Beware of FOMO
/ Author: Andre van Heerden
/ Categories: Blogs, Newsletters /
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Beware of FOMO

As we begin to live our lives again, be prepared for a different sort of fear of missing out to emerge. This is a good time to remind ourselves that we have to live our own lives—and let others do the same

By André van Heerden, Communications Director

It has been well documented that overuse of social media isn’t good for people’s mental health. One of the main reasons is that we naturally compare ourselves to others, and when we see their happy, fun, exciting, beautiful, tasty, expensive, sexy, special posts, we don’t feel as good about ourselves.

These online comparisons may make us feel like we’re missing out on some event or gathering or experience. According to a study in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, which looked at this phenomenon, “fear of missing out, or FOMO, is another mental health effect that’s been strongly linked with the use of social media. Although a relatively new phrase, . . . psychologists say it has real social significance.”

With the COVID-19 outbreak, many of us have been forced to work and communicate a great deal more online. A report by Comscore, a Virginia-based analytics company, found that social media use increased by as much as 70 percent in Canada since the start of the pandemic.

But strangely, during the outbreak, I think fear of missing out may have decreased. Because we’re all being forced to do basically the same thing—stay at home and isolate from others—no one is taking fabulous trips, or attending big concerts, or having wild parties. Now there might be jealousy over who can bake the best cookies or sew the prettiest face mask, but no one is feeling left out socially.

I think FOMO has revealed itself in other ways during this pandemic. Some people are worried about coming to work. They suffer from a weakened immune system, or they live with someone elderly or sick, or the fear of catching the virus is debilitating.

For these people, there should be protections in place that either enable them to work from home, or if that’s not possible, have access to job and pay protections that give them a temporary leave. But I’ve witnessed in a few instances where it seems that because one person feels like they can’t work, they don’t want others to work either. Just because one person may not feel safe—despite all of the proper PPE being used—doesn’t mean that others don’t.

I’m an active, competitive soccer coach. If it was determined that sports teams could begin safely practicing again, I wouldn’t force anyone to show up if they didn’t feel safe about it. I also wouldn’t stop the practice just because someone complained that they wouldn’t attend.

At some point, we have to take responsibility for our own actions and let others—as long as they’re following the rules—be responsible for themselves.

Once restrictions ease, businesses open, and people are allowed to get out and gather again, prepare to deal with FOMO. You may feel it seeing a social media post of a family walking in a conservation area, or someone may react negatively to your post of having a few friends over for a barbecue.

At some point we have to live our own lives and let others do the same. Feeling badly about it won’t help anyone.

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