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‘Fear of Being Left Out’ Is a Biological Survival Technique

Whether you experience a moment of total disconnection in a crowd of friends or absolute bliss when you slip into your sweatpants at the end of the day, your sense of “loneliness” is not entirely based on the presence of others. 

by | Aug 2, 2019

You see, the fear of being left out is ingrained in our biology, and we just can’t seem to kick it. We call it FOBLO.

This awesome 12-minute video explains how FOBLO harkens to a biological survival technique that all humans share. Being “left out” left our ancestors vulnerable to the will of Mother Nature, so we’re biologically driven (and designed) to seek safety in numbers. FOBLO kept your ancestors alive.  

FOBLO is more of a feeling of abandonment than social striving. Thanks to social media, you’re inundated with entire social circles you’re completely disconnected from daily — it’s functionally impossible to be truly connected to everyone and every community around you these days. 

So, if social media makes you feel lonely, or you’re using it to avoid experiencing your real social life, take a good look at how you spend your social capital.

Biology + Time + Energy = How Much Social Capital You Have

It’s not just about scrolling your life away on social media; you can spend a ton of time and energy with other people and feel like it’s a total waste. You might even get resentful because the social exchange did nothing to fill you up — you still feel isolated and they’re probably not going to answer your call if you need a hand. That’s not a fulfilling investment, but it’s not personal — we’re all working with the social capital for a limited number of relationships, according to science.

You’re biologically designed to maintain only 150 relationships at a time, and only 50 of those could really be considered close. Taking ownership of your naturally capped social capital allows you to harness this primal drive and invest it relationships you truly care about.

Let that sink in. You simply cannot maintain the number of relationships available to the average human today. So, if you’re not choosing which ones to focus on, you’re stressing your own biological capacity.

Spend your social capital recklessly, and you’ll find yourself feeling overwhelmed, lonely, excluded, insecure, guilty, or even ashamed. Those social overdraft fees pile up on each other as hallmarks of misspent social capital. They’re linked to anxiety, depression, and antisocial behaviors that build up over time.

On the flip side of that coin, if you invest your time and energy wisely (generally in good people doing good things), you build strong relationships that keep you socially healthy and make you feel supported. That generates a social currency that accrues interest: Your happiness, positivity, and contentment make you more fun to be around, so you see an increase in positive interactions flowing into your social bank account. 

Ah, the joys of compound interest.

As a human adult with nobody to arrange your playdates for you, you’re responsible for making room in your life to balance intentional social isolation with time spent feeling a sense of belonging and purpose, generally with others. It’s about honoring your natural need to feel accepted — dare we say, welcomed — by yourself and others, then spending your time and energy filling your social bank account with those feelings before you’re in the red. 

You see, once you’re in the red, you start writing stories about why and how you’re being left out.

Fabriq: Communal by Nature | Social Health

This Trick Might Help You Overcome Shyness & Social Anxiety

Shyness and anxiety about social situations hit almost everyone at one point or another. If you feel like social anxiety is getting in the way of your personal and professional life, it might be worth trying something unconventional to help you work through it. 

Overcoming the ‘Fear of Being Left Out’

You don’t have to quit scrolling social media or start woke-washing negativity from your experiences and interactions to break up with FOBLO. We all slip into sweatpants for a solo Netflix binge from time to time, and we all feel like we missed out from time to time. 

Chasing multiple social networking sites is not the answer to FOBLO — it won’t rescue you from your inherent need for real-life relationships. Wise social investments are what bring you back into balance. Start small:

  • Step one: Check yourself. If you’ve been feeling FOBLO, not enjoying interactions, or you feel sad or angry emotions around the idea of your community or certain people in your community, you might currently be fueling your own negative cycle. 
  • Step two: Make a quick list of five to 15 people you’d like to interact with beyond work, social media, and holidays. This immediately begins breaking the cycle of FOBLO because you’re considering building community with people you care about and are grateful for. You’re changing your feelings.
  • Step three: Consider what they’d truly enjoy doing with you, and you with them. What sounds fun, easy, relaxing, or like a recharge for your friendship? Set that intention for your relationship.
  • Step four: Get it on the books! Tell them about your intention and schedule that reconnection coffee, family dinner, or camping trip. Space them out a bit, though, lest you find yourself without enough time to reflect, recharge, and appreciate your people.
  • Step five: Follow through. Be the kind of person who shows up, fully, and is there with good intentions. Show your positivity and appreciation readily — we all feel a little insecure sometimes (it’s biological, after all).

“As a human adult with nobody to arrange your playdates for you, you’re responsible for making room in your life to balance intentional social isolation with time spent feeling a sense of belonging and purpose, generally with others.”

Missing Out vs Being Left Out OR Social Media, It’s Not Personal

In 1970, the World Health Organization announced that social wellness is equally as important to your health as physical and mental well-being, but somewhere along the way, we began to ignore their advice, focusing on the hyperindividualism of “only you can help you” and opting out of nurturing a secure social fabric that relies on interdependence and collective support. 

Essentially, our lives became all about “me” rather than all about “we,” resulting in a divisive culture, based on “junk” values where, even in a crowd, 25–50 percent of Americans report feeling lonely.

There’s no getting around it: Social media is one of the fastest growing cultural phenomena in recent history and its social impact cannot be understated. The positive communal benefits of staying connected with distant relatives, communicating with like-minded enthusiasts, garnering creative inspiration, and staying on top of upcoming events give you great reasons to stick it out on the social-media scene.

But then there’s the psychological distress of overwhelm, FOBLO, and general negativity in your newsfeed. When the fun parts of Facebook fade into the background, you can feel excluded or rejected, even by strangers.

Listen on Wellness 3.0: Social Media | Mark Shapiro

Podcast: How to Use Technology & Social Media to Feel More Connected

Mark Shapiro is on a mission to figure out how we can deepen our social connections using social media – which in many cases can seem like an oxymoron – as well as examine relationship building fundamentals, and empower people to prioritize the things that matter: authentic living and genuine support and connection.

News organizations, social networks, and political parties thrive on our fears, effectively separating us into friends or not friends, right or left, relying on us to be afraid of “others.” Don’t fall for it! And, by all means, don’t internalize those fears into anxieties, negative stories, and insecurities.

As you generate social momentum by deepening your closest relationships, you’ll begin to experience an important distinction understood by those whose relationships last longest. Sure, you missed an event, but you weren’t “left out.” It’s not that personal. Their capital is invested elsewhere, and so is yours. Their world is about them. Your world is about you, and sometimes you all meet in the middle and have a great time.

How Do We Shift Away From Social Dis-Ease to Social Health in Today’s Digital-Everything Culture?

With the relationships in our lives that bring us meaning, purpose, and fulfillment. Rather than numbing out when you feel disconnected, you’ve gotta reach out and intentionally strengthen the relationships you care about most, instead of cutting those people out by spending your time and energy elsewhere. 

The point is, you get to choose the energy (aka feelings and people) you invest in and build your life with. Cultivate an awareness of your social needs and capacity. Whether you call it a budget, a spending plan, or just a social life, your social health directly affects your mental and physical well-being, so it’s worth tending to.

  • Be intentional. Make sure you’re participating in social (and social media) groups that truly fit your interests, your lifestyle, and your personality. It doesn’t pay off to try to force yourself to fit into a community that doesn’t vibe or makes you uncomfortable.
  • Host! Whether you invite people over or invite others out, the quickest cure for isolation is to create a sense of belonging for others. Much of the fear of being left out is caused by a passive reaction to what’s going on around you. Create your own social events and make your invitation personal.
  • Connect and communicate. Be honest if you feel left out by family and friends, but don’t play the victim and avoid dwelling on a single missed event. Share your feelings with “I” statements, and place no blame — “I’m so happy when we hang out. I feel isolated when we don’t connect often.” Even ask for feedback from someone you trust who can give you greater insight into what’s really keeping you away from people you care about. 
  • Become a regular. Find a favorite coffee house to visit regularly or join a meet-up group, and show up routinely. You may find your feelings of isolation and anxiety melt away when you take control over your social life.

To sharpen up your skills in this area, consider reading Belong: Find Your People, Create Community, and Live a More Connected Life by Radha Agrawal, an inspirational commentary on how to avoid substituting social media for engaging face-to-face interactions that can lead to a more fulfilling social life.

About Fabriq

You’re Communal by Nature

These days, most folks find it easier to lock eyes with a screen than with another person, but on a social level, we’re biologically built to avoid loneliness in order to live happier, healthier, and longer lives. In the era of the great “disconnection epidemic,” when we’re more likely to kick back than venture out, it’s tougher than ever to maintain a tight-knit crew.

That’s where Fabriq slips in and works its magic for the relationships that matter most to you.

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