We have all had that moment. We saw some pick on social media that we thought about taking. Then we decided against it. Later, we discover that if we had made that bet, it would have won big. We spend the rest of the day kicking ourselves over how much money we could have won if we had only taken that bet.
The next time we are looking through picks, it is very hard not to put money on everything that looks even remotely promising. After all, we don’t want to go through that experience again. We want to make sure we catch the next big win.
If you recognize this situation, you have experienced fear of missing out (FOMO) when betting.
This is a very common problem for bettors, so try not to get too down about it. In fact, if there is one social experience most of us share in common, ironically, it is FOMO!
In this post, we are going to discuss how the fear of missing out affects sports bettors and what you can do about it.
What is Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)?
The term “fear of missing out” has only been around since 2004, but it quickly became part of our vernacular.
This article in the National Library of Medicine explains, “Fear of missing out (FOMO) is a unique term introduced in 2004 to describe a phenomenon observed on social networking sites. FoMO includes two processes; firstly, perception of missing out, followed up with a compulsive behavior to maintain these social connections.”
So, basically, say you get on Facebook, and you see photos of your old friend from high school smiling and happy with her husband on top of a mountain in Nepal.
Something bitter stirs in the pit of your stomach, and later that night you find yourself stewing in rage and loneliness. You think about the years passing you by, and how you have yet to find a happy relationship or climb a mountain in Nepal.
You start to wonder what it is you are doing wrong, or if there is something specifically wrong with you.
Maybe the next day you even book a ticket to travel somewhere, or you get on a dating app, never mind that you cannot really afford a trip right now, or that you are not ready for a relationship.
The article also offers another good definition from British psychologists: “Pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent.”
You will notice that the two definitions from the article refer to perception and apprehension. They do not state that it is a fact that we are missing out. Instead, we believe we are missing out. This is important. We will come back to this later on in this post.
Why FOMO Can Be Dangerous for Sports Bettors
Now that you have a basic understanding of FOMO, let’s talk specifically about how it can impact you negatively as you bet on sports.
- Taking Bets That Aren’t Worth It
FOMO can make us terrified not to take a bet. We worry that every bet we don’t take is one we could potentially have won. We start to think of simply not winning as actually losing even though it isn’t.
As a result, we may take bets that rationally, we would avoid. Many of those bets will end up losing.
- Questioning The Integrity Of A Working System
Perhaps you are betting according to a system that you have carefully developed. By following your system, you get a win percentage of 52%, which is actually very good.
But when you see people posting wins who took bets your system did not direct you to take, you begin to wonder if your strategies are really that great after all. You question if other people are achieving much higher profitability.
As a result, you start losing faith in your system and breaking your own rules. This does not have the effect you hoped for; instead, your profitability suffers and you just get more and more distressed.
- Getting Depressed When Others Win
FOMO is closely related to envy. There are two different definitions of envy:
- Wanting what others have, and
- Feeling resentment that others have what we do not
There is a big difference between these two forms of envy. The first one does not necessarily cause problems, it is neutral emotionally. But the second one fills us with negativity.
Imagine one of your friends wins a bet that you did not take. It is normal to feel a little annoyed that you didn’t get to share the win. But you want your main emotion to be happiness for your friend, not resentment at their success.
- Our Self-Esteem Drops
Low self-esteem and FOMO can create a viscous feedback loop. When our self-esteem is already low, we tend to be more susceptible to FOMO, and when we experience FOMO, our self-esteem can decline even more.
If your self-esteem is high, you are unlikely to spend much time comparing yourself and your successes to others. And if others win when you do not, you do not see that as a statement on you and your worth.
But if your self-esteem is low, you may define your value by how you compare to other people. And if they win when you do not, you might spiral into thoughts like, “Why didn’t I do more? What is wrong with me? Of course I missed out—I never act when I should. I don’t deserve success.”
At that point, you may begin feeling desperate to “prove yourself,” which could motivate you toward taking some poor bets.
- We Experience Emotions Like Rage
FOMO can lead to some truly unpleasant emotions, including rage. Unlike anger, which is constructive, rage is destructive. Sometimes, it can even become self-destructive.
- We Turn To Compulsive Behavior’s
The emotional dysregulation we may experience from FOMO combined with the desperation to “catch up” to the achievements of others can lead us to behave compulsively. In the worst cases, FOMO can thus lead to full-blown problem gambling.
Why Do We Experience FOMO?
Now you have a better understanding of how FOMO can negatively influence you as you bet on sports.
When we react to FOMO, we do things that we think will prevent us from missing out, but often cause us to do even worse.
Before we discuss what you can do to cope with FOMO and keep betting profitably, we need to have a stronger understanding of what causes FOMO in the first place.
- We Want To Belong
FOMO is considered to be a deeply social phenomenon. It is not just that you are missing out on possibilities—it is that you are missing out on possibilities that other people are not.
The article we previously linked says, “Today, more than ever, people are exposed to a lot of details about what others are doing; and people are faced with the continuous uncertainty about whether they are doing enough or if they are where they should be in terms of their life. FoMO includes two processes; firstly, perception of missing out, followed up with a compulsive behavior to maintain these social connections. The social aspect of FoMO could be postulated as relatedness which refers to the need to belong, and formation of strong and stable interpersonal relationships.”
FOMO is thus not just about missing out, but about being left out and left behind. We want to have a place in society, and when others are having great experiences and we are not, we feel we are not part of that society. We feel cast-off, rejected and isolated.
- We Are Averse To Loss
Many of us experience a cognitive bias called “loss aversion.” Basically, if you experience loss aversion, your distress at losing $100 will be more than your happiness at getting $100.
Loss aversion causes us to experience distress at missing out on something that is disproportionate with the sense of triumph we would experience if we had been able to have that thing.
So, say you missed out on a bet that might have made you $100. The frustration you feel toward that “loss” from missing out may far outpace how happy you would have been had you participated and won the $100.
- We May Have A Scarcity Mindset
FOMO is often tied closely to a scarcity mindset. Think about it for a moment. Is it really the end of the world if you missed out on a winning bet? It is not like sports are going to stop being played anytime soon. They will be around for the rest of your life, and so will opportunities to bet on them and win.
In other words, there is no particular bet you absolutely need to win. If you miss out on one, that’s fine, you have all the opportunities you need ahead of you. If you can remember that and avoid a perception of false scarcity, you are less likely to be subject to FOMO.
- We Are Afraid We Will Feel Regret
We have all heard variations on the statement that “when you are on your deathbed, you will look back at regret not at the things you did, but the things you didn’t do.”
There is probably a lot of truth to that; we do tend to feel a deeper regret for the opportunities we let pass us by than the mistakes we made.
But that does not mean that we always should take every road. Our lives are not always better off for trying to grab every chance. If you look back on your life, you can probably spot plenty of situations where you would have been better off if you had simply remained where you were instead of acting on FOMO!
- Analysis Paralysis Can Exacerbate FOMO
Analysis paralysis is a phenomenon that occurs when you have a lot of options available to you, leaving you indecisive as to what to do.
This arguably can make FOMO worse, and certainly is applicable with respect to betting. At any given time, there are dozens, maybe hundreds of betting opportunities online. You may get so caught up in questioning which you should take and which you should skip that you start thinking it might just be easier to take as many as possible.
- Feeling Down May Drive FOMO
Any time we are not feeling our best psychologically, we may be more susceptible to FOMO.
Say you are depressed. You are feeling lethargic and empty, and like nothing in your life is satisfying. When you see other people who appear to have things you want (including happiness), you may start experiencing FOMO. As a result, you could be motivated to try and get what they have in the hopes that it will fill that sense of emptiness.
- Low Self-Esteem Can Be Another Contributing Factor
We have already discussed this earlier in this post, so we will not go into a lot of detail about it again here. But if you have low self-esteem, you may feel like you need to compete with others more to feel good about yourself. This can drive FOMO.
- Desperation May Play Into FOMO
Sometimes we become prone to FOMO when things seem to be going against us in life. Even something as simple as a losing streak could produce FOMO as you watch other bettors posting wins on social media. You just really want to get out of the rut you are in.
- We Are Aware Of Our Mortality
Finally, one more reason we get FOMO is likely from our awareness that we are mortal. This ties in closely with the fear of regrets.
I talked about how a scarcity mindset can contribute to FOMO, and how usually that is a mindset we should avoid. For example, with betting, there will always be future opportunities to bet.
But that is only true so long as you are alive. One resource that is scarce is time, which eventually runs out for all of us. That knowledge can lead to a lot of FOMO. None of us wants to reach the end point in our lives without having experienced the things we want to experience.
How Can We Cope with FOMO?
Well, we may not be able to help you cope with an existential crisis fueling FOMO, but we can still give you some other ideas that can help you cope.
The better you are at dealing with FOMO, the less you will be at its mercy when you bet. Here are some tips.
- Reduce Your Exposure To Social Media
One of the most effective ways to combat FOMO as a bettor is simply to spend less time on social media.
If you have a habit of checking sites like Twitter and Reddit constantly throughout the day, give yourself specific windows of time in which you can look at social media, and stop doing it the rest of the time.
You might even want to avoid looking at betting-related social posts altogether, depending on how intense your FOMO is.
While this will not completely eliminate FOMO, it reduces your exposure to common triggers. It also presents you with fewer betting picks to tempt you.
Also, if your friends (on or off of social media) have a tendency to boast to you when they win, you can ask them if they would consider not doing that, as it is not helping you.
- Re-Calibrate Your Beliefs About Social Media
Something else you can do is change the way you look at social media altogether. FOMO is based on the perception or apprehension that you are missing out. In reality, you might not be missing out on anything good at all.
The way people present their lives on social media is often distorted and inaccurate. People do not post the full, unvarnished truth of their lives. Instead, they post their wins without sharing their losses.
Take the example we gave earlier of the happy, smiling couple posting their photos from their vacation to Nepal. On the surface, they may appear to have a perfect relationship and be living on piles of cash.
But for all you know, things are nothing like they seem. If you were able to have a candid discussion with either or both of the partners, you might discover their relationship is deeply dysfunctional and that their finances are precarious.
In fact, either or both of them might be looking at their vacation photos feeling the same things you are, loneliness and despair.
This applies to bettors you see posting as well. Many bettors like to post their winning bets. But how many share their losing bets?
Maybe you are feeling FOMO as you read a bettor sharing their win for a bet you thought of taking, but skipped. For all you know, the strategies that generated that winning pick also generated three losing bets on the same day. Even with the win, that bettor might be losing money.
Meanwhile, the strategies you are using might not have pointed toward taking that winning bet, but they could also have steered you safely around the losing bets the other person took. You could actually be better off than they are!
Just maintaining awareness of that possibility can help you reframe what you see on social media. When you realize that many of the people who appear to be “winning” might actually be losing, you will be less tempted to jump at every shiny-looking pick.
- Subscribe To Fewer Picks
Along with looking at picks on social media, you may also be subscribing to some services that email or text you picks.
There is nothing wrong in general with using these services, especially if you find some reliable ones.
But if you suffer from serious FOMO, subscribing to a lot of picks may be doing you more harm than good. If you need to reduce the number of bets you are taking, then unsubscribe from a few of these services.
- Spend More Time With The People You Feel Most Connected With
While a lot of FOMO just has to do with not wanting to miss out on experiences, remember, there is a strong social dimension to it. We want to feel like we are a part of something.
If you have been feeling isolated, it may be time to reconnect with important people in your life. Spend more time with family and friends, and maybe try reconnecting with some people you have lost touch with. You can try making new friends as well.
Do you have pets? Try investing more time and attention on those relationships as well. Pets can give us the unconditional love and connection that it is hard to find in human relationships.
It might sound weird that doing any of this would reduce your FOMO when it comes to betting, but you may be surprised.
- Keep A Log Of Your FOMO Triggers
Each of us is susceptible to certain FOMO triggers. If you notice something triggers your FOMO, you should write it down in a journal.
Some triggers are obvious ones, like seeing another bettor post about a win on social media, especially a bet that you did not take.
But other triggers are not as obvious. A FOMO trigger could be something as simple as a friend announcing he bought a new car or is going on a trip. You might feel a pang of envy, followed by the anxiety that you will miss out on these types of experiences if you do not make more money fast. This can then push you toward over-betting.
If you are not aware of these FOMO triggers, you might be acting unconsciously, ignorant of what you are doing.
- Remove Some Of Your Triggers, If You Can
After you identify your FOMO triggers, see if you can eliminate some of them, or at least reduce your exposure.
We have already talked about staying off of social media. What about the friend who buys a new car? Well, in general, you cannot do much about that. If your friend is a great person who brings value to your life, you will just have to be aware that some of what he shares with you might trigger you.
But if you have a toxic friend who relentlessly boasts about his lifestyle, that might be someone you could have less contact with.
- Focus On Gratitude
FOMO involves focusing on what you do not have. But what about the things you do have?
Chances are good you have a lot of great things in your life that other people do not. Like I mentioned before, there are situations where you might feel FOMO, but actually be a more successful bettor than the person you are envying.
When you find yourself stewing about everything you lack, try shifting your attention toward feeling gratitude for everything you have.
- Focus On The Times You Didn’t Bet And “Missed Out” On Losing
Remember the loss avoidance bias that makes our distress at losing $100 greater than our joy at winning $100?
This same bias also tends to make us pay more attention to the wins we missed out on than the losses we managed to avoid.
It does not help that people post their wins far more often than they post their losses. So, you find out more frequently about the times you missed out on wins than the times you avoided losses.
When feeling FOMO, try and think about all the times you narrowly escaped disaster by deciding not to take a bet. You won’t know what all of them were, but you can safely assume that they do exist.
- Learn About The Hindsight Bias
Speaking of cognitive biases, there are some others that contribute to FOMO. One of those is the hindsight bias.
Sometimes the hindsight bias is referred to as the “knew it all along” bias. This is in reference to when people experiencing the hindsight bias declare that they “knew all along” that a particular outcome was going to happen, even though they didn’t.
So, say you skipped a particular bet because you felt unsure about it. You then later find out that the bet would have won, maybe by seeing someone else post about winning it online.
Suddenly, looking back at the past, you feel differently about it. Your memories change as you try to access them. You no longer remember feeling unsure, you instead remember feeling a strong intuitive pull toward the bet. You convince yourself that you disregarded your gut, and paid the price by missing out.
The next time you feel conflicted about whether or not to take a bet, you think back about the previous incident. You think, “I am not going to disregard my instincts again.”
You worry that if you do not take the bet, you are disregarding your intuition, even if that is not really what is going on. Dreading missing out on another opportunity, you take the bet, despite it not being an ideal wager.
Breaking free of the hindsight bias will allow you to make more accurate assessments of past bets. You will remember that you truly did not feel confident that the bets you passed on were worth it. You will respect that uncertainty when you place future bets. As a result, you will be less susceptible to FOMO.
In the long run, that will actually help you to listen to and trust your instincts. You will not be clouding those instincts with your bias.
- Treat Underlying Psychological Issues
Depression and anxiety can contribute to FOMO. Obviously, if you have difficulties with anxiety, you may more easily feel anxious about the possibility of missing out on a winning bet.
As for depression, like we mentioned earlier, you might be trying to fill a hole in your life, and you worry that if you keep missing out on opportunities, you will feel forever unfulfilled.
So, it is a good idea to try treating these underlying challenges. If you can manage to cope better with your anxiety or depression (or even alleviate them), FOMO may hold less influence over you.
- Deal With Underlying Financial Problems
Since we are talking about FOMO regarding betting specifically, we are going to guess that in some cases, financial difficulties could be a contributing factor.
If you desperately need money, of course you are going to fear missing out on the chance to place a winning bet.
See if you can do something to give yourself more financial stability and resources, like apply for a better job until you get one.
One you have greater financial stability, you will be less afraid of missing out on financial opportunities.
- Work With A Therapist
You can do a lot of work on yourself on your own successfully, but sometimes you might benefit from some extra support.
Consider doing some therapy sessions to work on any aspects of your psychology you think might be contributing to your fear of missing out.
In particular, a therapist may be very helpful with treating depression or anxiety. Just keep in mind that a therapist can only give you tools and perspective. Ultimately, you are the one who will need to do the hard work.
- Accept That FOMO Will Always Be There
Finally, fear of missing out is simply human. Some people may struggle with it more or less than others, but everyone experiences it now and again. Even if you manage to avoid most of your triggers and treat underlying issues, you are still going to feel FOMO once in a while.
So, to some degree, you just need to learn to live with it. FOMO will make you feel uncomfortable, but you can learn to coexist with discomfort and still make smart decisions as you bet on sports.
Combat FOMO to Keep Betting Profitably
FOMO is challenging to resist in our world of social media. But it can be detrimental to a bettor, so it is important to take steps to overcome it. You now have some ideas that can help you to cope with your FOMO and keep placing profitable bets.
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