The people who know me know that I am not a technologically gifted person. I fully admit that Mrs. ROB is head and shoulders ahead of me in this realm. Hell, I didn’t even get a smart phone until October of 2016. The fact that I was able to follow directions and create this blog is somewhat of a minor miracle. One of the great modern wonders of technology is our connection to social media. Here, I am also somewhat behind the times. I have a Facebook account and Twitter, but I don’t use social media platforms like Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, or whatever new one what be gaining attention. And I am ok with this. Yet I admit that when I see posts on my social media account or other blogs who are FI I have huge pangs of FOMO (fear of missing out). For people who are traveling, going out to great restaurants, seeing concerts, becoming FI or whatever it might be I always have a pang of oh I wish that was me. A lot of this comes from notions of social comparison theory where we compare ourselves to others that can be both good or bad, but when it comes to social media, other bloggers, and the personal finance world I have a serious case of FOMO and I have to actively use strategies to get over it or it will drive me crazy.
I think a lot of us suffer from FOMO. It always seems, particularly in blog posts or social media, that our lives could be better. I should be doing more. I deserve more (even when I really don’t). It is enough to drive everyone batshit crazy. Or if you try to engage your fear you could put yourself in the financial poor house. So the following are some strategies I use to try to manage FOMO.
Strategies to Conquer the Fear of Missing Out
First, acknowledging your situation is unique and common at the same time. Now you make look at that rule and wonder what the hell am I talking about. One truth that comes from Dr. Phil is that you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge. I absolutely believe that to be true. Part of that comes from my own published research in how people apologize. Those people who don’t acknowledge their mistakes and give a full accounting of it never achieve a “true” apology. Saying your sorry isn’t enough. And not acknowledging what is going on with yourself and your part in it can be a huge detriment to dealing with it.
Now what I mean by acknowledging something that is unique and common is that all of our individual circumstances are somewhat unique, but I think a lot of people would relate and even have the exact same thing happen to them. So they are unique and common at the same time. I have to remind myself that my own journey to financial independence is unique. It is MY journey and nobody else’s. I make the rules. At the same time, there are a lot of mistakes and positives that I have engaged in that others have done to reach FI. Thinking about those things and working them through is a fundamental way to manage this fear that you are missing out on something. Just because someone appears to be having the time of their lives means they actually are. They have their own troubles and fears to deal with. Nobody is perfect.
Second, making some deep connections to the people, places, and things around you. When it comes to FOMO I think it occurs most for me with work and places to live. I love my job, but sometimes I wonder if there is more out there or what it would’ve been like had I taken that job closer to home or whatever. You could make yourself crazy running through different scenarios. One of the things I have tried to do in my work is to make connections with different parts of my university so that I see some payback from the time that I am putting in. For example, I do a lot of work with advising and I admit that I love doing it. It doesn’t hurt that they pay me a bit during the summer, but I love helping people. I wouldn’t get the same opportunities as others. Also, there are some benefits I have at this job that colleagues at more prestigious universities don’t get. I mean I have gotten some great opportunities here to take students to places like Greece and South Africa, attend conferences on 3 different continents, and to teach/conduct workshops in China. Not many other people get to do that. And it adds a little perspective for me. It grounds me more when I see others doing this or doing that. Those connections keep me tethered and relieves some of the FOMO that seems to pop up all of the time.
Third, go on a social media diet. One of my former students is off social media for an entire year. Talk about a great experiment. I don’t know if I would go that far, but there are times when I try to disconnect from all social media for at least 48 hours or more. I need to decompress. I need to not see what other people are doing. It is ok to be zen with my own well-being, which is really difficult for me because I am always thinking and planning ahead. My brain just works that way. I am always looking for the next option or try to figure out a new strategy. Going on a social media diet prevents me from “envying” what everyone else is doing.
Fourth, learning to stay the course. Since this is a personal finance blog is that I try to live by the lessons that I put forward here. For example, I have advocated the benefits of index fund investing. However, there is always a little specter in the back of my head that says if I only switched to this fund that I would make more money or I would buy stock. For example, just over a year ago Apple’s stock had plummeted to about $90 a share. I seriously thought about buying about $20k worth of Apple stock because it is such a good company. Today that stock price $150. So I missed out on some big returns. However, I had to remind myself that 1) that stock price might not last; 2) I already own Apple stock. The mutual funds I buy have Apple stock within them. So I actually already own a piece of Apple, along with other companies. Now my mutual funds didn’t go up over 50% in the last year, but that is to be expected. I have implemented the strategy of the tortoise and the hare and the tortoise always win. For two years I have had really good gains in the market and I did before that, but I didn’t totally get into index investing until about 2 years ago. Now my strategy is just to ride these funds until I retire. I have kept to that strategy. I have not chased returns and I won’t do so. I will stay the course with my investments, even if it looks like I could do better elsewhere.
Finally, indulge your FOMO a bit. Ok, this isn’t a strategy that I have done, but I think I need too. I see people going on vacations or getting away for the weekend there a number of excuses (typically financial and they are truly financial) that I can use to not get away or go on an extended stay or buy something, but it probably is a good thing to indulge the FOMO a bit. I mean I hate the phrase YOLO because I think it is bullshit and leads to a lot of bad choices. At the same time, if always have your nose to the grindstone and never look up to smell the roses you can and will miss life passing you buy. So I have to learn to live a little. Take the reins off of a bit. And it doesn’t have to be something expensive, but can be a way to spend some extra money. My big litmus test would be that it doesn’t put me further in debt. If it doesn’t do that then I need to learn to say a bit more to yes than no.
What about you? Do you have FOMO? How do you deal with it? Share your perspectives in the comments below.