The Fear of Missing Out

Fear of missing out is an anxiety of losing what we never even had, and could hence be described as an insane mental defect. However, it is common, real, and can make us feel deep regret for something that hasn’t actually happened. FOMO’s full destructive force can be observed in two friends who decided to invest their savings into bitcoin back in 2012.

The Full story
Fomo full story

Fear of missing out is an anxiety of losing what we never even had, and could hence be described as an insane mental defect. However, it is common, real, and can make us feel deep regret for something that hasn’t actually happened.

nature of fomo
Fomo nature

FOMO is an animal that shies away from strangers and larger groups, but loves to hide within intimate social relationships. It can attack your ego when a close friend is getting ahead. It tears you down when others are having a good time and you aren’t invited. It beats you up, if your rival gets what ought to be yours. And if you are lovesick and can’t fall asleep, it’s your FOMO that will give you the worst nightmares.

FOMO’s full destructive force can be observed in Tom and Jeff, two friends who decided to invest their savings into bitcoin, back in 2012.

Story of tom & Jeff
Fomo story

Over the next few years the price of bitcoin went up a lot, and the two began to believe that they were brilliant investors, and that their bet was the smartest move in their young lives. But they also became increasingly concerned that something might happen to that precious stake, and this new identity of theirs. Tom experienced fear of loss.

Then, one day, the price of bitcoin suddenly started falling and then dropped dramatically. Tom’s fear of loss became too strong and he decided to sell half of his coins. Jeff, a religious believer, didn’t sell.

After he cashed out, Tom felt relieved, even though his remaining bitcoin investment kept falling further. We see this happen in Tom, because while he might still lose money, he wants to protect what has become even more precious to him— his identity of being that brilliant investor. But then our story takes a dark twist. 

A short while later, the price of Bitcoin first stabilized and then kept rising — faster and faster. But Tom, who still held plenty of coins, wasn’t happy. No. While he lay in bed at night his FOMO crept out of hiding and painted a terrifying future.

Tom began to believe that he had made a massive mistake that would leave him a poor fool, while his friend would be the millionaire they both dreamed of becoming. And so, even though he still owned a significant amount of bitcoin, he now hoped for a total crash in its value, and the absolute failure of cryptocurrencies. 

So, what’s going on here? 

how fomo affect us?
Fomo effect

The FOMO attacks Tom, because Jeff is his friend. Same age. Same tribe. Someone just like him. The difference is that while Jeff is a brilliant investor, Tom is an idiot. And because Tom knows he could have achieved Jeff’s success, and doesn’t want to live with that idea for the rest of his life, he hopes they’ll both fail miserably.

research finding
Fomo research finding

Research on FOMO suggests:

  • There are no gender differences
  • Higher FOMO scores are associated with younger age
  • It’s associated with people who are neurotic 
  • And those who are lonely experience it more often 
what do you think?
Fomo_what do u think

But which fear is stronger? The fear of losing what is ours or our fear of missing out? Or are they even, essentially, the same thing? Please share your thoughts in the comments below or tell us your own experiences with feelings of anxiety, fear or fomo.

Sources

Dig deeper!

  • Read more about fear of missing out and social media in this brief overview of the origin, theoretical underpinnings, and relationship with mental health. 
  • Read more about loss aversion and our tendency to prefer avoiding losses to acquiring equivalent gains. 

Here are also 4 ideas from our editors on how to deal with the fear of missing out:

  • First, if you want to spare your friends from their fears and FOMOs, be mindful of what you share. Not everyone needs to know how great your life is.
  • Second, if you don’t like your own FOMO, mingle with people who don’t compete in your domain. 
  • Third, use it to get good at something or start a new career. Just join a group of people who are great at what you are dreaming of becoming and let your FOMO do the rest. 
  • Fourth, if you want to close a deal, remind others of their FOMO to come to a conclusion fast. 

Classroom activities

Inform your students about a special event (say a pop concert or a special lecture) that most of them would love to attend. Also tell them that you received 5 VIP tickets with backstage access. And that prior to the class you would like to give them away, using a lucky draw. Let each student draw a ticket with 

Let students explore how stress may be experienced as a consequence of social media, such as the ‘fear of missing out’ from a conversation that their friends are having. Here you can view or download the full lesson plan published by Rise Above. Additional class activities and lessons can be purchased at Teachers Pay Teachers.

Collaborators

  • Script: Jonas Koblin 
  • Artist: Pascal Gaggelli
  • Voice: Matt Abbott
  • Coloring: Nalin
  • Editing: Peera Lertsukittipongsa
  • Sound Design: Miguel Ojeda
  • Production: Selina Bador
  • Fact checking: Ludovico Di Chanaz 
  • Topic suggested by: Avanti Giridharan

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