Quarter Life Crisis: Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

This blog post attempts to explain, and simplify the phenomena of FOMO (A Fear of Missing Out). This is first post of many where I discuss FOMO because, I believe that it is side effect of a Quarter Life Crisis. The Quarter Design will explain in depth what FOMO is and how it affects people with a Quarter Life Crisis and in the end of this blog post, there is a strategy used by the best writers, entrepreneurs, etc. to help you understand your own version of FOMO.

                We all need fear in our lives. Fear is what keeps us safe from getting hit by cars when we cross the street. Fear is what pushes us to become the best version of ourselves, makes us leave our jobs and venture out into unknown territory because we have gut feeling. We have to keep fear in our corner pocket safely with empathy, humor, etc. All and all fear is what keeps us alive, but fear is a tricky thing because it’s derived from one of the most archaic parts in our brain.

Back in the olden days, when people were dying from The Black Plague or fighting in WWII, fear helped humans create a fight- or-flight response. People used fear as a driving force to fight or hide. In so many words fear’s motto is “killed or be killed.” Fear is mostly hidden in the unconscious mind and it is driven from the Amygdala. The Amygdala is the part in our brain that creates the killed or be killed response.

 Here’s the issue, because fear is archaic, the Amygdala can’t make sense of  this technological world. Our fight or flight response has morphed into a fear of not having enough. A fear of not being successful, thus the term A Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) lurks in every aspect of our lives.

What the heck is a Fear of Missing Out?

                The term Fear of Missing Out was dubbed by, psychologist, Dr. Dan Herman by accident.  Dr. Herman studied this phenomenon FOMO in 1996 during a focus group study. Human noticed that one of his clients only focused on what they were lacking. After thousands of research hours, Herman noticed that clients experiencing FOMO solely focused on the glass half full aspect of their lives. According to Herman’s findings “FOMO is experienced as a fearful attitude of not having enough…Simply put, it is the concentration of the glass half full."

The FoMO experience is based on the fear of

 ‘what will I miss because I don’t have the necessary time or money, or because I do have another barrier of some kind?’

Although the term was discovered the same time everyone wanted Rachel’s haircut from Friends, this idea started in the 1960s. Boomers were some of the first to experience FOMO. Author, Paul Taylor of The Next America, says that Boomers created an unimaginable luxurious lifestyle. Everyone had to have the best washing machines, houses, and color TVs. Boomers created the phenomena Keeping up with the Jones's. Many families wanted a house, stable income, and family with 3.5 kids included.

Now the Jones's have left us and the Kardashian’s have created an unrealistic expectation that everyone must be perfect and take selfies. Now don’t keep me wrong it’s not the Kardashian’s fault, this machine has a mind of its own. During Dr. Herman’s research discovered that, 70% of his participants experienced some form of FOMO.


My experience with the Kardashians

                A couple of years ago my friend treated me to a Kanye West concert. We had ground access and backstage passes, and we were standing behind the whole Kardashian clan near the VIP section. This was before North was born, Yeezus time. I kid you not, every time I looked back at the VIP section the whole clan were taking selfies.  The Kardashian were having a hard time keeping up with themselves.  The whole purpose of attending a concert is to be fully immerse in the experience and I kept thinking, ‘should I be taking selfies to show that I’m at the concert?’

A Quarter Life Crisis + FOMO= Love story

                In my post, A Quarter Life Crisis: How I made sense of my brain I discussed gave a brief overview of what a Quarter Life Crisis.

Let’s recap what a Quarter Life Crisis….

  •  A Quarter Life Crisis can happen between the ages of 19-34
  • It is when one feels trapped in a relationship, career, financial or health situation. 
  • Having a quarter-life crisis is a natural part of life.  

**It’s also important to note that a Quarter Life Crisis is fluid. Some people can be thriving in their career, but their health can be in shambles*

 When we feel trapped in our Quarter Life Crisis, we are unable to see a possible solution. Fear of Missing out lurks in our unconscious. Have you ever been in a situation where you've heard the following?

 I wish I had X’s Instagram feed.

-          Parent voice: “I just saw your friend X on the Facebook, person X finished grad school, seems like person X is doing great.”

All of these conversation pieces are derived from FOMO. I can relate, every time Drake or Radiohead releases an album, my hipster high school self comes out from the woodwork and my FOMO wishes that I was the first person to own their albums. In the times of crisis, we focus on the glass being half empty.

Action Step to Understand your FOMO: Tips from Forleo and Gilbert

                Here’s the exciting thing, psychologists are researching long term effects of FOMO!  In a couple of years, we will know how FOMO effects the brain. Until then there are a couple influencers that can give actionable steps and help you understand your own FOMO. Author Elizabeth Gilbert, in her podcast Big Magic and Life Coach/Entrepreneur, Marie Forleo, are spearheading the FOMO camp.  Here are some actionable strategies:

1.        Write a letter to your fear:  If fear is always there you might as well figure out what your fear is saying. Recently, Author Elizabeth Gilbert’s wrote a letter to her fears.

Dearest Fear: Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you’ll be joining us, because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job seriously. Apparently your job is to induce complete panic whenever I’m about to do anything interesting—and, may I say, you are superb at your job. - Big Magic

2.       Criticism is also a sign of fear. Marie Forleo just release an episode of Marie TV, about addressing the fear of criticism.