FOMO. If you don’t know what that is, notice if the not knowing makes you feel like you’re missing out. Because that’s exactly what it is: Fear Of Missing Out. FOMO is the craving to be in the know by seeking out every news story, getting every alert, checking email, texts and social media obsessively.
In a strange twist, the fear of missing out causes us to miss out! The mind is so restless, we can’t be present in this moment, fully engaged. For our well being, how we are in relationship to what arises in our experience is more important than how much we know about what’s going on in the world. There are ways to stay informed without getting lost in the process. But first, let’s look more closely at this FOMO phenomenon.
Explore the fear.
If FOMO is the fear of missing out, what is that fear about? What is the driving force in this need to be in the know at every moment? If you feel this is pertinent for you, take time for gentle inquiry. [Read more on self-inquiry.]
Let go of labels
Part of the habituated pattern of FOMO might show up as the fear of missing out on knowing who we are. If at the end of this exercise, you feel you have discovered you are a ___________ (fill in the blank), then do the exercise again, from a deeper place. Labels mean nothing and only cause delusion. Instead of labeling, look at the way causes and conditions of life have interacted and continue to interact with the habituated patterns of thought and emotion that humans have developed over time to cope with life as it presents itself.
Develop more skillful patterns
When it comes to staying informed, be honest in assessing your actual needs. Check your intentions as you intake news. What news do you need to make you an informed citizen able to vote wisely? What news do you need to be sure you and your loved ones are safe? What news do you need to assess ways you can be of service in your community?
This is a critical time to pay attention because there is a lot at stake! The health of our species, the very existence of our democracy, the inequities that abound, and the well-being of the planet and future generations of all species, including ours, are all at stake. So, we do need to pay attention and not turn away. But we can winnow down our exposure and enhance our ability to respond.
When it’s time to turn away
- If talking heads begin to speculate on the future, turn away. They’re just filling airtime.
- If they are rehashing news you’ve already heard, turn away.
- If anyone is ranting, turn away! That’s their fear-based opinion, not factual reporting.
- If there’s a banner across the bottom of the screen giving headlines with talking heads above, turn away! We’re training our minds to focus here, and that just jumbles the brain.
Choose your news sources
Instead of just finding sources that agree with you, stroking your ego and stoking your emotions, find ones that have journalistic integrity as their top priority. And have more than one source to give yourself some balance. Consider print media, online or paper, not just broadcast. Find balanced reportage and limit even that. Remember that they have airspace and pages to fill. Not every day requires all that time and space.
Pay attention to your sources intentions
“If it bleeds, it leads” is a long-time slogan of the news industry. Keeping as many eyes engaged as possible keeps their advertisers happy. Bills have to be paid. But do you need to know every gory story? No, you don’t. It just builds the idea that the world is an awful place. Remember that it’s news because it is unusual. They won’t get viewers or readers by saying what a nice day the neighbors had. And even the neighbors on Nextdoor might be more inclined to share bad news. (Kudos to my neighbors who often share delightful news!)
Connect wisely with community
If you engage in social media, choose the one that best satisfies your need for connection without activating your negativity bias. Unfollow anyone who is always stirring up anger. Look for the helpers, the peacemakers, the creative problem solvers, the sharers of joy and delight. Enjoy deep discussions about things that matter to you. And take time off… a lot of time off!
Know your limits
No one can keep up with everything that is happening all over this planet and beyond. Recognize the information that is useful in your life, that helps you make informed decisions, that increases your capacity for compassion without drowning you in misery, that sparks creativity so you can skillfully contribute in some way. These are the kinds of life-enhancing observations you can make that will allow you to use your innate curiosity in a way that is beneficial rather than causing suffering.
Come to your senses
With all the extra time you reclaim by being more selective, you can enjoy being in the present moment with full sensory awareness. Fully tuned in, you are your best news source! And the news is good.