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FOMO (the fear of missing out) is a fairly common phenomenon, especially in this digital age. It can cause you significant stress and anxiety, but luckily psychologists have come up with a few tricks to combat it.

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Why wasn't I invited?! Do they not like me?!?! You might have experienced this downward spiral of emotion we call FOMO, or the fear of missing out.

We live in a digital age, where you can make connections and have instant access to other people's lives with the tap of a finger. But, the non-stop flood of content means you might come across something you weren't invited to. And that anxiety you feel can be awful — but luckily, psychologists have been studying what FOMO is and why it happens, and they've come up with a few tricks to combat it.

The buzzy acronym is thought to have originated in the world of marketing and business in the early 2000s, but with the rise of internet culture, it has become a widespread phenomenon. But it isn't a new one. You see, FOMO is really just a modern take on our innate need to belong to a group — a need which traces all the way back to our earliest ancestors that formed social groups for survival.

Our species is exceptionally social. More so than any other primate species to our knowledge, we have evolved to rely on cooperatively living in groups to survive. And that's great, except that when survival relies on inclusion, being left out may literally be a death sentence.

So it's no wonder that humans start to feel a bit anxious when they see members of their social group doing awesome things without them. Of course, nowadays, you won't be left in the wild alone to fend for yourself if you're not invited to a party. But it still kind of feels that way — and you still experience a stress response to the perceived threat.

Like other fears, FOMO is triggered by activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain that controls the “fight or flight” response. And that stress hurts. It doesn't matter that there's no direct damage to your body occurring — several studies have demonstrated that the effects of social pain, like being excluded or experiencing a loss, really do activate the same parts of the brain as physical pain.

While all that explains why we feel FOMO, it doesn't really give us any clues to combating it. The first step to figuring that out is being able to measure it. So, a group of researchers in 2013 collected data from over 1000 participants to develop a psychological assessment tool which specifically measured FOMO.

And they found that higher FOMO scores correlate with lower scores in mood, general well-being, and overall satisfaction with life circumstances. So, the FOMO is real, and it sucks. To understand how it develops psychologically, in more recent studies, researchers have started viewing the phenomenon through the lens of self-determination theory.

That states that humans have three innate psychological needs for proper psychological development and self-motivation: Autonomy, Competence, and Relatedness. Autonomy is the need to be self-sufficient, competence is the desire to excel at something, and relatedness is the need to belong and be connected with others. Essentially, your fulfillment in these three areas explains what motivates you, both internally and externally.

And research has suggested that when these needs aren't met, that's when we feel FOMO. Studies have found negative correlations between FOMO and psychological needs satisfaction. And in particular, people who score low on relatedness or high on needing to belong experience more FOMO.

Which makes sense — if you feel less connected to your peers, you feel more anguish at the idea of being left out. Researchers have also found that FOMO is exacerbated by something called individual relative deprivation: the degree to which a person feels they are being deprived of something they should have based on social norms. Basically, FOMO seems to be worsened by comparing yourself to your social peers, especially if those peers seem to be better or happier than you.

And nothing sets you up for constant comparison with your peers like social media. That's probably why FOMO is strongly tied to social media use. Studies have found that high FOMO scores correlate with increased Facebook use, even when people find using social networking to be stressful.

So it may be a vicious cycle — you feel FOMO, so you check social media, and that only proves you are missing out, so the feeling deepens. But it doesn't have to be that way. Studies have also found that FOMO correlates with authentic self-presentation on social media — that is, actually sharing your real feelings and what you're doing in life, rather than a glossier version.

That, in turn, is associated with better well-being, presumably because being real fosters more meaningful connections. And this might explain the somewhat murky conclusions studies have come to regarding social media use and things like depression. For some people — like those with low FOMO, or whose FOMO leads them to be more real — it's possible that being online is harmless, or even helps foster connections.

But for others, especially people with high FOMO, scrolling through Twitter or Facebook and seeing all the fun they're not having could worsen their anxiety. Since social media is one of the primary ways we connect as a society, more research is needed to understand how our constant exposure to other people's lives influences FOMO or is influenced by FOMO, and whether it varies by person or by platform. Even without fully understanding the relationship between social media and FOMO, though, psychologists have a few ideas as to how to feel less of it.

FOMO stems from outward perceptions, so to combat it, the research suggests turning inward to reflect on your own motivations and happiness — in other words, self-care. Some people find that journaling, meditation, and other mindfulness practices are good ways to reflect inwards instead of focusing on what's happening — or not happening — around you. The key is breaking the loop of being stuck in FOMO, and to be in the present moment.

So, the next time you find yourself wishing that you could experience what others have in your social media feed, unplug and focus on yourself by experiencing something that brings you joy instead. After all…YOLO! Of course, every once in a while, you might feel like you're missing out because you are — like, if you're not watching Crash Course Business: Soft Skills.

It's produced by Complexly, just like SciShow Psych. And in it, Evelyn From the Internets teaches you how to tackle the job search and use the skills you already have to stand out in the workplace. She goes over everything from written and spoken communication, to resumes, interviewing, negotiations, time management, and teamwork.

There are 17 episodes in all, and you can check out the first video about building trust by clicking the link in the description! [♪OUTRO].