can be “alone together”, we can be in the living room together and both be doing our own thing. Of course this is not entirely the same as really having some time alone, I do have that early in the morning, when I get up to meditate and work out.
Master Yoda had his fair share of me-time on Dagoba 😉
I brought this up, because FOMO can cause you an insane amount of stress where none is necessary. What’s important is that what you do in your free time is of value to yourself. If you really consider if you’re missing out on something, try to figure out if indulging in it will truly enrich your life, or if it’s just another one of those short dopamine bursts. Consuming media is quite a hedonistic activity, and as most spiritual people will point out it’s not quite satisfying in the end and suffers from diminishing returns, meaning consuming more media will undoubtedly lead to you feeling empty and unsatisfied. Now that doesn’t mean you should never do any of this again in your life, but rather make a conscious decision if it truly is worth your time. If you feel it is, do so, but always try to be aware of your true feelings.
Dealing with it
To be totally honest, FOMO has been something that can sometimes creep up on me. I often get this sensation when browsing videogame websites, or watch the latest Nintendo Direct videos and see all of these cool games come out that I know I won’t be able to play, due to restrictions on how much time I have. This is something that comes with my current age, because I have a job and other responsibilities before I can sit down to enjoy all these awesome games, books and movies. And even then it’s often a matter of choosing what to do during that free time. Often I would just browse Netflix for a long time and finally ended up watching some show that would only last 30 minutes or shorter, because I had run out of time to put on a movie. An overwhelming amount of choice is always a bad thing, this is something that’s illustrated very well in the book The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz, which I highly recommend giving a read. Given that the vast amount of choice and peer pressure for fear of missing out are both quite negative things, I find it best to just play what I feel like playing. And if people recommend you anything that you know is not your taste, please for the sake of your own sanity, just be honest and politely tell them. I found it’s always best to be honest and direct about this, in a friendly manner, of course. Surely, not everyone will like your honesty, but not being honest is bad for you (and your environment) in the long run.
So, that’s it. That is pretty much how I deal with FOMO. In the end it’s all about being honest to yourself, enjoying the things you like and not letting others dictate what you should do with your free time. I know I make it sound easy, but as I pointed out, I too suffer from this feeling every now and then. However, donning a stoic mindset I do realise it’s no use to worry about everything I am missing out, because there’s so much happening in the world it’s impossible for anyone to do everything in their lifetime. Life is all about choices and fear is always a bad adviser. Listen to your heart instead and follow your own passions.
I hope you have a good one!