Technology can be a powerful, useful, and productive tool. And our smartphones, in particular, enable us to connect with others in an unprecedented way. Unfortunately, though scrolling through social media can be fun, it can also become a dysfunctional coping mechanism related to underlying issues. Your phone, iPad, or computer can leave you thinking: “They’re having fun without me.” or “My life is so pathetic compared to their life.” If this is the case, you may have a FOMO problem.

What is FOMO?

FOMO stands for “fear of missing out.” This sentiment is not new and is also not automatically negative. However, thanks to rapid technological developments, FOMO has become more common and more negative.

The fear of missing out leads us to phone addiction and social media obsession. It takes us out of our real lives and into the realm of self-sabotaging fantasy and illusion. We crave the rush of the notification sound while turning our life into a competition. Meanwhile, each of us must conveniently ignore the reality that online images are meticulously managed. As I like to tell my clients, what you’re looking at is a curated life, not reality.

Perhaps the saddest irony of FOMO is the fact that so few people ever take time to identify what it is they’re missing.

7 Ways to Handle FOMO

1. Schedule Tech Breaks

The most basic suggestion just may be the biggest challenge. But success involves modulating your screen time. Like starting a diet or a workout regimen, this requires discipline and patience. But the results are well worth the effort. Another variation is to set your lock screen to some kind of message that causes you to pause and ponder before continuing.

2. Remind Yourself That Social Media is Carefully Curated

Most profiles are edited to offer a particular perspective. They don’t reflect real life, in all it’s ups and downs and shades of grey.  It is not a standard to which anyone should aspire. Instead, think of it as a performance you might enjoy. Social media profiles are works of fiction to be consumed but not emulated.

3. Ask Yourself: What can I learn from this feeling?

When FOMO anxiety builds, it can be a teaching moment. You have the opportunity to look inward and discover the deeper motivations for your tech-related emotions. You may discover a common theme popping up as you’re scrolling through. Perhaps it’s that you feel less deeply connected to your friends. Or maybe you begin to recognize that you’ve stopped engaging in life the same way and are slipping into a depression.

4. Seize the Moment

Our devices cause us to be less present. We dwell in a kind of purgatory — physically there but mentally elsewhere. Living mindfully empowers us to embrace the moment and make the most of it. So instead of living in someone else’s reality, refocus yourself on your life and present moment.

5. Accept: You Can’t Do Everything

In the words of Fred “Mister” Rogers: “You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully, your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.” Yes, maybe it would’ve been cool to go to that pop up your coworker went to, but you decided to engage in some self-care and spend quiet quality time with your loved ones. And that was the right choice for you, based on what you valued and needed in the moment.

6. Choose Gratitude

FOMO provokes us to wants what we don’t have. Gratitude inspires us to feel blessed for the gifts life offers. Instead of focusing on all the things that you wish you had or could do, start fostering an attitude of gratitude. (Yes, I know that rhymes!)

7. Embrace JOMO/Avoid Regrets

Rather than one day regretting all the time spent online, embrace the JOY of missing out on the bells and whistles of tech culture. Make the intentional choice of “missing out” and enjoy the freedom that comes with that!

Don’t Miss Out on Help

The lure of likes, notifications, and superficial validation is very powerful. It is also very, very difficult to resist. We live in a tech-addicted culture. There is no shame in needing help. Fortunately, help is available and you most definitely can re-imagine your relationship with your phone.

Working with a therapist is a proven path towards balance. You will be able to open up about any fixations you feel. Patterns will be identified. New approaches will be explored. The goal, most likely, is not about living tech-free. Rather, with the guidance of your counselor, you will create ways to use technology as a beneficial tool — and not a source of stress and anxiety.

I can help serve as a guide toward a fulfilling sense of balance and success. Let me help you. Read more here about other ways I work to help unhappy professionals. Contact me soon for a free 20-minute consultation.