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The New Social Anxiety—Fear of Missing Out

Do you have an uneasy and sometimes all-consuming fear that others are doing something or experiencing something that you're not? If so, you may be suffering from a new form of social anxiety called "FOMO," or the Fear of Missing Out. The term, first identified by marketers in the mid-'90s, refers to the sometimes energizing, sometimes terrifying anxiety that you are missing out on something absolutely terrific. It could be a party, a new movie, a special relationship (a spouse, a child, a friend, or a grandchild), or a delicious romantic dinner.

FOMO is an age-old problem that has accelerated thanks to real-time digital-updates and the smartphone. Social media expert Marc A. Smith explained it this way: "Those who used to dine behind thick stone walls and had caviar now do so, Tweet about it, and can be seen by those sitting down to dinner at Chipotle's." In The New York Times Jenna Wortham wrote about a friend who works in advertising who told her that she felt fine about her life—until she opened Facebook. The friend said, "Then I'm thinking, I am 28, with three roommates, and, oh, it looks like they have a precious baby and a mortgage. And then I [wanted to] die." Wortham claims that social media updates can make our simple domestic pleasures pale in comparison with all the fun things we could or should be doing.

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