Fear of missing out, or FOMO, has become not just a huge trend but also a serious trigger for anxiety, depression, and many other psychological and behavioral issues because of social media. If you’re a pet parent who has a constant fear of missing out on the latest trends, no matter how silly or dangerous, and whether or not it involves your dog, you may be causing your furry pal undue stress.
What is FOMO?
FOMO, or fear of missing out, is not just another internet slang like “Lol!” “OMG!” “Imho,” or “Ikr!” FOMO has become such a widespread phenomenon, mostly because of social media, that it has been associated with clinical anxiety.
Social media has made it possible for us to have front-row seats to the most exciting or interesting events in the lives of our family and friends, celebrities, so-called influencers, other famous personalities, and even complete strangers. And the constant stream of other people’s seemingly more interesting daily lives that we subject ourselves to through social media often makes us feel like our own lives are inadequate, that we’re not doing enough, and that we are missing out.
FOMO also applies to the anxiety some people feel when they do not stay up-to-date with what’s going on in the virtual world. Because everything is happening at lightning speed and there are too many things going on online, it’s easy to see how some people can feel stressed both by the overwhelming onslaught of the goings-on in other people’s lives and the strong urge to keep watch.
FOMO is a classic catch-22. Staying online to stay current is often too much a distraction from our own lives, makes us set unreasonable standards for ourselves, and causes us to feel anxious that we are missing out on “the best that life has to offer” or being part of the latest trend. At the same time, going offline also causes us anxiety because we feel left out of the loop. We feel the fear of missing out whether or not we stay glued on social media. In both cases, what we end up missing out on are the good things we actually have in our lives.
How can FOMO affect our dogs?
Believe it or not, our FOMO can also cause our dogs to feel separation anxiety. In fact, our dogs’ separation anxiety can also be likened to them having their own fear of missing out - that is to say, a fear of missing out on quality time with their humans.
Just as our dogs can feel anxious and stressed when we leave them at home, so can they go through a different experience of separation anxiety when we end up neglecting them because we are lost in the “more interesting” online world.
You should be aware of the symptoms of FOMO-related separation anxiety in your four-legged friend. But, of course, in order to be aware, you must snap out of your social media hypnosis. These are the symptoms you need to watch out for:
- Nonstop vocalization, such as barking, howling, or whimpering. Your dog also vocalizes almost continuously when he’s left alone at home; your neighbors should be able to attest to that. If your attention is always on your phone or computer even when you’re at home with your pet, he may still feel alone and anxious. His vocalization can either be an attempt to get your attention or an expression of loneliness, or both.
- Having accidents all over the house when your dog has been properly house-trained is also a common symptom of separation anxiety. If this happens even when you’re at home, it may be Fido’s way of telling you that he’s feeling neglected.
- Destructive behavior or unintentional self-harming, such as chewing or biting his skin, may be caused by boredom when your dog isn’t getting his usual quality time with you. If you have not been taking him out for walks or have not been playing with him as often as you used to, your dog may start misbehaving by chewing, digging, or scratching furniture or your clothes.
- Excessive licking can be an attempt to self-soothe when your dog is feeling anxious and lonely. When left unaddressed, this behavior can cause hot spots.
- Constant pacing is a clear symptom of restlessness and anxiety. Your pet pal’s inability to relax may also be directly associated with your own feelings of FOMO-related anxiety, which they can easily sense.
- Attempts to escape outside may be caused by their need to release their pent-up, and even anxious, energy - especially when you’ve been neglecting their daily exercise and playtime.
- Coprophagia, or eating their own feces, may also be caused by separation anxiety - both when you actually leave the house and when you’re at home but are neglectful.
Remember that your dog can easily sense what you’re feeling, so if your FOMO is making you feel anxious, stressed, or even depressed, your best bud may also mirror these emotions.
What can you do?
Needless to say, you have to make sure that you don’t neglect your dog’s need for attention and proper care, which includes playing with him and taking him out for regular walks. Simply cuddling with him on the couch - yes, even while you’re engrossed by your phone - can help prevent his feelings of anxiety and neglect. Just also make sure that you’re still mindful of any vague signs that your dog is asking for your attention, perhaps because he needs to go out to do his business, wants to play, or is not feeling well.
Other remedies you can employ include:
- Buying him chew toys and interactive toys to keep him busy and mentally stimulated.
- Hiring a dog walker to make sure that Fido still gets his daily exercise. Getting him tired also means he’ll want to rest and sleep after.
- Taking him to doggie daycare a few times a week will help meet your dog’s need for social interactions.
- Giving him CBD dog treats can help calm down your anxious dog.
FOMO and Your Dog - Final Thoughts
Your fear of missing out can affect not just your quality of life, but your dog’s as well. Do not let FOMO make you miss out on spending quality time with your best bud. Being attached to your gadget and constantly lost in the online world can make your pet feel alone, anxious, and neglected, and he’ll exhibit symptoms similar to those of separation anxiety.
Indeed, your FOMO can lead to actual separation anxiety because your complete attention is somewhere else even when you’re at home with your dog. Remember that your canine companion already feels sad and anxious every time you have to leave for work, and he eagerly awaits your return at the end of the day. Don’t make him feel neglected because of FOMO. Your real life - your life with your dog - is more important than the snapshots of other people’s lives online.