Dating in the real world can make you nervous enough, but online dating apps can add an extra level of anxiety. Have you ever matched with someone on a dating app, then wondered if your choice might not be the right one. Or that there might be someone else who’s funnier, more handsome, sexier, and better for you than the person you’re talking to and planning a date with
You’re afraid of missing out. Or you have a Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) as some like to call it. It’s intense anxiety that you’re missing the action, your life isn’t as great as someone else’s, or you’re not in-the-know about what’s going on. Like maybe you won’t be at the right place, at the right time, with the perfect partner.
Dating FOMO is similar. Picture this: You go out on a date, you’re trying to concentrate on what the guy across from you is saying, but you’re constantly looking at your phone, wondering if there are other things going on that might be… better.
And because of this FOMO you rarely enjoy the moment for what it is.
It’s hard to remember that the reality of what something was, and what it looks like over social media, is quite different. The beach party that looked like a blast? Someone got too drunk and threw up all over their date. The breathtaking sunset on your friend’s Instagram? It was amazing, but that same day, the waters were full of stinky runoff. You’d never have known… but if you struggle with FOMO, you’d be frantic.
Our thinking, rational self, realizes this. We know that our friends love us. We know that not much on social media is at it appears. We know we don’t want to be with our ex anymore. We know that everyone goes on dates with people who don’t turn out to be their perfect match… So why do we care so much about what we’re missing out on?
Here are five ways to fight back against dating FOMO, with or without a date by your side:
1. Realize missing out isn’t that bad.
When you think to yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” the worst usually isn’t missing out on something. Realize that the worst has happened before, and you handled it, and it definitely wasn’t this. Remind yourself that you have great coping skills and that what you’re feeling now isn’t such a big deal.
2. Admit your anxiety to others.
Talking about your FOMO with friends and learning how to treat it with a light heart and a great sense of humor can do you a lot of good. If you’ve got great friends, you’ll likely get some reassurance and perhaps an admission that they have the same kind of problem. Find a way to laugh at yourself a bit. And don’t keep it all inside where you can start to obsess too much.
3. Replace the irrational with the rational.
Identify what you’re telling yourself that’s obviously not rational. You could even write it down and then write down a replacement of that thought that’s more rational. For example:
Irrational: What if this guy I’m seeing for the first time tonight is a total waste of time and I could have been with someone way better if I just kept swiping a few more times.
Rational: I like this guy, I want to meet him and learn more about him to see if I really like him. The only waste of time would be swiping on dating apps forever and never going on an actual date.
4. Work on your own identity and goals.
Ask yourself these questions.: What do I want my life to look like in six months? In a year? What area of my life do I want to explore more—my spiritual self, my physical well-being, or something else? Where do I want to go? Make a plan for the future, so that the present will have more of a sense of purpose. Make a commitment to make those goals important to you.
5. Don’t be paralyzed by making a choice.
You can’t know if a choice is right until you live it. All you can do, is weigh your options carefully and go for it. If you make a choice that a year from now isn’t turning out like you thought, so be it. You’ve learned and changed along the way. That very process will help you make a more mature choice the next time around.
Try these things, realize that FOMO is common (hey, we wouldn’t have a funny acronym for it if it wasn’t), and then sit back, relax, and see where this moment, your own moment, is going. Being present isn’t always easy, but it’s usually worth it.
Dr. Margaret Rutherford, a clinical psychologist, has practiced for twenty-five years in Fayetteville, Arkansas., Her work can be found at http://www.drmargaretrutherford.com, as well as HuffPost, Psych Central, Psychology Today, the Gottman Blog and others. She’s the author of “Marriage Is Not For Chickens” a perfect gift book on marriage, and hosts a weekly podcast, SelfWork with Dr. Margaret Rutherford. Her new book, “Perfectly Hidden Depression” will be published by New Harbinger in 2019.