The Fear of Missing Out

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Our culture and economic system thrive financially on making people feel not good enough. Clever marketers and their campaigns will suggest that such an uncomfortable feeling can quickly “evaporate” if you only buy something that will instantly make you feel great. It doesn’t matter if you can or cannot afford to pay for it; a credit card with a healthy balance will open all the doors for you.

Photo by Jon Cellier on Unsplash

When I still had FB on my phone, I scrawled down my feed, and every time I saw an advert for a program ranging from yoga to coding. I was intrigued and often willing to splash money on the new exciting, life-changing training. 

The messaging in those ads was targeted at people like me, who needed to improve their skills, just in case what they already knew wasn’t enough. The messaging was constructed on a fear of missing out. 

The same marketing technics apply across the world and a variety of industries. To force people into spending, companies and their marketing teams “only” have to create a void in people’s lives. Luckily, at the same time, they are quick to offer a solution to that void. The solution often involves spending and buying because, according to consumer standards, life without stuff is utterly unhappy and unfulfilled.

Many of us buy into that pressure to purchase things and experiences, just in case we were missing out on something. The more we give in to the messaging of not being enough, the wealthier the corporations that bombard us with those messaging become. 

Happily encouraging debt, living above our means, which in reality leads to settling for lesser jobs, agreeing to live in crappy apartments and astronomical rents, while being unable to fulfil our dreams. 

The conditioning of missing out runs deep into our subconsciousness, going all the way back to our early years. As kids, all those flashy, exciting adverts created strong urges to own everything and anything that was advertised on the telly.

In our home, we don’t have television, so my kids aren’t exposed to advertising unless Teenage M. watches YouTube or we are at my parents. I can very clearly see how advertising has influenced my son’s desires to buy unnecessary crap. It’s a tough job to constantly remind him about being a mindful consumer, but it’s an inevitable one.

Recently he even started lobbying for Alexa, but when I asked him to give me legitimate reasons why we needed it in our household, he just wanted to play me the advert to understand the purpose behind having Alexa.

Baby M., who is obsessed with Peppa Pig, doesn’t get any items with Peppa. She once followed a boy who had a Peppa balloon, but she was happy to change direction when I nudged her. I don’t want to teach her to buy stuff only because her favourite character is on the face of it, and this is what advertisers train children to do. 

The marketers work hard on linking pleasure and comfortable life with their products (that is why product placement in films, videos or programs is so treacherous). Once the connection in your brain has been made, nothing stops you from borrowing money to purchase stuff you may not need and cannot afford. 

None of us really misses out on anything if we don’t splash out on clothes during the seasonal sale. We also don’t need to replace perfectly good electronics with the newer versions only because the updated version is out. 

I stopped replacing my phone many years ago, and I only do it now when it’s broken beyond repair. Whether I have the newest phone or not, that has never been a topic of conversation in my life, and I never felt worst about myself for having a phone that is two+ years old.

The fear of missing out is just a fear that marketers hooked all of us on. Not buying into the culture of missing out isn’t going to make us less human, isn’t going to make us less curious about life or less attractive. But it will surely make us poorer, more stressed out and trapped in jobs we hate so we can pay for stuff we don’t even use or like.

The fear of missing out is nothing more but an artificial entity that is supposed to make us follow the crowd and be happy while spending beyond our means. From my own experience, I can say that the more I spent, the less happy I felt. And I constantly had this feeling that life was so much more than just earning and spending. 

Unfortunately, as long as people feel this need to spend, driven by the fear of missing out, the cycle of abuse of our natural recourses and our lives will continue. Don’t get pressured by the fake fear of missing out; focus on long term goals such as financial independence and security instead of giving your money away to corporations, which care very little for sustainability and, unless forced, don’t make sustainable changes to their products.

Focus on what your actual needs are and if needed, make radical changes in your life to accommodate freedom of choice without the fear of missing out.

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