This acronym has recently made news headlines and is increasingly gracing the landing pages of popular psychology and health sites.

It’s continually bandied about on daytime TV and teens seem to Tweet it more often than the @ sign.

But what does FOMO really mean?

I don’t mean literally. We’ve got that covered: FOMO is a term coined to describe the Fear of Missing Out in relation to what one sees (or perceives) others are doing, particularly via social networks, or the nagging sensation that there is something happening somewhere that you are not a part of.

Remember way back, when someone handed out brightly colored envelopes containing birthday party invites and you held your breath waiting to see if one had your name on it.

The tingling, strangely numbing, yet painfully uncomfortable sensation that would bubble in your stomach as your brain whirred through the options of what it meant if you weren’t, god forbid, on the invite list?

Well, it seems that FOMO is, in its simplest form, a continuation of this jeuvenille fear that we aren’t quite cool ‘enough’ to get invited to the party of Life.

Yet, apparently more than half — 56% of the US population — are afraid of missing out according to a recent survey conducted by

The advent of social media, supposedly designed to make us feel more connected, is often cited as the cause of this FOMO epidemic.

The continual stream of carefully considered ‘Look at Me’ broadcasts via our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Vine feeds inadvertently promotes a culture of comparison, particularly amongst those still trying to figure out who they ‘really’ are.

It was an awful lot easier to abide by the ‘Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’ commandment when people weren’t rubbing their latest marathon run, birth of their third child by candlelight without drugs, pictures of their ever-so-happy family holiday to the Bahama’s, gym-toned ass, new promotion, award, relationship, car or second home in your face 24/7.

The need to keep up with the Joneses has seemingly increased in direct relation to the quantity of media channels that transmit our news.

Consequently, we are left with the mammoth task of trying to digest the untold amounts of content produced in this, the wonderful Information Age. Although increasingly we seem to have slipped into the Too Much Information (TMI) Age.

This is, it appears, where the FOMO problem really stems from.

We are bombarded by messages through our media, both online and offline, from recognized brands and now our family members, friends and colleagues who have their own broadcast channels that constantly give us opportunity for contrast and comparison.

This was not the case when, back in the Downton Abbey era, the ‘news’ came from idle village gossip, where at best you could compare yourself to no more than a few hundred people whose lifestyles were pretty similar to your own, where the official ‘news’ came down the wires, was printed on paper — when few could read or afford this luxury — and the lines between those that had and those that didn’t was abundantly clear and the chances of you raising your standard of living in any considerable way was an accepted impossibility.

Back then; the majority were employed in work that required manual labor. We toiled the fields, scrubbed the laundry, washed the dishes, cleaned the hearth, shopped at indie’s, walked to school, cycled to church, and all the while we chatted.

In real time.


We connected.

In person.

Sharing the high’s and low’s, the laughter and the sadness.

Of course, many would still argue that we do the same today, albeit virtually, but we no longer live in small communities where we are truly connected through familial bonds.

Few of us ‘belong’ at a local level to community in quite the same way.

We have hundreds, or thousands of ‘friends’ on Facebook and try our hardest to stay connected to our geographically disparate friends and family members. We try to keep up, not only with the Joneses’, but with world news, national news, local news, industry news and the ever-constant stream of social media updates from our friends, colleagues and loved ones. We are drowning in news.

Yet, deep within there is a need; a need to know; a need to feel part of something; a need to be connected.

Staying connected was once a simple past-time.

Wandering down to the local butcher’s gave you the opportunity to tip your hat at Mrs. Morris from the bakers, and the chance to wave at the vicar whizzing past on his daily rounds.

You had time to exchange over the village ‘happenings’ with Mr. Brown outside the shop and wander back home while engaged in a good old gossip with your friendly neighbor, Mary and her wee ones.

Now we live in cities crammed with millions of people whose standard of living varies tremendously. We’re on better terms with the random Twitter follower @im_curious than we are our own neighbors.

Our families are scattered thousands of miles apart. Our businesses have gone global. Time feels like a commodity in short supply; one we dearly wish we could buy. And the opportunity for in-person, real-time, seratonin-generating connection seems to be decreasing at the same rate that Apple’s share price is inflating.

So, is it really FOMO we are suffering from?

It certainly isn’t a Fear of Missing Out in the old-fashioned sense of not getting invited to the kindergarten birthday party of the year.

This modern version of FOMO seems to manifest as a continual anxiousness fueled by a sense of spiritual and emotional dissatisfaction that the Good Things in life are passing us by.

That the soul-soothing feeling we get from just hanging out with family and friends, shooting the sh*t, as they say, and enjoying the sense of comradery that comes from community — even a community with little in the way of material assets — a simple and age-old act that generates powerful feelings of togetherness, is, it appears becoming lost to history.

And, our reaction to this dis-connected sense of existence is a terrible and all pervading fear that drives a need to fill this sense of loss. We have an increasing need for ‘stuff’ to fill this unsatisfied sense of connection.

Rooted perhaps in a belief that if we have ‘enough,’ or achieve ‘more’ perhaps people will then ‘like’ us, and as a result maybe our existential pain and suffering will end. And so, the ‘Look at Me!’ social media broadcasts persist, and the nagging need to check others social media news feeds so we can compare and compete continue and all the while we think we are ‘connecting.’

And when we aren’t virtually competing, while supposedly connecting, we’re left pondering what our next post should be; nurturing our individual brand of ‘look at me and my perfect/fun/adventurous life’ to update on Fake-book in a Kardashian crafted way that generates the maximum response.

And when were not, we’re miserable.

We’re suffering.

We’re not really struggling with FOMO we’re suffering from a Fear Of Not Being Enough, or FONBE for those who need an acronym to hashtag in their social media stream.

Author's Bio: 

By, Gemini Adams, author of healthy living and humor books, including The Facebook Diet: 50 Funny Signs of Facebook Addiction and Ways to Unplug with a Digital Detox (first in The Unplug Series) and Your Legacy of Love: Realize the Gift in Goodbye. Find her @geminiadams or @unplugseries