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:
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.