The new iPhone 7 is coming next Spring, and the Galaxy S6 this Summer! Every year we're programmed to believe we need a newer version of our now seemingly outdated phone. When we see our friends sporting the latest device, we instinctively feel fear that what we currently own isn't good enough. Sound familiar?
This anxiety is commonly known as FOMO: The Fear of Missing Out. Everything we have and everything we do are mere placeholders for the more beautiful, more exciting, "more better" things.
- The "more better" laptop we'll stand hours in line for at the Apple Store.
- The "more better" party we'll rush to, leaving a perfectly good one.
- The funnier, sexier, "more better" person we text, in case our partners aren't really "the one."
...wait, what? FOMO applies to love too?
Yes. I call it Commitment Fomobia. It's like Commitment Phobia, but upgraded for the 21st Century.
And if you're susceptible, commitment fomobia is probably coming soon, to a perfectly good relationship near you.
So entrenched is the FOMO idea, that the 2013 edition of the Oxford English Dictionary had to acknowledge our insatiable desire to keep up with the Joneses, the Kardashians, or whoever is currently tweeting the best life of the day.
FOMO is defined as the "anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website."
If the wave of dating apps and steady decline in marriages is any indication, FOMO most definitely plagues the very thing we say want most: Lasting romantic love.
In fact, FOMO is the unspoken foundation of sites like OKCupid and Match.com. It is the irresistible, "Keep playing" tenet of Tinder.
"Go ahead, everyone's doing it," say the pretty app graphics.
"Don't stop looking!" tease the reserve of profile pics.
One more swipe, one more tap, one more peek at who might be out there. The partner possibilities are too numerous not to postpone your love connection. Right?
Wrong. When you apply the culture of limitless choice to romantic love, things get tricky. Especially for those who are already running scared. Think this might be you? Let's see.
You might be a Commitment Fomobe if...
- Your decision to commit is immediately sabotaged by a preoccupation with your single past. As soon as you decide you're "all in," you miss the good old days of unattached freedom, easy flirting, and the untapped potential of former relationships.
- The comforting, lazy river of feelings that accompany relationship milestones are often replaced with more exciting, water-themed relationship ideas...like diving back into the dating pool or casting a wider net for those other fish in the sea.
- The happy photos on your coupled friends' mantles and coffee tables seem to poke holes in your suddenly humdrum, second-rate relationship.
- Your stable relationship does little to quell the vicarious pangs of jealousy prompted by your single friends' romps through Blendr and Hinge. That could be you! (Should that be you?)
- You can't enjoy a quiet evening at home without feeling guilty or left out. You worry that you're settling for less or giving up on the idea of more.
- Your current relationship feels too easy. Which of course, means it can't be right. You fret that you're not dating the best person you possibly can.
- The "coulda woulda shouldas" of your imaginary, upgraded life stalk your real one like a persistent, restless shadow.
In short, you're waiting for that "Life Is Amazing" feeling. If only you could find the right person ...and still feel amazing about it when you do.
Are Millennials Marrying?
Time Magazine recently reported the findings of Pew Research Center concerning marriage among Millennials. The article's title, "Why 25% of Millennials Will Never Get Married," may give you a clue as to where we're headed:
- Thirty percent of Millennials surveyed blamed their singleness on an inability to find the right person. But perhaps it's just a matter of too many existing options?
- Twenty-seven percent feel they haven't secured enough financially. But, for Americans especially, do we know when enough is really enough? Perhaps our "desire for more" has created unreasonable expectations of success.
- Twenty-two percent claim they're just not ready to settle down. Or could it be they are simply scared to death that settling down means settling too soon, for too little?
The Fear Of Missing Out can be clear symptom of, and defensive response to, an even greater fear of romantic commitment and intimacy.
True intimacy, shouldn't be rushed, constantly questioned, or endlessly tempted by Tinder 24/7. If that's what you're experiencing, you've got some work to do.
7 Ways to Overcome Commitment Fomobia
To beat Commitment Fomobia, commit to eradicating your fears. Here's how:
Love is not a needle in a haystack.
While dating sites and apps abound, common wisdom states that finding true love is very difficult. The harder the search, the deeper the love. Except it's not true. There is no rhyme or reason to finding love. Your future partner could be the neighbor who just moved in next door. Or the barrista that serves you coffee every day.
Love is not a needle in a haystack, where we have to keep searching to find the best soulmate. When we give in to the randomness of life, love comes calling.
Look carefully. Do you really believe that Jack's Instagram "action shots" weren't staged? Are you really jealous of Jill's dazzling selfies, when you know that she's edited herself almost beyond recognition?
Talk yourself through all the social media hocus-pocus. You're simply dealing with savvy social media presentation and numerous sins of omission! A perfect profile is not the marker of a perfect life.
Evaluate those profiles, streams, feeds, and posts the way you would a real life person. Who's more appealing to you -- the real person or the one skilled in smoke and mirrors? Respect vulnerability and cultivate it in yourself. It's the only thing that's real.
Investigate your fears. Then conquer them.
What do you do when social media inspires a steady flow of shame, jealousy, and longing in you? Can you admit it? Or do you rush to cover up the "negative emotions" with a few posts of your own?
When feelings of fear, jealousy, and panic surface, don't judge or suppress them. Instead, sit with your thoughts. Write them down. Think.
These emotions are clues to uncovering their root cause. Ask yourself: what event or thought drove you to these emotions? What fear or belief is underneath?
Resist that knee-jerk urge to reach for your phone. Even if you're the only smartphone rebel, turn if off or put it away. Practice paying full attention to whoever is in your presence. It will pay off -- true, undivided listening is increasingly rare. You can bet people notice when they're on the receiving end.
Explore your fantasies. Become your ideal mate.
Having fantasies and desires is natural, normal, and good. Notice the details of your favorite romantic fantasy: what are you doing? How do you feel? Often, the person of your dreams is the you of your dreams. The qualities we dream of in a mate are usually the qualities we wish to possess. If you feel incomplete now, you'll feel incomplete later, even with the perfect mate. Identify what makes you feel "whole" -- then cultivate it.
Being harsh and critical of your own choices doesn't make you happier or safer. Don't gas the engine of self-criticism. Trust you're doing the right thing.
When your thumb is hovering between the "Keep Playing" and "Send a Message" options consider choosing the person over the infinite possibilities. Get a little uncomfortable, be a bit awkward. Risking vulnerability will get you some place deeper. Down where the heart stuff happens, where love really lies.
In the end, doesn't that beat swiping left?
George Sachs is a clinical psychologist, specializing in the testing and treatment of adults with ADD/ADHD. The Sachs Center is on Manhattan's Upper West Side.