Do you like playing Holi? Let’s say you do, but today, for some reason, you can’t play. Now what would you feel if you saw photos of your friends enjoying this festival of colours like there’s no tomorrow? Like you’re missing out, maybe?

Enter FOMO (noun): anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by social media posts and stories. Fear of Missing Out is the apprehension that one is missing out on information, events, experiences, or things that could make one’s life better. And our financial choices often bear the brunt of this feeling.

Today we’ll explore this rampant phenomenon, how it can hurt your expenses, and figure out ways to overcome it.

FOMO Comes in All Shapes and Sizes

The term “FOMO” came into normal parlance in 2010 to describe a phenomenon observed on social networking sites. It also made its way to the Oxford Dictionary in 2013!

Of course, social media isn’t the only culprit. Humans must have felt some form of FOMO in the past as well. A simple conversation could do the trick. I often hear friends telling each other things like, “You HAVE to watch the show, Money Heist” or, “You NEED to experience skydiving” or, “You MUST own a car” or, “You’re missing out if you don’t visit xyz restaurant!” Social media has just amplified FOMO exponentially.

FOMO is so strong that it can instantly make us unhappy about our lives. It impacts our mood negatively, reduces self- esteem and affects mindfulness. 

Naturally, none of us want to feel this. Oftentimes, instead of looking within, we look outside. We try to overcome this emotion in various ways. And one of these ways is through spending on things and experiences that others are indulging in. Some of these expenses might appear small, like buying a new t-shirt. Whereas some might stand out as exorbitant, like splurging on a cruise.

FOMO Stresses Our Mind and Our Money

FOMO spending is a modern form of debt. It is on the rise everywhere we look. When you scroll through social media or online shopping sites, there is an urge to buy things even though you don’t need them. These are merely ‘wants’ manufactured by the world around us.

A study conducted by Allianz Life found that 57% of people spend money on things they hadn’t planned to buy simply because of what they saw on social media. Sometimes, people even take loans to purchase these things. In the short term, you may feel the pleasure of having that shiny new object or that fancy experience. But in the long run, it is bound to cause stress and worry.

It came as a no surprise that FOMO marketing is actually a thing. Many companies use this emotion of customers to their advantage, with the aim to increase sales. So, even if we want to avoid FOMO spending, targeted advertisements might never leave us off the hook.

Fret not! For there are ways not to succumb to FOMO.

How You Can Overcome FOMO

There are some wonderful ways that we can train our minds to not feel these negative emotions. Here’s a list of a few that might work for you as well as they work for me.

1. Limit your time on infinite scroll sites

Since most sites have infinite scroll, it’s super easy to lose track of time while on it. Their algorithms know how to hold our full attention and keep us engaged. Having a cut-off time is the best way out. Smartphones these days usually have this feature built-in.

2. Change your online circles

Look at who you are following and ask yourself, “Does this person’s post make me anxious, financially or otherwise?”, “Do I keep comparing my life to this person?” If yes, you know who to unfollow for the sake of your sanity.

3. Get clarity on your values

Make financial decisions from a place of values, and not from a place of impulse. List down what you value the most in life. And spend on only those things, experiences, events that align with your values and your beliefs.

4. Embrace contrasting concepts like JOMO

Joy of Missing out is the opposite of FOMO. If you can embrace the feeling of missing out on something, there’s nothing like it. It is liberating to say the least.

On that note, here’s a poem that you could put up as your wallpaper, or better yet, on your actual wall.

“Oh the joy of missing out.
When the world begins to shout
And rush towards that shining thing;
The latest bit of mental bling —
Trying to have it, see it, do it,
You simply know you won’t go through it;
The anxious clamouring and need
This restless hungry thing to feed.

Instead, you feel the loveliness;
The pleasure of your emptiness.
You spurn the treasure on the shelf
In favour of your peaceful self;
Without regret, without a doubt.
Oh the joy of missing out.”

— “JOMO” by Michael Leunig (2017)

Reflecting on our spending patterns helps us identify which expenses we made were due to FOMO. Going by peer pressure and social comparison might not only drain your finances, but also leave you feeling inauthentic. Living within our means and based on what we value is the only way to go about life.

Do you experience FOMO? How do you overcome the feeling? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Rushina Thacker

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