What does FOMO mean? Materialism, envy, and social media

Wondering “What does FOMO mean?” It’s more than a dictionary entry; it’s a spreading poison.

In this article, I’ll explain what does FOMO mean, the different types of FOMO, common reactions to it, and how to cure it.

What does FOMO mean? The social media envy fix Pinterest Pin

What does FOMO mean?

The dictionary will tell you “Fear Of Missing Out.” But missing out on what?

Well, everything. You’re always missing out on something, you just don’t expose yourself to it. And rightly so, ’cause videos of other people’s possessions, bodies, or experiences tend to make you envious.

As Mark Manson puts it,

“FOMO is a compulsive desire to experience something (or be somewhere) motivated not by what you gain, but rather by the fear of what you will potentially lose.”

– Mark Manson

You were, are, and always will be missing out. But you don’t have to red-hot pitchfork your brain.

For me, it’s not what you view, it’s the comparison that hurts. If you can stop that, the masochistic desire to peruse drops away, as does the pain itself.

One aspect of addiction to tame is the environment. So check out my social media curation guide to reduce your exposure to pain first, then follow the rest of this article. It’ll be easier with safety rails.

Moving on, let’s address social media’s role in materialism. This is the wound it gave you.

Social media and materialism

drawing of cute dragon girl sitting on pile of gold and gems holding a goblet

What does FOMO mean? It means materialism.

I think it’s safe to say a lot of us Americans pedestalize money and possessions. It’s not our fault: the media we consume lights the way. (Good luck avoiding it.)

The majority of studies conclude that social media use increases feelings of insecurity, anxiety, and depression. Those who dissent claim it’s how you use social media that makes this so. Fair point. It’s mainly:

  • the News Feed
  • following enviable people

First, get News Feed Eradicator (or equivalent).

Second, stop following people who post that kind of content. Unfriending doesn’t mean un”friend”ing: you can look them up anytime. (I go into more detail in my social media curation guide.)

If it’s TikTok, SnapChat, or the like, see the solutions at the end of this article.

Psychologist Tim Kasser is the leader in materialism research. In a 2014 interview with the American Psychological Association, he said:

“First, people are more materialistic when they are exposed to messages that suggest such pursuits are important, whether through their parents and friends, society, or the media. Second, and somewhat less obvious — people are more materialistic when they feel insecure or threatened, whether because of rejection, economic fears or thoughts of their own death.”

After all, “ads send messages suggesting that happy, successful people are wealthy, have nice things, and are beautiful and popular.”

"Ads sell more than products. They sell values, images, and concepts of success and worth." Brené Brown

Materialism makes you miserable

This is according to lots of studies. (I had more but I don’t want to lecture you.)

Materialism tends to decrease giving to others (things or time), self-reported well-being, grades, and concern for the environment. It tends to increase narcissism, debt, self-harm and suicidal thoughts, stomachaches and headaches, entitlement, loneliness, and often makes you an insecure, arrogant, dominating bully.

It correlates with sex addiction, porn addiction, shopping addiction (for clothes / makeup / physical things), exercise addiction, gambling addiction, and video game addiction (to dominate).

Again by Tim Kasser et al.:

“…financial success aspirations [are] associated with significantly lower levels of both need satisfaction and well-being.”


“…to the extent individuals decreased the relative importance they placed on goals for financial success and possessions, their well-being improved over time.”

So what does FOMO mean? At root, it’s low self-worth caused by comparison.

Then, self-worth is the answer.

Humanization and love helped me kick porn addiction, so it’s possible self-worth kills FOMO. We all just want love, in all the twisted ways we go about it.

But there are five categories of FOMO, all centered around low self-worth.

  • stuff FOMO
  • experiences FOMO
  • money FOMO
  • body dysmorphia FOMO
  • sex FOMO

And after that, the solutions.

Stuff FOMO

smiling suited businessman in an expernsive car outside his fancy jet

What does FOMO mean? It means feeling inadequate.

You don’t want things; you want the emotional state they’ll put you in, or that you think they’ll lead to.

It’s not that you’re envious; it’s that you feel unloved, unlovable, or not good enough.

Because you construct the audience in your head, complete with thoughts and values you think they’ll have.

Then in theory, self-worth should evaporate these feelings of worthlessness. At least it does for me.

Experiences FOMO

What does FOMO mean? It means you’re not having the best, happiest life.

(The best, happiest life is arguably to be found in Buddhist monk villages, where—importantly—they practice being happy.) But most of us think going on exotic vacations, owning a fancy house / car / yacht, and throwing money around is the best life.

How many times have you seen something like this?

Silhouette of young woman dancing on beach at sunset

If a beach vacation helps you, great! And it’s natural to want to share. But if this makes you jealous, all you can do is:

  • transmute anger into enthusiasm towards work to get there
  • discover self-worth (see the end of this article)

I missed out on certain fundamental experiences, which left me with a hollow feeling in my chest. It made me jealous, rage-filled, and entitled, and I ultimately sliced my wrist open and tried to kill myself.

Until I found meaning in it. Suffering vanishes the moment you find meaning in it.

Maybe because lack of control and being a victim hurts. So you turn that pain into strength and help or prevent others from suffering in the same way. You don’t have to not be angry; you can channel anger for good.

See also:
Kintsugi: A theory of self-repair

Money FOMO

man literally "made of money"

What does FOMO mean? It can mean money insecurity.

Like with stuff FOMO, you don’t want money; you want to be happy, through the things money can buy you.

Money can buy you experiences that can make you happy: some tourism, tickets to events like music concerts or sports games, scuba diving lessons, etc. Curiosity is fine.

But in Clark et al.’s study, people who felt a stronger sense of being loved and accepted by others placed a lower value on their possessions than people who were insecure. For the insecure group, money acted like a security blanket that gave them feelings of being lovable, safe, and good enough.

“…people who experience increases in social threat cope by acquiring goods or increasing the felt importance of extrinsic goals.”

Money buys you tools to make you less unhappy in the short run.

Body dysmorphia FOMO

Asian woman pinching stomach fat

What does FOMO mean? It can mean body dysmorphia.

Do you believe you’re unattractive? That’s because you feel you’re unattractive, and that’s caused by a thought, which you can change now.

I’ve struggled with this for over a decade—I still ruminate—and self-worth is the answer.

In the meantime, I think everything we do is for love, and you’re in dire need. Before you slit your wrist like I did, don’t put probability in external things; put surety in yourself. (see solutions)

The most attractive woman I knew

She wasn’t a supermodel. She confessed to me she compared herself to my fit, blonde ex-supervisor who won the genetic lottery in her face, and that broke my heart.

She’s Laotian, a little chubby, and lacks feminine graces. But her smile, zest, and sense of humor used to slay me. I saw her in a different light after I quit porn. Not looking at unrealistic standards makes women around me more beautiful!

I can tell you: love turns “flaws” into adorable quirks. Love is personal, not transactional.

And I’m not the only one out there. Sure, everyone has different levels they’ll tolerate, but I think being the best version of yourself, whatever that picture of health looks like for you, is the most attractive. Give love, and enable it, and you’ll get love back.


What does FOMO mean? It means needing a boost to the ego.

The most insidious type of FOMO, this brand breeds incels. (INvoluntary CELibates: vicious, entitled, tend to be broad-brush misogynist)

Let me speak to the straight men in the audience.

Women (all people) want enduring love, with the occasional thrill. If you provide only the latter, expect to find it hard to get the former. (Pity the rich man!)

All women are not the same, only the ones you’ve had experience with and who you attract.

Don’t watch unrealistic porn and expect the world to hand you those bodies and scenarios. You and any future partners will be dissatisfied. Quit.

Incel culture has a lot of self-loathing stemming from extreme comparisons. Again, what does FOMO mean? It means a painful lack of self-worth. Seeking to fill that void with external markers of validation.

For porn FOMO, that’s entitlement to a vast swath of cream-of-the-crop sexual partners. A real man doesn’t need his notch count, mountains of cash or possessions, or swagger to prove it. ONLY LITTLE BOYS DO.

Solutions to FOMO

  1. Self-worth
  2. Presence
  3. Action


cat stares into mirror sees lion

All you need is love. It makes you feel like Heaven is a place on Earth.

  • Straighten your spine; not rigid like a martinet, not puffing your chest out. The confidence boost is instantaneous for me.
  • Breathe through your nose and into the pit of your stomach.
  • Speak and move slowly, with purpose and strength.
  • Exercise and eat healthier.
  • Become happy by working on something meaningful to you, that motivates you, that helps others. Turn your unique suffering into a heroic origin story. (See my ebook Quests: Habit Change for Addicted Warriors.)
  • Gratitude. (soon)

Self-hate is a huge driver for addiction, as well as any of the FOMO’s in this article. It’s caused by comparison.

Do you condemn the rose seedling for not being as healthy and beautiful as those in the how to grow videos you watched? It’s not the video, not the seedling; it’s your comparison.

“Learn from me, if not by my precepts, then by my example, how dangerous is the pursuit of knowledge and how much happier is that man who believes his native town to be the world than he who aspires to be greater than his nature will allow.”

– Doctor Frankenstein

The larger your “village,” the less you stack up.

❤️ If you suck at A, be better at Q. Don’t try to be A if you can’t or you hate it; you’ll be mediocre at both A and Q. Instead, be exceptional at Q. This is happiness.

Self-esteem pyramids: low in one skill, pick another!

Teal Swan’s “How Do I Discover Self Worth?” video turned me away from suicide and made me contemplate deeply how to pull myself back up. I share it with you in hopes she can help your self-worth deficiency.


Put down or away your device. Turn off the screen. Walk away.

Close your eyes and pay attention to your breath. In, out. I like box breathing.

Slow down. Use your senses (hearing, smell, touch) to notice the world around you. Get out of your head. Do a non-tech activity that requires concentration.

Compulsive FOMO? Read my curate social media guide.

illustration of girl in white dress biking on trail through woods


“There is only one road to happiness—let this rule be at hand morning, noon, and night: stay detached from things that are not up to you.”

– Epictetus, Discourses

Now that you’re only focusing on what’s in your control, what’s the tiniest step you can take right now toward achieving what you want? Do it.

Hope measurably counters depression and negative affect (state of mind), as shown in several studies. It also reduces cravings in drug addicts, boosts your resilience to stress (especially among adolescents), and broadens your focus away from narrow trains of thought.

(Want links to proof, and to know more about hope? Read Quests. I discuss this as part of my accompanying Hope Worksheet, based on Dr. C R. Snyder’s work.)

Boildown: what does FOMO mean?

What does FOMO mean? It means discomfort and insecurity.

Self-worth is the answer.

If you can do something about it, get going. (that was my advice in my older article, POMO)

If you can’t be or have A, be or make the best B. Turn your unique suffering into your heroic origin story.

“…individuals need not passively endure suffering but even if they are unable to change their difficult situation, they always have freedom to choose an adaptive attitude to their suffering. This may be achieved by realizing values that transcend them. Thus, sufferings are relativized, life becomes meaningful, and one’s example of how to cope with suffering may give strength to others.”

Vyskocilova et al., “Values and values work in cognitive behavioral therapy”

What does FOMO mean? Materialism, envy, and social media

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