"I find myself frozen." 'Fobo' is the new social anxiety you might be suffering from.


First we had Fomo, the fear of missing out, and once upon a time that felt relatable. No one wanted to sit at home and watch Netflix while everyone else was out having a good time…right?

Um, wrong actually. Because then we discovered Jomo – the joy of missing out. And it became entirely socially acceptable to sit on the couch and eat corn chips while everyone else was out having a good time. Encouraged, even. You know, #selfcare; you do you.

But what happens when you’re on the couch scrolling through Netflix and find yourself completely unable to choose a film? So much so that you end up choosing nothing?

That, friends, is Fobo – the fear of better options. It was coined by American venture capitalist Patrick McGinnis, who seems to have a knack for acronyms because he’s also the guy that came up with Fomo. Thanks, Patrick, for so accurately summarising our very particular social anxieties.

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So what is Fobo?

It’s characterised by an inability to choose between the options available. For example, whether to watch The Knight Before Christmas or Let It Snow. Both look equally terrible but which one is most deserving of your evening? Of your corn chips?

It’s a kind of analysis paralysis and can scale up to more important decisions, such as choosing what course to do at uni or something as serious as having a child. A person experiencing Fobo will typically find themselves absorbed in what could be, and it’s a feeling overthinkers might find all too relatable.


I know I do. Anyone who’s ever been to dinner with me knows my one rule: I can’t engage in proper conversation until I’ve decided what I’m ordering. Otherwise I’m going to be looking at your mouth moving while I’m mentally debating between chicken and fish. It sounds absurd, but I do legitimately find myself frozen by the choices on offer. That’s why I prefer restaurants with set menu options or better yet, $12 steak night. Then I know exactly what I’m having.

My decision fatigue filters into every area of my life. I’m on several different gym trials because I’m convinced there might be some better fitness option out there. What if I like boxing more than HIIT training? What happens then? It’s like my brain has a commitment problem.

As I write this, my computer screen has 61 tabs open. That’s not an exaggeration, though it is a convenient metaphor.

And I know what you’re thinking: the fact that I have the freedom to choose from all these options comes from a place of privilege. That’s certainly not something I take for granted.

But I’m clearly not the only one experiencing this, because now there’s a buzzy term for it. Apparently, as a society, we’re suffering from Fobo more and more.


The phenomenon largely stems from the internet and the rise of the everything-at-your-fingertips age, McGinnis told The Guardian. “Go on Amazon to buy a pair of white shoelaces and you have in excess of 200 choices, whereas 50 years ago you would go to Woolworths and choose between three.”

It’s not enough that we have search engines on our phones to serve up ALL possible options at our command. Social media literally gives us millions more ways to compare and despair on the daily.

A friend of mine is getting married and currently agonising over table linen. Something as simple as a napkin shouldn’t be consuming that much brain space, but she, like me, is an anxious person who is predisposed to overthinking. The rabbit hole of wedding suppliers and excessive spreadsheets is not helping her.

So should I actually be…concerned about my Fobo? Up until now I just sort of accepted that this was my default position in life; I’m choosy – sometimes annoyingly so.

It has also, in turn, given me a sense of control and authority over my choices. Having Fobo doesn’t necessarily mean you lack focus – it might mean that like me, you prefer to be measured and make informed decisions.

But I am making a concerted effort to close more literal (and metaphorical) tabs.

I just had a cull and I’m down to 42. Baby steps.