The coronavirus pandemic has canceled many things, but FOMO doesn’t appear to be one of them. New York-based health and neuropsychologist Jennifer Wolkin describes FOMO, aka the “fear of missing out,” as “anxiety that’s elicited by the perception that others are thriving while we aren’t, or that others are overall experiencing a better version of the life.” She also mentioned that “It’s shape-shifted,” “It might not be looking at pictures of someone’s vacation or their parasailing trip or swimming with dolphins. It now becomes ‘They’re making sourdough starters,’ and ‘They’re going for a hike in these woods with their family, and I’m just on the couch and doing nothing and surviving and trying to find my breath.’ “
Lalin Anik, an assistant professor of business administration at the University of Virginia noticed that lockdown orders took hold across the nation, but she set out to learn more about the effect of quarantine on FOMO. And her research has found that many things in 2020, hasn’t gone away. It’s just moved online. “Now FOMO is felt toward digital experiences that we cannot be part of, either because we’re just too tired, too busy, too overwhelmed,” she says.
During the pandemic, the Americans have been bombarded with digital alternatives to in-person activities, such as Instagram Live workouts, online cooking classes, and new films on streaming services. As a result, there’s actually more to miss out on, Anik says. “We’re almost overwhelmed by the flow of information,” she says. “What we find is that FOMO in the pandemic comes from the difficulty of catching up with all the things being offered online.” Social media remains a major trigger of FOMO, and many have flocked to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to socialize during the pandemic, Anik says these sites breed more FOMO than they do the genuine connection. “If I look at your social media, it doesn’t make me more connected to you,” she says. “It just makes me consume more posts or more content. But as a result of that, I feel more FOMO. I’m seeking social connection, I come to the virtual world, I don’t really get a social connection, but I get more FOMO.”
For more pleasant quarantine, there are many ways to reduce, some try to shift social media consumption from a passive experience to an active one. Anik says this can be done by interacting with people on social media, rather than just scrolling absentmindedly. Lalin Anik also mentioned in a statement that “You’re taking the attention away from lack and redirecting it towards a greater sense of abundance,” she says. “It’s hard for the brain to focus on what we thought was a complete lack when we can bring a sense of what we do have into our constant focus.”
And finally, Anik has proposed an alternative to FOMO: JOMO, or “the joy of missing out.” She says this can be achieved by finding happiness in the present moment, in whatever you may be doing.
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