The fear of missing out, or FOMO, is a relatively new concept and a feeling that has been significantly increased by the prevalence of social media platforms—particularly those that offer image and video sharing features. The fear is really more of an anxiety or a symptom of low self-esteem, and refers to people who are concerned that everyone else in the world is having more fun, is more successful, or is living a better life in general.
Because our friends, fans, followers, connections– or whatever they are called on their respective networks– are consistently posting photos of or updates about the party they attended, their lavish Greek vacation, their tidy-well dressed-bright eyed-smiling 4 year old, or their life-changing promotion, we make comparisons about our personal achievements based on the major milestones in other peoples’ lives.
Party photos: It is easy to forget that most people will never post images or tweet about the aftermath of the party– how sick they were from drinking too much or their puffy face post-hangover.
Lavish Vacation: Couples won’t generally be honest on social media about the arguments they had during their “dream” vacation, about indigestion from foreign food, about the uncomfortable hotel mattress, or three-hour line coming through customs.
Beautiful Baby: And lets be honest, it took that mother over an hour to get her child clean enough, to get her to sit still, and to force her into that cute little dress and those adorable shoes…then the little angel cried for 15 minutes about the process and was relieved for an instant by the promise of a cookie—and in that instant mom snapped a fantastic photo.
Promotions: You’ll never see photos of your old college buddy’s 10-year struggle up the ranks. Sure he or she may have a beautiful office with a view that looks over the entire city, but it probably took a lot of late nights, sucking up to the boss, extra projects, overtime, skill, and sacrifice to get there.
Maybe instead of being envious, anxious, or inadequate, we need to remember that for the most part, the social media industry is about sharing highlights, so we aren’t always getting the entire picture. Technology makes it easy for us to stay tuned into news feeds and networks—and we begin to feel like we have to check in and check up, otherwise something will occur and we wont be there to experience it.
Ultimately, FOMO is a form of projection—we are concerned that the decisions we made in our lives aren’t “right”—maybe if we had gone to college like Friend A or if we had only quit that job and taken some other path… is Friend B happier than me because she chose to be a stay at home mom?
These anxieties can lead to indecision and depression, and in the end you really will miss out. But, if social media can create anxiety, how effective is social media in reducing it? It’s all about moderation.
Take our advice:
- Do not compare yourself, your choices, and your life to what you see on Facebook, Twitter, television, Instagram or anywhere else for that matter.
- Create a path and timeline that you feel comfortable with or just be present in the moment you are living—whether or not that moment would make for a beautiful Instagram photo.
- Throughout your day, you should practice recognizing a distraction from a worthwhile concern. Silence your phone while driving; leave it behind while using the restroom, (yes a high percentage of people bring a mobile phone to the bathroom), and ask yourself if you are using social media effectively—or just over doing it.
- Reduce the amount of time you spend checking up on your friends by finding value in your activities. If you are content staying home or doing something that you’ve planned, you won’t be so interested in what others are doing.
- Make a list of your priorities—they can be short term or long term goals—maybe you want to learn to cook, read a new book each month, train for a marathon, fix up an old car, or go back to school… and when you have the need to check your social media networks or to accept an invitation to some lackluster event, think back to your list and choose something that is more worthy of your time.
We live in large interconnected world—and I can guarantee you that right now, someone, somewhere is having so much more fun than you—someone else is more financially stable, skinnier, healthier, more put together, wiser, tougher, taller, and cooler. And that is ok.
This entry was posted on Friday, September 6th, 2013 at 7:30 am
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