My first full-time job out of college was at an elementary school where most of the staff were at least 20 years older than me.
Needless to say, I had a hard time making friends.
But, after a long week of making sure kids didn’t crack their heads open on the playground (and working my other part-time job as a hostess), I loved coming home to my couch. I could watch Army Wives in my ratty sweatpants and check my phone in between the most dramatic scenes.
There was one problem, though: everyone was doing something cooler than me.
It seemed like everyone, at least. Old friends and acquaintances from school would toast martinis, attend rock concerts, eat Insta-worthy food. By comparison, my weekends seemed pretty lame.
And suddenly, I went from enjoying my evenings to loathing myself for enjoying them. Why couldn’t I spend my time that way? During some months I would work six or seven days each week, yet I still felt like I had to do something more worthwhile with my free time to validate myself.
That feeling? It’s called FOMO: fear of missing out. It’s the self-deprecating drive to see if something more interesting is happening on social media, and the inadequacy that shortly follows.
I hate FOMO—but that didn’t stop me from checking my feeds anyway. Every picture, tweet, or status update made me want to bury myself in that couch of mine. Why couldn’t I just let it go?
Because FOMO, and social media, are addictive. And if we don’t feel FOMO every time we check our phones, we’re forced to question ourselves (i.e., you must be antisocial if you don’t wish you were with your Facebook friends).
These strategies helped me destroy FOMO, though, and keep me motivated when that nagging desire to check my phone starts creeping in:
1. Place more barriers between you and social media
My life changed when I started using airplane mode and the “do not disturb” feature on my iPhone. But I also took it a step further:
- I stopped all my push notifications for social media
- I placed those apps in a separate screen (farthest from my home page so I would have to scroll a little to get there)
- I established an informal schedule dictating how often I would check those accounts each day. (e.g., I’m only going to check my Facebook twice each day, once in the morning and once before bed.)
If you’re on a desktop, un-bookmark those websites and put a browser blocker on them so you can only gain access at scheduled times. And if you need to be extra productive, throw your phone in the other room while you work.
It sounds like a lot of effort for a few extra seconds of decision making, but those barriers might compel you to think twice about checking your notifications (for the 476th time in the last hour).
2. Practice your ability to “be present”
“Be present”—sounds like an empty statement, and nearly impossible to follow. I make that advice a little more actionable by finding things that appeal to my senses in the present moment.
In my own example, I could appreciate the soft upholstery on my couch, the streetlights gleaming outside my apartment window, and the cool, fresh taste of the gin and tonic I just made (anyone else love that combo?).
They seemed like simple pleasures compared to whatever my friends were doing—but they brought me back to the fun I could have at that very moment . Besides, I could never recapture those Insta-worthy times with my friends, even if I did put on a real pair of pants and met up with them.
3. Do your own FOMO-worthy stuff
Trying to constantly lead an exciting life on social media will just lead to burnout. But if you happen to do some really cool one-off thing, there’s no shame in sharing what you did.
I can totally take a cool picture of my literal Netflix and chill time and make it look just as enjoyable as the sweaty rock concert my friends attended—if you’re doing something you truly enjoy, FOMO should be irrelevant.
There will always be challenges when it comes to fighting FOMO, of course. Collectively, we haven’t recognized that the constant need to check our phones is deteriorating our feelings of self-worth and fulfillment. It’s just going to keep happening unless something changes.
But the methods to destroy FOMO are simple: it’s about developing physical and mental reminders to stay in the moment, regaining control over life as it happens, and remembering that real life rarely looks like our social media profiles. It’s about being happy with what we have, and not letting something as small as a phone notification take that away from us.