Mental Health

FOBO: Are You suffering From The Latest Mental Health Issue?

Mental health is a big issue that affects one in four people around the world and since the advent of social media, conditions such as anxiety and panic attacks are increasing.

Sometimes it can seem as if everyone else on social media is having a better life than you. Whether they are showing off their home, what they wear, what they look like – which thanks to the abundance of filters available usually is not what they look like normally – or showing us the latest event they have attended.

Which can lead to users developing FOBO – or ‘fear of better options’. Similar to FOMO – Fear of Missing Out – FOBO can affect anyone who has had difficulties making the easiest of decisions. The thought of having to make that vital decision can bring you out in a sweat, make you feel nauseous and generally feel like if you choose the wrong option, you could be missing out on something even better.

Although FOBO sounds like a new thing invented for the “have it all” younger generations, it is in fact something that has been around forever, it is just that now there is a name for it!

Let’s think about it. Each day we have to make thousands of decisions from the mundane things such as what to have for breakfast, whether to watch the latest episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians or catch a movie, to the more important decisions including should I change my job or should I move homes.

The idea that more choices gives us more freedom can be challenged. For example, Netflix currently has 5863 different TV shows and movies showing and the choices at your local coffee shop can be mind blowing – especially with the new seasonal ranges.

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Yet even with all these choices, if you find yourself undecided or unsure many will accuse you of sitting on the fence, a phrase guaranteed to annoy someone making a decision, but it could just be that you are dealing with FOBO.

Patrick McGinnis, a US venture capitalist, created the term – he is also responsible for FOMO – and claims those affected by FOBO experience a feeling of being overwhelmed by the potential of what their decision could lead to, even if the end result is not certain. This in turn leads to the sufferer tending to stay away from commitment, or to some extent, committing then canceling before the decision can be carried out.

According to McGinnis, this type of behavior is not new but reflects our basic need of wanting the best of everything.

“Our ancestors a million years ago were programmed to wait for the best because it meant they were more likely to succeed. However, our ability to compare both options and ourselves via technology and social media has accelerated this tendency, sometimes escalating to crippling levels.”

Unlike FOMO which can affect anyone, FOBO seems to only affect those that have a higher income than most as “the richer you are, the more powerful you are, the more options you have. That’s when you start to feel it.”

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With the ever increasing number of choices given to us we should be happier, however research clearly indicates having so many options can lead us to be dissatisfied with our decision due to “decision fatigue.” A condition created when trying to work through all the choices on offer.

So maybe we should be presented with fewer options. A recent study tested the buying habits of customers with a store offering samples of jam, with either six or 24 being offered every other day. Surprisingly, out of those who were offered a choice of only six, 30% bought some jam, while out of those that were offered 24 choices only 3% spent any money. A clear indication that too much choice can be too overwhelming.

Unlike FOMO, which can sometimes improve our lives as we choose to do something we may not have tried before, FOBO can be more “destructive” as the principal fear seems to be the “fear of letting go.”

McGinnis comments “in order to choose something you must let go of another thing and it’s the fear of having to mourn the road untaken. So we would rather not decide at all and keep our options open.”

But do not worry, there are several ways you can overcome FOBO. McGinnis has several suggestions:

“For everyday things, I do what I call ‘Ask the Watch’. I whittle something down to two options and then assign each item to a side of my watch. Then I look down and see where the second hand is at that moment. Decision made. It sounds silly, but if you try it – asking the universe – you will thank me. For the big things, I try to think like a venture capitalist. I write everything down on the topic – pros, cons, etc – and I read it out loud. That process is basically like writing an investment memo for a VC investment, but in this case the investment is of your time, money, energy, etc.”