Are you FOMO-ing your life away?

Two and a half years ago I deleted my personal Facebook account.

Biggest reason for the change: I was wasting a lot of time reading about other people’s lives instead of living my own.

I’ve had fleeting thoughts of opening another account since we moved overseas. I know it’s an easy way to be ‘in the loop’ and I’ve been told numerous times that I missed out on an invitation to something because I don’t have a Facebook account.

Also, without cable television and a Facebook account I am embarrassingly in the dark on popular culture. In a few years Henry will keep me up to date, right?

So I have considered opening a personal Facebook account again and yet… I still feel that if I’d end up reading status updates of people I barely know at eleven o’clock at night instead of getting the sleep I need. I’d wonder why I wasn’t invited to something I saw pictures of on Facebook and spend too much time worrying about passive aggressive status updates of acquaintances (did I somehow offend them??).

So right now, having a Facebook account still isn’t for me. Yes, I know many of you love it and responsibly enjoy a great tool for sharing and connecting with friends. Perhaps some day I’ll feel ready to rejoin the Facebook world.

The other thing not having a Facebook account helps me with: Fear Of Missing Out.

Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) is just what it sounds like. You’re spending an afternoon at a park and instead of enjoying the moment, you’re looking at Facebook updates from friends attending a music festival and wishing you were there.

The title of Mindy Kaling’s book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? , aptly sums up FOMO.

People high in FOMO… feel less competent, less autonomous and less connected with others than people who don’t worry about being left out. – Stephanie Pappas for the Huffington Post

Ignorance is bliss. Really. That’s what I’ve learned since limiting my personal social media.

Sure, I may have fewer choices because I’m not connected and monitoring everything everyone else is doing. But I seem to have enough invitations and activities to keep myself and my family as busy as we want to be.

Have you experienced Fear of Missing Out? Do you think social media exacerbates FOMO?

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  • I agree with you. I’ve been deleting my facebook and reinstating on and off for the past few years but i always seem to reactivate it because i do wonder what i’m missing out on. I’m almost 20, so social networking is massive with people my age and i can understand why, but for me it does cause more problems than it’s worth. This post has finally given me that push to deactivate it long term and live life in the moment. Thank you.

    • I think Facebook is great and I know it works for most people. I just see that for myself, it’s a huge time waster and quickly turns into a negative. Maybe in the future I will feel I have the discipline to use it sparingly. For now I seem to have enough friends and activities without it.
      You’re 20! That is a big commitment to untether from Facebook. Well done and good luck!

  • Since joining facebook however many years ago (I was well behind most people joining) I have really enjoyed the ease of staying connected with family spread apart. The key for me is keeping my friend list to a minimum, no more randomly accepting friend requests from people who never bothered to talk to me in high school 20 years ago. I generally don’t spend more than a few minutes a day so I’m comfortable with that. My late night vice on the other hand? Pinterest.

    • Feeling left out never has been an issue for me on FB; spending too much time was though. I deleted FB for 4 months but I missed hearing about what my cousins were doing as we are spread throughout the country so I modified. I deleted “friends” I never communicated with on FB. I deleted all of my “likes” so I wasn’t getting a million posts from these things except the local places we frequent and would want to know of new exhibits, etc. And then I “muted” 3 people who were posting by the minute and clogging my day but who I couldn’t delete because they were family or local friends. Now I get a post every week or so instead of 50 a day. I even was able to trim back Pinterest to a reasonable level by only looking for what I use from it. If I feel that I am using either too much again. I do another unplug (my reset button).

    • I completely agree that it’s about keeping the friend list small. I often have a friend list purge. My rule is that if I have not interacted with them in more than 1 month, and they are not very old friends or family, they are gone. It sounds harsh, and I’ve had quite a few people try to re-add me, just because they want to “FB stalk” me, and I ignore their requests. For me, Facebook is just a tool to connect with the people I care most about or know in real life. The smaller my list is, the more content I feel.

    • Did you recently read a blog post about Pinterest and how it makes people feel inferior because your stuff never comes out as well? :) I have that issue, but I cannot stay away from Pinterest. It will suck me in if I get on there and I end up making up more folders for myself.

  • I love Facebook, but being in a new city, it has actually worked the opposite for me. I joined a twin moms group on FB and that’s how I met a bunch of people. they plan events and get-togethers, so I’m actually doing much more than I would have. That said, I can’t imagine telling a friend she didn’t get invited to something because she didn’t have a FB account. Personally I never use that event option to plan something – what’s wrong with a good old- fashioned personal invite or phone call? That’s just rude.

  • I don’t agree. Using facebook for just friends and events is very limited. I connect on Facebook with various potential employers, business and education communities, self improvement groups, i use it for finding ideas for my blog, so Facebook is really what you make of it. I did however switch off notifications because it felt like i was constantly online.

  • My first thought was “Gee I do not have that FOMO problem…” Then, “Oh NO! What if I am one of the folks generating/enabling other’s malcontent by my fabulous updates?” but I do not think that is true either. I say(and do) if you want to LIVE, DO IT! FB will only show you what you put out there. If you have issues, maybe it will help you see them…then it is YOUR choice to process and fix/adapt/change them. YOU can do whatever you want with your days. I just posted about how I WISH I lived in Colorado again, what I realized I liked about Colorado and how I brought that lifestyle into my “boring” Indiana life. Maybe this would be helpful to make your FB envy change? ANd when I say “YOUR” I mean ANYONE. I could struggle with it too, right?

  • I deleted my Facebook account over a year ago too and it was one of the best things I did. The honest truth is that I deleted it three times. Three years ago I deleted it (not disabled) and then felt that bit of “fear of missing out” and got back on six months later. I did that once more until my brain finally realized this unhealthy pattern. I don’t miss it whatsoever. Granted, I’m on Google+ and Twitter but I don’t use Google+ much these days and Twitter I use more for networking with people I don’t know. Though there was a time that I deleted all social networks and sometimes I consider doing that again, though I’m on few.

    I just watched a show the other day about people who were addicted to social networking. One guy was so addicted that he lost his job because he was on it all the time. One woman barely had a moment in her day when she wasn’t looking at her phone because she didn’t want to miss anything new and, as a result, is having a divorce because she is more present on her phone than in her marriage.

    I’m a big believer in good communication and, like Cherrill, I prefer a direct message or phone call. I think we’ve lost “personal” over the years. Everything is more convenient and impersonal. I remember watching one guy talk about text messaging and how he liked how he could invite everyone to a birthday party at once, with just one message. I understand this time savings but I think we focus too much on time savings and less on meaning and connecting. It’s kind of like the hand written card vs the text message. I’d take the hand written card any day. I think we have lost value in the effort put into things and are too worried about time running out. Though if we simplify our days, and remove things like Facebook, we will have an abundance of time.

    Really great post. Cheers to simplifying to live better, truer lives.

  • I spend way too much time on FB. When my 11 year old is asking me if I am on FB AGAIN I know that I have to pull back. I really do love the shopping I can do and sharing recipes and the workout group I am in, but I also find myself having to be more cognizant of the time I am on it. I agree with your post. FB envy happens, but I try to remind myself that no one is really going to post the shitty stuff that happened to them most of the time so I need to just be happy for them and move on. :)

  • I deleted my FB about 18 months ago. I first went 1 month w/o checking it (deleted the app off my phone as well) and realized I hadn’t missed a thing. I think FB generally encourages people to “over share” with things that used to be shared among close friends and family. You child is a 4.0 kid with a scholarship? That’s great, but pre-FB, would you have been sending email blasts to all the people you know? Probably not.

    In the end, I found it did not bring “good” into my life, and I didn’t like the envy (or feeling of in-adequateness) it sometimes brought out in me. While struggling with a teen of my own, it was hard to read about the “perfect” (no one posts about how terrible teens can be, lol) kids. If they are my nephews/nieces or children of good friends, I know about it anyway because I visit and see them. The other thing that sent me over the edge to delete was the political posts — even when I shared the viewpoint.

    Being FB-less, I’m missing out on some of my family (and extended family) news. I don’t see photos of babies/kids very often because they post them on FB (and I do feel a little bad when a sister sends an email with photos “because you’re not on FB”). I’ve considered re-joining and making it completely private except for my family, but I just have never gotten around to doing it (which tells me it’s not really a priority). I imagine I could “tune” FB as other have described, but I just don’t feel motivated to bother.

    For me it’s not about FOMO, it’s about bringing things into my life that I’d waste time thinking about. I’d rather just do other stuff.

    • I really appreciated your comment. I use FB a lot for spreading the word about my blog and my business so I’m not about to quit it because I have honestly gotten several referrals from my postings that were shared from friends, but I liked what you said about feeling inadequate or envying and it not bringing the best out in you. That was a very interesting thought and it is giving me something to think about. :)

  • One final thought. My kids are 18 and 21. I can’t tell you the number of times I’m thankful that smart phones were not part of our (or anyone’s) lives until my kids were almost grown up. It makes me really sad to see parents pushing their strollers with both of them staring down at their phones as they walked (as I did this week as I sat outside a Ben & Jerry’s at an outdoor mall). I’m not sure I would have had the discipline to stay away from it, but I’m really really happy my kids didn’t have to compete for time/attention to something I could (and probably would ) have carried in my pocket.

    • Another reason my husband and I don’t have iPhones. We have had them in the past and weren’t that disciplined with them. I understand not everyone has the same weaknesses as me. But I think we need more frank discussion out there, and honesty, that this is a problem for a lot of families.

  • I’ve toyed with deleting my Facebook account just because it seems at times to be so full of drama, pity parties, and whiners. My husband calls it Whinebook. But we live away from family and away from my husband’s kids, so for us, Facebook is a way to keep connected to our families. And for the record, if it wasn’t for Facebook, we wouldn’t get invited to any of my husband’s family get-togethers.

    • I do miss some of the connections with family and friends. I frequently send out reminders and requests for photos from friends – I know they post them on Facebook but often forget about their loner non-Facebook friend.

  • I have had the same doubts about facebook that you have and after much inner debate I went off it for a week. I didn’t miss it one bit! I found that my closest friends and I all connect over text. I wasn’t being distracted and wasting my time. I wasn’t always frustrated with facebook/my friends that no one was posting anything interesting to amuse me. I was doing what I wanted to do and feeling productive. So I left it too. I think you’re doing the right thing to prioritize the people you see and live in the moment where you’re at. Don’t let people jibe you into rejoining; it’s just another lie from our materialist society (“you need more stuff; you need more money; you need more friends!”).

  • I can see how FOMO happens and have been there myself but ultimately it is really up to us as individuals how we let social media affect us. I also don’t get a FB feed on my phone . I just login from time to time when convenient. People who would brag on FB are the no different from ones in the office etc. you can’t let it bother you. FB keeps me in touch with friend I haven’t seen in years and family overseas. I would otherwise not be in touch (missing out?!) with them with these little but meaningful interactions that let us continue to be in each other’s otherwise busy lives. The feeds also help me stay on top of authors, bands, groups I follow – news tailored to my interests. I have a rule, don’t friend or accept a friend request with anyone you have not personally met or with someone you would not at least go for coffee with. As for Pinterest, as a reform(ing) magazine horder it has really allowed me to let go and make my own ‘virtual’ magazines. I’m not jealous of the things I see there any more than on the pages of a magazine, see through shameless bragging and instead try to be happy for them – although that’s sometimes challenging! To each their own, but I feel that FB is here to stay…

    • Most of the people I know (even my 85 yo mother) are on FB, so I totally get that it’s insanely popular and works for most people. I just knew it was not working for me. That 20 minutes I could spend in the evening on FB wasn’t always enjoyable to me….and in some cases left me frustrated (political posts) or exposing less positive thoughts (why aren’t my kids this perfect?). So it didn’t make sense to take time away from me for something more productive (reading, exercising, doing dishes, lol) or the people I live with.

      I remember when I decided to “take a 30 day break” in Feb of 2011 (my job is so busy in January that I always use Feb 1 as my “new years” reset/reevaluation time), I posted it on FB (just so people would know I wasn’t ignoring them). There were numerous people who “liked” it and posted affirmations of it. Made me think I wasn’t alone in considering it.

      I will say I saw a good friend at a school meeting back in May and she was talking about her new camera and how she really liked how Prom pictures came out. She said “you saw them right?” and I was thinking how I knew she hadn’t emailed any to me and this was the first time I’d seen her. Then she said “oh right, you’re not on FB”. So she pulled up FB on her phone, handed it to me and I scrolled thru the photos. I figured that was just fine. And really? Would I have survived had I not seen other’s people kids in their Prom photos….yup! I doubt my parents ever saw 1 single prom photos of any of my friends!

      It’s great for people who enjoy it! Reading thru other people’s thoughts helps me reflect on my own.

  • No more FB here, either. So good to read that other people are FB-less as well, because I am, quite seriously, the ONLY person I know (besides my dad, and my father in law, I suppose) who does not have a FB account. I deleted it on Jan 1 of this year, and it has been quite freeing. I do use email to keep up with friends, and mail out pictures, and then it goes to only people I want to have see it. The security on FB makes me leery, honestly, though the biggest reason I deleted my account was exactly as you said, Rachel: I was spending time on there that I wanted to be directing elsewhere. I have missed out on some things, and there are some groups on there that sound interesting that my friends are part of, but frankly, we are quite busy and content. I am considering rejoining FB when we move next year, but we’ll see. It would certainly only be a temporary thing! But I must admit, I do feel radical and rebellious, not having a FB account! “Radically old-fashioned” is a quite I read in a book one time, and I love that thought!

  • Thank you for this. Its exactly what I needed. I took a fb break for lent, it was hard at first but I enjoyed it. So often during that break I would realize this weird pressure inside to “check in” and fb world know what my kids and I are up to, or hoe often random thoughts popped into my head that I “should post”. But I got over that, sadly I am back, but I envy those people that don’t use fb. I have 2 little boys, 4&2, and hate that I have more than a few times asked them to “hold on one Second” because I am om fb, or something. Your post encouraged me greatly to join the no more fb crowd! I am going to start fresh this weekend fb free and dont want to go back! I want to enjoy my kids and life, not be sucked into my phone and social media constantly!

  • I am SOOOOOO with you on this one. I think that if one is going to use FaceBook or any of those other social media sites, one has to have both a great deal of personal discipline and a willingness to be rude to people. Perhaps that’s putting it too bluntly, but when I had a FB account, I constantly felt dogged by friend requests, comments and “chats” from people I hardly knew… but who acted like they were my best friend of something.

    Maybe it depends on what positions you’ve held in life. Both in college and when I still had a job, I held positions that put me very much in the public view within my community. It wasn’t a bad thing, it just meant that there were lots of people who knew me, or knew of me, who I didn’t know at all! Back when I was still working I had various methods of shielding myself from the people who constantly wanted access to me (I had an assistant who screened all incoming calls, people generally had to make appointments to see me etc.) but once they all got unleashed on FaceBook it was like this flood of people who suddenly were acting like we were best friends. I didn’t want to be rude, but hey… just because I’m checking my FaceBook account at midnight doesn’t mean that I’m available to instant “chat” with some random person who I barely knew back in high school. Plus there was my crazy family who used it to “keep tabs” on me.

    I guess I could have just blocked those people or denied their friend requests, or ignored their comments, emails and chat requests… but that just made me feel like I was being rude.

    It was fun to reconnect with a few people that I’d lost touch with. But the thing is, when people from your past didn’t make it into your present, there’s usually a reason! I found that once I’d “caught up” with them, we really didn’t have anything meaningful to say to each other.

    Anyhow, my life got much, MUCH simpler once I closed the book on FaceBook, and I have absolutely NO regrets!

    • if one is going to use FaceBook or any of those other social media sites, one has to have both a great deal of personal discipline and a willingness to be rude to people

      This is what I hear from people that seem to manage their time and interactions on Facebook easily. They don’t accept all friend requests, they block people and edit their news feed ruthlessly.

      I can honestly say, I don’t have the discipline right now. The Internet and social media can be vast rabbit holes for me so I have to keep a watchful eye on how much time I spend on them.

      Interesting points about availability that you make. I think a lot of us, me included, struggle with the idea that we are available – on Skype, by phone – and take calls when it doesn’t suit us. Remember when the phone was never answered during the dinner hour (not hard because no one would ever call during the dinner hour!) and you wouldn’t dare call someone’s home after 9pm? Different times.

  • I, too, am happy to see this article in my email about disconnecting from Facebook! I have recently “unfriended” hundreds, cut back notifications, “unliked” pages, just cleaned it out all around. I am also limiting my time on there and have considered just shutting down my profile for a while. My husband is having a difficult time with his health and we are facing tough decisions. I find myself “hiding” in Facebook where it makes me feel like I’m “doing” something. But starting a few days ago, I do the absolute minimum, check online yard sales where I have stuff listed for sale or want to buy, check in with my Deaf Blind Mom in messages, look at new pics of my grandkids and then GET OUT. Yesterday, I actually pulled a book off the shelf and set it next to my night stand…

  • Your thoughts on FB really resonated with me. I have an acct but rarely check it. Last time I did, it seemed more full of ‘junk’ than ever – especially all the adds. I keep the acct because of the contact info – I don’t need to track people’s email addresses. Recently I went back to visit friends from our previous home time – was so convenient to message people that I’d be in town. During my visit, I connected with MANY friends Face-To-Face. The connection was invaluable – deep, heart-to-heart talks that never would have surfaced on FB.

  • So good to see someone else saying this. I am you but 2 years behind. I suffered terribly from FOMO… until one day I realised that I had been left out of an event a group of close friends had organised – I thought I was one of the group. It wasn’t a nice feeling.
    Suddenly the FOMO was being rubbed in my face. I was finding out that I really was missing out, fb or no. So I deactivated my account.
    The only problem is, I was the founder and a key member of a baby sling facebook group locally, so I know for a fact I’m missing out on a lot of that stuff now. But you know what? Being off fb is doing my mental health a lot of good.
    I feel pulled back a lot (I miss out on updates on my huge family… it’ll be harder to get to know my new running group… yadda yadda yadda) but I really hope I can hold out.
    Love the website :)

  • I go back and forth ALL of the time–I deactivate then re-activate my account. There are some things I really like about Facebook, but a lot of the time it just BUGS me! (and I get sucked in!)

    Something that has helped me (another commenter mentioned this too) is to be VERY particular about who’s on my friend’s list and be very careful what I post. I still sometimes want to delete my account, though. :)

  • I know this is an older post, but I stumbled upon it today through another article you were mentioned in.

    I just had to comment and say I loved your quote that you felt you were missing out on your own life b/c you were reading too much about other peoples lives.

    I’ve been on a Facebook break the last week, and it’s honestly been one of the nicest things ever. Trying to figure out if I want to go all out and quit altogether. It’s a little scary, but ultimately I think the benefits of less social media outweigh any of the cons.

    Great article!

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