Let’s say you are on the train returning home from work on a Friday evening. As you sit in silence, you realize that you should make the most of your time by checking all of your social media accounts, just in case you’ve missed something. You go on Instagram and see friends posting impressive photos of themselves in front of the Grand Canyon and the Eiffel Tower. Another person you follow posts a group picture from a party with red plastic cups visible in the background. Suddenly, your relief about having a relaxing, sober weekend has been eclipsed by negative thoughts such as “What am I doing with my time?” and “I must be really dull.” Rest assured, you are not the only one with these thought patterns.
This is a classic case of FOMO – the fear of missing out. At some point, everyone worries that they are not doing enough to build fulfilling lives for themselves. You might feel pressured to make exciting plans for the weekend or even grander arrangements to [travel somewhere thrilling](https://mountainside.com/blog/recovery/traveling-while-sober-what-you-need-to-know). At other times, you might fear that you have not formed enough friendships or worry that your existing connections are only superficial. Maybe you think there is something your friends aren’t telling you, and you fear being out of the loop. These anxieties are always stressful, but they can be especially damaging if you are recovering from addiction.
The fear of missing out can threaten your sobriety by creating feelings of [anxiety, isolation, jealousy, and inadequacy](https://mountainside.com/blog/mental-health/anxiety-and-negative-self-talk-how-to-cope-with-your-inner-critic). You might specifically miss the euphoria that drugs and alcohol once provided or become frustrated that you cannot visit certain places with your friends because activities like partying or [going to music festivals might jeopardize your recovery](https://mountainside.com/blog/drug-addiction/drugs-headline-music-festivals-across-the-country). These thoughts impact your mental health over time and can even trigger a relapse.
FOMO affects everyone at some point, but younger people are especially prone to it, especially with the popularity of social networking sites. College students are constantly reminded that they are in the prime of their lives, which creates added pressure to socialize and have fun. Social media can help form and sustain friendships, but it can also invite unnecessary comparisons. And while social media is not the only factor that feeds into the fear of missing out, it certainly can have a damaging impact on mental health, even leading to [depression or anxiety disorders](https://mountainside.com/blog/mental-health/why-we-need-to-talk-about-mental-health). However, it is important to remember that social media accounts do not paint accurate representations of other people’s lives, and someone who seems to have it all is most likely facing their own inner struggles.
It might sound cliché, but the best way to reduce your fears is to focus on the positive. The main cause of FOMO is a lack of self-esteem. So, shift your attention away from negative thoughts like “What if my recovery doesn’t last?” or [“What if being sober means I’ll never feel happy again?”](https://mountainside.com/blog/recovery/5-ways-to-keep-your-sobriety-and-social-life) Instead, remind yourself of the strides you have made in your recovery so far and the substance-free fun you will continue to have, whether through discovering new hobbies and insights on your own or sharing different experiences with loved ones. When you take away the pressure to constantly have fun, you can relax and start to genuinely enjoy yourself.