I read a brief article last week about a problem that some psychology experts are calling a legitimate social anxiety–the fear of missing out (or FOMO). The author of the piece discussed situations, such as romantic relationships and friendships, in which a person may be suffering from FOMO. Then the author stated it’s possible to feel this way in your current job as well, especially if you’re not particularly satisfied in the position. I thought about this concept for a long time after I read that article because almost everybody I know has had that one job (or more) that falls short of expectations. What else can a person do if they’re unhappy except take the necessary steps to make themselves satisfied, professionally? Looking for another position or building your skill set are legitimate actions, and I don’t think it’s fair to assume that a person is suffering from a “social anxiety disorder” if they take these steps. I don’t believe that the article was making that conclusion necessarily, but I do think it made a lot of generalizations.

The identifying behavior for FOMO, as defined by the article, is constantly looking at social media or checking with friends to see if there’s something better, cooler, and more fun that you could be doing while you should be actively involved in your current social situation. This is extremely relevant, especially now in our smartphone-centered society. It seems as though almost everyone is on their phone while they’re out in social situations, so I’m not sure all of that behavior qualifies as social anxiety (especially when you think about it in terms of searching for a career). I’ve been told to continue improving myself and my skills and to keep an eye out for important opportunities that interest me, and I don’t think that type of behavior constitutes anything other than motivation and (good) ambition. I think what distinguishes a person dealing with FOMO (whether this is a real or imagined problem) from one who is motivated is how much time that person spends on certain activities. Even if your current job isn’t your dream job, I don’t believe you should slack off in your daily performance at that job; rather, you should give it your all so that you can be proud of your work. But, if you’re flaking off at work and compulsively looking for other opportunities (and not committing to anything long-term), that could be an indicator of FOMO.

A person should take pride in the work that they do and the legacy they’re creating. Maybe my current job is my lifelong career, maybe it isn’t. The only thing I can do in the meantime to make everything worthwhile is to do the best that I can in the position I am in. I wouldn’t expect anything less from myself because I’m my toughest critic. So, whether you’re “suffering” from FOMO or you’re unsatisfied with your career, current relationship, friendships, anything–take a step back and ask yourself why. Then take the necessary steps to achieve your desired outcome. No, it’s not as easy as it sounds, but I promise you the effort will be worth it in the end!