Quick — do you know what your friends are doing right now? As you read this, are you waiting for the ping of a new text coming in? Are you hooked on Twitter, Instagram and FB? If so, you may suffer from FOMO.
FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out, has recently been identified as a phenomenon not only in the US, but worldwide (as this story about teens in South Africa and teens in India shows) and those in the “millennial generation.” It has become such a widespread trend that this past summer Kotex even used it as a theme in its new marketing campaign citing that “94% of girls experience FOMO.” Suffering from FOMO means constantly checking Facebook status updates and other social media sites and feeling that other people are always doing something better than whatever you’re doing. FOMO can leave you feeling sad, left out or boring.
As social media seeps into every corner of our lives, more studies have emerged chronicling the ways in which its effects can be negative. Generally speaking, fractured attention and lack of ability to focus are seen as the offshoots of too much online time. But going online to “compare and despair” by reading friends’ news-feeds and then getting the sense that you’re not attending the hottest parties or having the best time can be damaging to your self-esteem, never-mind that it paints a false picture.
We all know how easy it is to leave out the bad parts when we tell a friend an anecdote about what we did last weekend. It’s deceptively simple to only post your best Instagram photo or share the night’s funniest 10 second moment in a cute tweet. On some level, we know that’s not the whole story. But if you’re stuck doing homework when everyone else seems to be partying, it’s impossible to not feel a stab of regret or envy.
While detaching from social media sites (at least for an hour at a time, if not longer) can help, it isn’t the entire answer. Don’t let FOMO make you feel that your choice to be with family or even have a night to yourself is less cool. Sometimes finishing up a long homework project, practicing an instrument or cleaning your room is necessary and will feel worthwhile in the end. So much about social media reinforces instant gratification. Work now to identify what you value most so that FOMO doesn’t make you her slave!
Say NO to FOMO’s siren call. Don’t sleep with the phone by your side or computer on. Try to avoid getting stressed because of what someone else claims to be doing. Don’t let it make you feel less than. Create your own priorities and take the time for the things important to you. Breathe deeply when you feel anxious and don’t let your sense of validation come from the story you put up on your Facebook page or twitter feed. Reframe “missing out” as “doing what I want to do” and realize how good that feels. Don’t forget… YOLO 🙂