DISCLAIMER: I’m no scientist or doctor (or grammar professor as you can see) so everything I’m about to throw out at you is strictly only the opinion of a blogger who has done his research and has been in the world long enough to see it with his own eyes, kinda like when we discussed honesty with our kids and how to maybe calm down on the extremist parent front. It doesn’t take a genius…which is why I’m qualified to discuss it. fomo
So let’s get real here, anyone can diagnose and pinpoint the root cause of a so-called “condition” that is not something we’ve genetically or instinctively had passed down to us. I say this with confidence since the “condition” at hand had no real label until the early 2000’s and along with the help of social media, and a technological generation that ushered in social ineptness like we’ve never seen before, it hit the masses.
This “condition” I’m talking about is referred to as the “Fear of Missing Out” or “FOMO”. It is described best by a study that said:
…‘‘the uneasy and sometimes all-consuming feeling that you’re missing out – that your peers are doing, in the know about, or in possession of more or something better than you’’.
So “FOMO” huh? Does it sound a bit made-up? That’s because it is. Essentially it’s a concoction of at least three innate behaviors:
- 1 part lack of self-control
- 1 part jealousy
- 2 parts insecurity
However, being the labeling society we are today we’ve given it a name, thus giving it more power, which essentially takes away from the irresponsible damage that those concoctions of traits leave in their wake while dismissing the need to own up to it, which is required to eventually overcome it.
Now, let’s be very clear, it’s definitely not a new phenomenon to have desires of popularity, fitting in, or a sense of belonging, but that’s not what’s at play here. Those centuries old longings are merely lame justifications as to why “FOMO” is being excused as something normal or to be expected. However, you could also say, “Greed and lust are only normal and to be expected,” but I don’t see a bunch of parents rationalizing, justifying, and excusing those as acceptable societal behaviors (well not too many at least).
Then you might be asking, “Who’s excusing this type of negative behavior?” The answer is quite clear. You are. I am. We all are. When it comes to “FOMO” there are two types of people, those who have it and those who don’t.
With regard to those who have it, they either rarely accept they have it, but even then deal with it alone and hardly seek help, which results in it going unresolved. Or there are those who have it yet deny that it’s a problem. This leaves both types of those who have “FOMO” as remaining stuck in their way.
When it comes to those who don’t have “FOMO” they either don’t see it (because they’re too busy having the fun times that the others are lamenting over) or they do recognize it and don’t understand how to handle it. When it comes to the latter, they either don’t comprehend the severity of it, resulting in dismissing it completely, or they do grasp what’s going on, seeing its chains and shackles of control it has over someone(s), but feel unqualified to tackle it with those they love who possess it.
Do you see the problem with both types of people above? None of us are addressing the elephant in the room, for one reason or another, which is not helping anyone.
It’s especially not helping our children who are learning this “condition” and watching its effects spiral out of control all while being excused.
Very young kids don’t naturally jump to the idea that they’re missing out. They’re oblivious to the outside world around them and how it works. They just know what they do and don’t want and then get mad when it’s not going their way. It’s not until they learn more information from us like, “Mom and dad need time to hang out alone so we’re going out on a date”, or, “Your sister is staying over at a friend’s house tonight and you have to stay home with us.”
At those moments it’s our job to teach our children why it’s NOT OK to be jealous while helping them learn to use self-control with regard to their emotions. It’s also just as important to teach them that this is not a cause of anything they’ve done, or who they are, and that others (mom, dad, or sister in the above examples) sometimes just want (or need) to do things on their own, or with other people, and that they have no reason to feel insecure as it has nothing to do with who they are.
None of us are perfect parents but if you’re not teaching how to overcome those things to your children then, let’s call a spade a spade, you’re a bad parent (so get on that). However, if you’re guilty of “FOMO” then you are indeed being a bad example as a parent and teaching it directly to your children since learned behaviors are anything that shapes and molds someone through experiences, rewards, punishments, or constant conditioning…and “FOMO” fits exactly into that definition.
Why Society Excuses It
It doesn’t just take a parent with “FOMO” to misinform our kids that this “condition” is natural and rational. It’s all over the place and is a tactic in society for businesses and brands to grab a hold of consumers by the wallet.
I personally had a salesman come to my door and when I politely said, “No thank you,” for the 3rd time, after his repeated failed attempts to sell me pesticide, he responded with, “You’re missing out.” Yes, that really happened. If I hadn’t already been slowly closing the door on this pushy salesman I might have had a few choice words but I guess he missed out.
Brands like AT&T litter the airwaves with campaign mottoes like, “Don’t Be Left Behind”. Infomercials are known for saying, “Call within the next ten minutes.” Video games give early access to those who pay extra, causing others to feel left out and have a fear of being left behind competitively before the game has even launched.
Even live events like sports, award ceremonies, and breaking news, have found an increase viewership in ratings after inviting spectators to be an active participant, rather than a passive observer, through online means like Twitter and Facebook. Sharing your thoughts and quips online results in free advertising to these events but also leaves those not involved to feel left out and not a part of their peers’ inside jokes.
So as parents we need to be extremely proactive in helping our children not get caught in the slippery slope that is “FOMO” for a plethora of reasons but perhaps the most dangerous reason is that of the causes and effects that are involved.
Scary Thought About Cause and Effects
“FOMO” actually creates a cyclical pattern because what could cause “FOMO” could also be an effect from “FOMO” resulting in the individual getting stuck within a constant looping cycle. This blurs the ability to see clearly what sparked the initial fear in the first place and instead gets the subject lost in the dense wilderness of its effects.
Here’s a list I came up with of both what causes “FOMO” and strangely enough is also an effect of it:
- Lack of self-control
- Psychological dependence to being online
- Pathological internet use
- Unhealthy dependency on others
- Not happy with present situation
- Unable to stay engaged in the present (driving, enjoying family, etc)
- Inability to make sound decisions
- Passive aggressive behavior
Root Cause of FOMO?
So as you can see, there are a massive amount of causes that can spark the fear of missing out where the individual with “FOMO” can no longer assume complete control over their feelings. The problem is the root cause of “FOMO” is actually none of the above causes because FOMO is not about being happy, it’s about being happier than someone else. Thus, the main root cause of “FOMO” is that the individual has either been challenged on, or never developed, a sense of contentment. Meaning, find contentment and you’ll find the “cure”.
As parents, we need to stop being enablers and start breaking the cycle of this haughty habit before it consumes our kids the way it has started to consume us.