When we came home from the hospital with a baby fresh out of the oven we didn’t exactly know how our two-year-old Cockapoo, Wendell, would handle the beast-meets-baby introduction. It ended up being altogether cute and entertaining but mostly anticlimactic. Like the time my wife and I gave our eight-month-old a taste of his first lime, we had our cameras ready to capture a viral moment, only to be disappointed by the typical realities of life (and our son loves limes apparently). Though still adorable for us, nothing happened worthy of a million views. When the two met, Wendell ran around, more excited to see us than our amoeba and sniffed Isaiah only in passing as he wiggled his nubby tail. Neither of them will remember that moment, but strangers became roommates that day.
Wendell can be very gentle and sweet with Isaiah. At the same time, he is jealous, attention-seeking, and actually…pretty annoying. He seems to worry he’s been forgotten in the shadow cast by our son or fear that he’s missing out on some foreign human-to-human love action. And, full of resentment, Wendell often chews baby toys, fights to be the “King Of The Hill” on our laps, and offers vigorous hugs to any crawling baby within paws reach. It’s horrifying. Dethroned from our laps and the crown of the cutest passed on, his envy is apparent, and it provokes me to wonder: In my everyday life, am I Wendell, always afraid to be left out or forgotten by those I love? Do I just have a jealous dog growling inside of me pining for the attention of my friends?
The Fear Of Missing Out
I was first introduced to the term FOMO a couple of years ago though I had certainly experienced it before. For those blinking in the 2017 sun from the caves of the 90’s, FOMO stands for the fear of missing out, and it’s a real thing. Oxford English Dictionaries even officially dubbed it a word in 2013 alongside catchwords, “twerk” and “selfie.” FOMO is defined as the “Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media.”
In an age when selfies are totes being posted, tweeted, and snapped of BFF’s twerking at the club to which you were not invited, it’s easy to hear the anxiety echo in the empty chambers of your left out and lonely soul. Jealousy harmonizes with insecurity to wail a dreadful minor tune, darkly reminiscent of a Disney villain feature and providing a melancholy soundtrack to your lonesome life. FOMO drones in your ear the lies that your friends are having the time of their lives, solidifying friendships, and making their marks on this earth one laugh at a time at your unfortunate expense. While feeling more home alone than Macaulay Culkin, you build contraptions of self-defense, protecting against the chance of feeling hurt again and further isolating yourself in insecurity. No one likes to miss out on good times. Not even me.
Over the last couple of years, I have had to take intentional strides against the fear of missing out. Without me realizing it, the worry crept into my life as a staple anxiety and a constant weight on my shoulders. I doubted friendships, I doubted myself, and I always had a movie playing in my head of everyone else’s perfect lives. I became insecure, anxious, and constantly comparing myself to others while, externally, I became desperate, jealous, and attention-seeking. I unleashed my inner Wendell, playing “King Of The Hill” on the laps of my friends, and wagging my nubby tail in their faces. And, honestly, I continue to struggle with the deep-set fear of missing out. If you can relate, here is what I recommend in order to start taming your inner beast and fight off the enemy of FOMO (and because Gifs are fun, I added them):
Tips To Tame FOMO
1. Limit Social Media Use
Realize that social media can be an amazing tool or a detriment to your well-being; it all depends on how you use it. Know the why of each social media platform you have. Ask yourself how exactly is this serving me? And actually answer. I got rid of Instagram because all I did was use it as a means to insecurely boast about my filtered self and peak into the windows of others’ seemingly perfect lives.
Limit social media use. You can’t wish you were where everyone else is if you simply don’t know where everyone else is. Focus on the present, not on the internet.
2. Have Perspective
Come to terms with the fact that this ain’t the Truman Show. The world does not revolve around you. Though that can be a tough pill to swallow, it actually can be more of a relief to you than a choking hazard. You don’t have to manipulate situations, torture yourself with “should’ve beens,” or wish you were somewhere else at a certain time; everyone has their own lives and can make their own decisions. Let go. You have the ability to change the things you can control, and accept the things you can’t in order to find a stronger sense of peace and freedom in your life.
Not only does everyone else have their own lives, but they have their own insecurities and anxieties as well. It is important to understand this. Social media does not account for everybody’s inner Wendell. We kennel him up in each of our souls and command “no bark” as we portray a liberated and anxiety-free life. But, no one is perfect; no one is free of insecurity.
3. Trust Your Relationships
FOMO creeps in to shake the foundations of trust and contentment in a relationship, and it’s easy to feel emotionally separated from a friend when physically apart. But, your friends are your friends no matter where they are or what they are doing (or they shouldn’t be your friends), and you are building a friendship together. Lean on the past, and hope for the future to find peace in the moment. Get a Love Box to remember more confident times or relive good memories; distract yourself with a book or go for a run; call a friend or send a buddy a quick text of encouragement; invite him to hang, or just tell him, “I love you, man”–all of these are products of trust. Trust your friends. Just because they have lives doesn’t mean they don’t still love you.
Instead of being an anxious mess gawking at your phone or computer screen, take advantage of your time alone by making the most of it. Honor your friends as well as your friendships by taking concrete action against the internalizing and isolating fear of missing out. Use this time to better your mental health, limit social media, reach out to friends, and tame your jealous, attention-seeking, nub-wiggling, annoying inner beast.
A final note: as a man, this can be a difficult concept to discuss. Guys don’t like to admit that we are emotionally attached to buddies or that we have a desperate jealous pup inside of us. But, anyone can be affected by FOMO, male or female. A man should prioritize depth in relationships, and therefore, have friendships he doesn’t want to lose. Understand that you’re no less of a man with relational anxiety. And, if you are, then I am too.