FONĒ is the New FOMO (And 3 Ways To Deal With It)

Article At A Glance

  • FONĒ is an acronym that stands for Fear Of Not Enough.
  • Related to FOMO – or Fear Of Missing Out – FONĒ manifests as an insatiable urge to do, share, and engage more, primarily online.
  • FONĒ is characterized by an unsustainable overuse of social media, over-reliance on (smart) phone and digital devices, and inauthentic expression of one’s true self.
  • Antidotes to FONĒ include Authentic Relating and Relationships; Digital Detox and/or Minimalism; Nature and Grounding.

Social Media Light & Dark

Like it or not, social media has become a ubiquitous part of both our personal and professional lives. Whether it serves as a means of communicating with friends and family, publicizing a business offering, or sharing ideas and information, social media will continue to evolve as a digital reflection of our basic human needs for connection, expansion, and recognition.

While social media usage can affect our lives in positive ways – including fostering existing and forming new relationships, generating exposure for our products or services, and finding out about opportunities we might not have otherwise – we need to be aware of and counterbalance social media’s shadow side when it rears its ugly head.

What is FOMO?

One shadow side of social media most of us already know about is FOMO – or Fear Of Missing Out. FOMO is an acronym attributed to a 1996 research paper by marketing strategist Dr. Dan Herman that aptly describes the feeling that others are enjoying life more than you, which can manifest in anxiety, sadness, and isolation.

Amplified by the habitual scroll through our social media feeds, FOMO is an emotional side effect of consuming the continuous highlight reel that comprises what users share online.

FOMO Defined

FOMO (Pronounced: FOE-MOE)

Acronym: Fear Of Missing Out

Definition: Sentiments of jealousy and/or lack resulting from comparison with others’ experiences and/or accomplishments, especially via social media

Symptoms: Insecurity about and inadequacy of one’s life experiences and accomplishments; Sadness, anxiety, and isolation; Inability to be in the moment

Adding fuel to the fire, where social media was once a highlight reel of individuals’ happy moments has, increasingly, crossed over into their losses – creating a more realistic, but, nonetheless, unsustainable trend. The new “Keeping up with the Jones” occurs when social media users stage peak moments to capture and publish online in order to gain increasing exposure and interaction.

What is FONĒ?

What FOMO does not encompass is what happens when our Fear Of Missing Out becomes an insatiable urge to do, share, and engage more and more online.

In a world where social media popularity is currency, this pattern can lead to a compulsive need for attention, feedback, growth, and recognition that can cause one to act to their own detriment.

This unfulfillable desire for external validation is an acronym we dubbed FONĒ, or the Fear Of Not Enough. With three layers of meaning baked into this powerful acronym, FONĒ can also cause one to act fake (phony) and be on their phone (phone-y) too much!

FONĒ Defined

FONĒ (Pronounced: FOE-KNEE)

Acronym: Fear Of Not Enough

Definition: Characterized by an increasing need for and action toward receiving external attention, praise, and validation, especially via social media.

Symptoms: Unsustainable overuse of social media; Over-reliance on smartphones and digital devices to feel relevant and/or productive; and inauthentic expression of one’s self.

Whereas FOMO is, generally, associated with anxiety, sadness, and ultimately, withdrawal, FONĒ triggers the opposite result; wherein an individual compulsively increases their activities and interactions toward the end of gaining (online) exposure and engagement.

What Are FONĒ Impacts?

While the underlying motivation of FONĒ may not be inherently bad – we all need connection with other humans and recognition for our major life milestones and accomplishments – its behaviors can become destructive when left unchecked.

Negative impacts of FONĒ can include dysmorphia, alienation, and impaired decision-making. This can look like neglecting personal relationships, taking increased risks to capture that viral reel, and catering to one’s audience demands even at the loss of one’s true identity – known as audience capture.

Audience Capture

Definition: The gradual and unwitting replacement of a person’s identity with one custom-made for his or her audience.

After Skool presentation written and recorded by Gurwinder – Viewer discretion advised

Now that we’ve acknowledged, named, and defined the Fear Of Not Enough, let’s examine how to address it.

Dealing with FONĒ

Method #1: Authentic Relating and Relationships

Actions driven by FONĒ tend to produce surface-level or even parasitic relationships because their basis for connecting comes from a place of lack and/or inauthenticity. The telltale signs of a FONĒ relationship are ones that provide a hit of dopamine – in the form of a like, subscribe, or comment – but rarely cross over into true and authentic relating. Does this person really exist, or are they a bot?

Authentic relating and relationships, on the other hand, represent people in your life that you can pick up the phone and call when you need support, advice, or feedback. These relationships typically form in concentric circles beginning with your immediate and extended family, close friends from different times and places in life, and professional colleagues.


  • Make a list of people who are there for you in real life, and nurture those relationships in ways that makes sense.

On the other hand, you may find out that people you thought were in your inner circle are not available now for one reason or another. Let them go for the time being, and trust that the right people come into your life at the perfect moments to walk alongside and support you on your journey.

Method 2: Digital Detox and/or Minimalism

While Baby Boomers, Gen-Xers, and Xennials remember a simpler time, before computers, cell phones, and the internet, Millenials and Gen-Zers were born directly into the digital age.

How did anything happen without smartphones at our fingertips at all times? Well, we had to ponder things, go to a library or look in an encyclopedia, write letters, dial rotary phones, play audio tapes, and engage all forms of analog research and communication.

And some may be turning back in that direction. Dumbphones” are making a comeback, as smartphone users seek a cheaper and simpler option, along with a respite from the effects of electronic overuse and addiction. Counter these effects with a digital detox or digital minimalism practice at the time and frequency that makes sense for you.

For example, ways to digitally detox include:

  • Using electronics for set durations;
  • Limiting use to necessary activities; and
  • Putting the devices away or on do not disturb for blocks of time, like in the evening.

Digital Detox

Definition: Deliberate abstinence from electronics use for a period of time

Digital minimalism techniques could include:

  • Send/receive fewer emails;
  • Limit participation on social media to platforms that you enjoy most or are necessary; and/or
  • Reduce your digital footprint by, for example, deactivating services you no longer use.

You may feel relief in receiving only a few truly important emails each day, leaving you more mind space to focus on what’s essential.

Digital Minimalism

Definition: Reduction of electronics usage to reflect one’s values and essential life functions.


  • Streamline your inbox by spending a few minutes each day unsubscribing from unnecessary email lists.
  • Delete unused apps from your phone, while placing priority apps front and center.
  • Deactivate subscriptions no longer in use.

Method 3: Nature and Grounding

Have you ever picked up your smartphone for a specific task only to find yourself mindlessly scrolling an hour (or more) later? You are not alone! These devices are powerful, and some say the platforms we use on them are designed to be addictive.

While it’s true that there is an incredible amount of useful and inspiring information available online, you could come down with a case of FONĒ when you consume too much of what other people recommend and lose touch with what’s true and authentic for you.

With that said, the simplest, cheapest, and quickest way to counterbalance these effects is to leave your device at home and get outside in nature. Nature activities can be short and sweet – like a walk around your yard or neighborhood; or they can be longer outings like hitting a local hiking trail, taking a day trip to the beach, or visiting a botanical garden – which can double as a place for color therapy and fuel for creative visualization.


  • Put your phone down
  • Go outside

Final Thoughts

Have you or someone you love caught a gnarly case of FONĒ?

Step one is to put down the iPhone and fall back in love with yourself and with life.

Check out the articles recommended below for more practical ways to reconnect with your inner source of joy and creativity.

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