FOBO is the New FOMO and You Probably Have It

fear of better options

By now you’re familiar with FOMO: the Fear of Missing Out. Now, a new phenomenon is taking over, and it’s very likely you’ll see much of yourself in it.

FOBO, coined by US venture capitalist and author Patrick McGinnis, who incidentally came up with FOMO in 2003, stands for “Fear of Better Options”.

It is described as an indecisive loop that impacts mainly on your plans and hinders your ability to commit to things at the fear something better will present itself.

So, if bailing on your friends last minute is something you’ve been known to do, or if “I’ll let you know” is your go-to answer when friends try to lock you down for Friday night drinks, then you might well have FOBO yourself.

“FOBO makes a person say ‘maybe’ instead of committing; go silent when it’s time to finalise plans; and cancel at the last minute when something better comes along,” McGinnes writes in Boston Magazine.

“You know the kind of person I’m talking about. He or she is always shopping for a better social opportunity, and if you happen to be their backup plan, you’ll find out when they post all those exuberant photos of whatever they did last night instead of hanging with you.”

Perhaps the reasons we’re so invested in what we’re doing (or what we’re seen to be doing) is because we have a constant view into others’ plans via social media.

You may be having a great time enjoying a low-key dinner with your old high school friend before you flick through an Instagram story of some epic warehouse party at which several acquaintances are attendees. Suddenly, you have regrets about making those dinner plans and ponder ways to wrap it up early, all so you can jump ship to the sweaty warehouse party and be a part of that plan.

“A manifestation of narcissism, FOBO tends to take root as you get older, more established, and wealthier. The more options you have at your disposal, the greater the temptation to preserve option value, regardless of whether you waste the time or hurt the feelings of others.”

FOBO doesn’t just apply to your social life. The omnipresent anxiety can be crippling in a business sense, too. What if there’s a better way to launch your new product? Is there a more advanced piece of software we’re not across? Is next week, next month, or next year a better time to be doing this?

While there’ll always be reasons not to commit to things; social, business-wise, dating-wise or other, the problem with FOBO is that you just simply cannot win.

One way or another, you’ll end up paining over the plans you accepted in addition to those you turned down, all the while hurting the people who actually just want to hang out with you. It’s the opposite of a win-win.

Amanda Joy Robb, psychotherapist and relationship counsellor, tells The Latch: “The biggest concern for people who have ‘FOBO’ is how it can be vicariously experienced by their loved ones.

“Whist they may be holding out for a more exciting social event invitation, they need to be mindful of the current invite they are withholding accepting — and how that friend can feel as if they are put ‘on hold’.

“People can generally tell if a friend is waiting for a ‘better offer’, and this ambivalence in confirming spending time with them can lead to issues in the friendship.”

The solution? Be a more considerate friend and either commit to plans or not. The word “maybe” is not your friend, and will only enable your FOBO ways.