Fear of missing out (FoMO) and the practice of a discipline

Have you ever picked up your smartphone to check for messages and updates even if you hadn’t received any notification with its sound?

Have you ever opened your messaging apps to check if your message has been read?

Finding yourself in the office, at home, in the car, traveling, on holidays, scrolling your finger for a long time and seeing post after post on social networks?

If the answer is yes (and it is, don’t lie!), it means that at least once in your life you have experienced the “fear of missing out”.

Known by the acronym FoMO, it is a feeling that derives from a reaction of our system to the need for connection in social relationships.

According to the Self-Determination Theory (Deci and Ryan, 1985), a person’s psychophysical well-being depends on the satisfaction of three basic needs. The first is a need for competence, that is, to be able to act effectively in daily life. The second is autonomy, which allows you to give shape to personal initiatives. The third is the need to be in relationship with others.

The Internet and social networks have overstimulated this third need, providing tools to stay always connected.

Study, work, training: the center of socialization and activities is increasingly moving into the digital sphere.

By dematerializing one’s presence in a circle of contacts, the fear of being cut off is generated. Because there is little signal. Because they didn’t answer me. Because they did not put a like, a heart under my post. Because I have few followers. 

A fear that existed long before the Internet. But that has now spread like wildfire and not just among the youngest.

If we think about it, the fear of being left out is one of the reasons why people should follow the rules of the group they belong to. The sanction foreseen for the violation of a regulation or a law is based on this mechanism of preventive dissuasion.

It happens everywhere. Does it also happen in a Dojo? Yes of course.

The practice of a martial discipline can help dissolve FoMO through the small great gifts it brings with it.

Training means necessarily having to turn off your phone and physically detach yourself from it – or from a computer. And in fact the most frequent feedback after some time dedicated to training is that of having acquired greater ability to focus and a better time and agenda management.

Attending a Dojo obliges the individual to enter a space of physical relationship. A space where the practice itself requires physical contact. The inevitable initial awkwardness and stiffness, as well as non-functional movements, are the common beginner experience. But even people who have been training for some time, bringing their daily life experience compressed and contaminated by FoMO to the tatami, can find themselves rigid, disconnected, detached.

In other words, excessive exposure to the virtual paradoxically makes the experience of physical contact, the use of the body as a tool of expression and relationship, unnatural. However, persevering in this direction leads the person to be able to draw relationship perimeters based on their own active participation and not stimulated by the fear of exclusion.

Practice creates a path in which new skills are gradually learned. The competence acquired therefore allow a gradual expression of personal initiatives in the performance of increasingly complex techniques. All of this takes place in a relationship environment in which mutual rules of engagement are shared.

In other words, a path of discipline, in our case: martial, activates and rebalances the three components of self-determination mentioned above. Obtaining, in addition to the other positive effects, a greater awareness that reduces the exposure to the fear of being cut off induced by the virtual world.

But. There is always a but.

Like a fractal, the mechanisms that trigger FoMO can influence the dynamics of practice.

How many times have you gone to training driven more by “I have to be there” than by “I want to be there”?

How many times has it happened to seek consensus and recognition for our role? In other words, how many times have we searched for a “like” or a “heart” below our rank? How many times has “the next exam” become our only thought? A real well-disguised obsession?

How many times have we exchanged competence with authority, thus misunderstanding the real meaning of the exchange during practice? In other words: how many times were we physically connected and systematically disconnected, not present, empty?

Has it ever happened?

If the answer is yes (and it is, don’t lie!), it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. Simply that you are a person like everyone else and the others: walking on a path that can help you dissolve fears and make good use of the time dedicated to practice. Take a quick check of how you relate to your smartphone as well as your practice and just start from there.

All this will help you to better focus the “fear of missing out”, to face and fade it. This will for sure help you to make evident that kind of worries that are hidden beyond such attitude. Worries that limit and slow a full achievement of your targets and, like parasites, are sticked to behaviors, expressions and habits.

Disclaimer: picture by cotton bro from Pexels

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