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How to deal with fomo: start by cleaning up your social media feed

Saying ‘yes’ to everything for fear of missing out is exhausting. So is the incessant scrolling we do to keep ourselves in the loop

Fomo – that’s the fear of missing out. It’s the anxiety that exciting or interesting things are happening elsewhere, without you. A night out, a lunch, a weekend away, a work meeting – everyone else is living their best life, forging ahead, seizing opportunities, strengthening bonds, making memories and having a totally epic time.

“Fomo is a perception that leads to an emotional response where we believe we are missing out on events, activities or opportunities,” says Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy-accredited counselling psychologist Jade Lawless.

Fomo can be amplified by social media. “Other people’s lives are so much more accessible now. We can see what they are doing all the time. Social media postings set a really high bar and that drives our fomo,” says Lawless. “We believe others are living more satisfied and fuller lives than us.”

Is fomo bad?

Fomo is linked to our need for love and belonging which is one of the most basic needs, says Lawless. “When we feel that need is not being met, our natural instinct is to seek it out and that can lead us to compromising our other needs around downtime and sleep,” she says.


Saying “yes” to everything for fear of missing out is exhausting. So is the incessant scrolling we do to keep ourselves in the loop.

She references the “paradox of choice” theory – in a world of possibilities, we can find it hard to say “no” to anything. If we do choose something, we worry if we have made the right decision.

“With fomo comes this compulsion to maintain social connection and it can lead to quite significant anxiety if we don’t,” says Lawless. “That results in us sometimes compromising our own boundaries. We end up missing out on meaningful and real-life connections because we fear we might be missing out on something better.”

Who’s at risk?

Young people are most at risk of the negative effects of fomo, says Lawless. They can experience feelings of social comparison just as they are forming their own identities. Extroverts, who are more likely to seek external connection with people, can fall foul of fomo too. For someone with social anxiety, fomo can exacerbate feelings of being alone.

How do we fix it?

To control feelings of fomo, set a daily limit to social media usage, says Lawless. Clean up your feed, ridding it of those who spike feelings of missing out. Remind yourself that not everything is as it seems.

Have a fomo plan. When you start to feel left out or “less than”, do something to shift your mood – that could mean making plans with a loved one, exercising or journaling.

Cultivate ‘jomo’

The balm for fomo is jomo – that’s the joy of missing out. “Jomo gives us a little bit of permission to live in the slow lane and be more intentional with our time,” says Lawless. “There is a joy in saying ‘no’, to reconnecting with yourself and to switching off.”