Let’s talk about how we’ve developed a new fear: that of missing out.
Let’s face it: there’s quite a lot going on out there, and the best (and worst) part of it all is it’s all happening at the same time. There are hundreds of movies on Netflix you haven’t watched, just as there are friends meeting on Saturday nights (mostly on Zoom, for now, but you get the point).
No wonder, then, that we’ve developed a new fear: that of missing out. Of course, it is debatable how new this fear really is, given that we’ve always wanted to be part of some sort of group.
Back in the days of Homo Sapiens, this made sense. Being part of a community of any sort helped us make it through another day out in the wilderness. Today, this fear (along with, well, fear itself) is part of an ancient mechanism that may or may not make that much sense for the modern human.
While sometimes our fear of missing out is fine and even desirable, it is also important for us to distinguish between the varieties of this fear — if not for anything else, then at least for the health of our pockets.
What’s the connection between FOMO and the emptiness of our bank accounts?
Read on and find out more.
Fear Is a Necessary Evil
Fear is not a nice feeling. In fact, fear can pretty much hinder growth and prevent us from following our wild(est) dreams. In its many colors, fear can be the one standing between us and traveling, asking that special someone out, or building the business we’ve been thinking of for a long time.
Prolonged fear (anxiety) can also affect our physical health. It can put a strain on our fragile hearts, it can tense our entire bodies, and it can even affect the health of our digestive systems.
But fear isn’t all that bad. It’s also the thing that helps our bodies prepare for a good run when we’re being attacked and, perhaps paradoxically, also the thing that boosts our hormones to make us feel strong enough to fight and defend ourselves when necessary.
We come with a “Fight or Flight” genetic software, and fear is an essential part of it.
This is precisely why fear is the kind of “negative emotion” one shouldn’t necessarily get rid of, but control. Sadness? Meh, we could live without it. Longing? Why do it, when there’s the present to live in. Anger? It’s fair to assume the world would be a much better place without it.
Fear, however, lies at the very foundation of who we are as a species and why we managed to not only survive the craze of the wilderness, but also rise above it, at the top of the food chain. Which is both fascinating and problematic, because you can’t just get rid of fear entirely. You can’t quit fear like you would smoking. You have to control it.
…But Fear of Missing Out, Not so Much
Barring irrational fears (like phobias) and situations where our brains are playing tricks on us (generalized anxiety disorder, for example), fear is almost always founded in some sort of existing trigger.
Our fear of missing out is nothing but a remnant of ancient genetic coding, one that says we should probably stick with the group if we don’t want to be dinner for the closest sabertooth tiger.
While that is a perfectly well-founded fear (and one we should definitely stick to when, for example, hiking), it doesn’t make that much sense in the day to day life of a modern human being.
We still cling to it, though. When everyone you know has seen Game of Thrones, it’s hard to say “no” and not watch it. And when all your friends are going out (or, ahem, meeting on Zoom), it’s difficult to pass the opportunity. FOMO, as the internet likes to call it, is a meme that fits Millennials like a glove, especially with so many things happening at once — things which, you guessed it, we don’t want to be left out of.
Unfortunately though, living under the pressure of this fear can harm our mental health and our bank accounts’ stability.
How is FOMO Making Us Spend Money
You can watch Game of Thrones for less than $10 a month, and you can probably go out with little more than that.
You can’t, however, not spend on all the new trends tapping into FOMO. Call to action lines like “Grab it now while it lasts” and “ONLY available for two more days” have been especially designed by clever marketers to access our innate fear of missing out — and make us buy.
Together with sadness, fear has grown to be one of the single most powerful incentives for irrational spending. And the internet is making it easier than ever to just click a couple of links and virtually “beep” our credit cards into overspending.
FOMO is making us buy new smartphones when new models are released, line up in front of stores (during a pandemic) for video cards, buy more shoes than we’d ever be able to wear, and go on expensive vacations to places we don’t necessarily want to visit.
…And How to Get Rid of It?
Getting rid of the impulse to buy every time fear of missing out kicks in is both difficult and easy. It’s hard to do it because it’s a mechanism functioning on auto-pilot most of the times, so it requires a little self-awareness to be beaten.
At the same time, it all narrows down to one simple question: do I really need this now?
Once you start asking yourself this more often before you click on “Buy” (or take it to the register in case of a physical purchase), everything will fall into place.
Buying outside of FOMO, and even better, renting or borrowing things for short amounts of time can be more than beneficial to you. It will save you money, time, space around your house, and, as an added bonus, it will save the Earth as well — so you have a long list of reasons to ask yourself “but why” before you click that “Buy”.