Our inherent fear of missing out – or FOMO to the hashtag savvy – is a syndrome that haunts us in the modern era. Svend Brinkmann, professor of psychology at Aalborg University in Denmark, says it is driven by several different factors.
Social media is perhaps the biggest culprit, as it often forces you to compare yourself to others who are displaying the most wonderful aspects of their lives. He says it can make you think inward, and develop an unhealthy urge to constantly change yourself to match your own experiences with the ones you see online. Combine this pressure with the modern consumer culture, where marketing tells you that you can always have something better, and it’s easy to understand the scope of the FOMO epidemic.
“It takes practice to willingly miss out on all the possibilities,” Brinkmann says. But if you take steps to recondition yourself – and withdraw from these demands to consume and change – there is a lot of pleasure that can be derived from disengagement. It can open you up for deeper connections to the world and deeper relationships to other people, he says – and ultimately, bring you more joy.
Brinkmann advocates for designing our environments in ways that make it easier for us to miss out, and focus on what’s important. It’s not enough to develop willpower individually, he says. Reducing temptations around our lives and spaces is key.
Watch the video above to hear more from Brinkmann, and to rethink the fear of missing out.
This video originally appeared on BBC Reel’s ReThink, a series featuring distinguished people from all walks of life as they challenge our preconceived notions of the world.