No Sense Friday: FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)

Letting go of things is reason to celebrate, not cringe

high-angle photography of grocery display gondola

Back in the 90s, there were about 7,000 items in your average supermarket. That’s already a lot of stuff to choose from, but today, that number is as high as 50,000.

That’s 50,000 choices, 50,000 yeses or nos - from one trip to the grocery store. Given there are many more important things than doing our daily shopping, and almost each of them comes with a similarly outsized wealth of options, who wouldn’t feel stressed?

A nifty little concept to capture this anxiety we feel when we have too much freedom is FOMO - the fear of missing out.

  • Can’t decide which stocks to buy? FOMO.

  • Wait till the last minute to pick the best event to go to? FOMO.

  • Feel conflicted between dating two guys? FOMO.

In The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz explains why too much choice is bad for us:

  • Analysis Paralysis: It’s easier to pick one out of two shoes than one out of fifty. With more options, we spend more time analyzing and get stuck. This often means we choose to do nothing at all for a long time - and that’s bad.

  • Anticipated Regret: If there are millions of options, you should be able to find the perfect one, right? Wrong. Perfect almost never exists. But with so much choice, we think it has to - and therefore face immense pressure to get each choice right.

  • Postdecision Regret: This imagined perfect choice sticks with you long after you’ve decided. So no matter what you pick, if you had too many options, you’ll be more likely to regret the choice later - and think it’s your fault.

  • Escalated Expectations: The more choice we have, the higher our expectations become. So even if we objectively do better thanks to more options, subjectively, we feel worse - because our expectations have risen even more.

FOMO is at the heart of modern-day unhappiness. The first step of fighting it is to recognize it when it happens. The second is to realize: it makes no sense!

Not all of us still remember simpler times, but if you’re lucky enough to do, remind yourself: we used to make do with what we had in almost all areas of life.

There was no internet, only 10 pairs of shoes at the store, only 3 cars in your price range, only 2 girls you liked in your local group of acquaintances, and none of it meant the end of the world. As we now know, it made us happier.

Forget FOMO. Find JOMO. The joy of missing out. Be glad you have fewer options. Think about what you want, then pick the first thing that meets your standards, and don’t look back.

Don’t let the world turn you into a nervous wreck. You’re in control. Exercise it. Not just at the grocery store, but that place is definitely a start.


About No Sense Friday: Most people live for Friday. Relaxing on the weekend is fine, but we can’t just waste it away every time. That’s why Friday is the most important day to call out things that make no sense. Because in a way, the concept of ‘Friday’ itself makes no sense.

A good life is lived every day, not just once a week.

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