With greater use of social media to observe other people’s lives, it can be easy to compare our lives to the ones we see represented on screen. We may be led to believe that other people have better lives and experiences than we do, whether it’s their relationships, social circles, careers, finances, or vacations. This belief might grow to include the perception that other people are doing more exciting, interesting, or fun things without us — leading us to feel fear or anxiety that we are missing out on a fun or popular event. This fear has become so common that it even has a name, an acronym, and an entry in the Oxford dictionary: FOMO, the fear of missing out.
Read on to learn more about FOMO’s connection to social media, its impact on our mental health, and some ways to reduce FOMO and find greater satisfaction in our own lives.
FOMO And Its Link To Social Media
The term FOMO was coined in the early 2000s as more people began to experience the feeling while viewing social media posts. Social media allows its users to create an attractive, curated portrayal of themselves that their audience may confuse with reality. Because we only see another user’s “highlight reel” of their life, we may be led to believe that their life is attractive, fun, and interesting all the time, or at least more often than ours. FOMO can set in especially if you belong to the same social circle as someone you are following but were not part of a particular experience they posted about.
The Effect Of FOMO On Mental Health And How To Cope
While social media is intended to create digital social networks and communities, it can also have the opposite effect of causing feelings of isolation from real-life social circles and experiences that the user feels left out from. This sense of isolation, coupled with FOMO, can lead to a stronger need to connect with other people through social media, creating a consuming cycle of constantly checking to see what others are doing.
People with FOMO may experience feelings of loneliness, lowered self-esteem, social anxiety, feelings of inferiority, and depression. One study found that university students with high FOMO were more likely to text while driving, perhaps because they were less able to concentrate on the present moment.
While there is still limited scientific research on the mental health impacts of FOMO, social media users themselves have provided a glimpse of public opinion on the matter. A 2019 national poll of American social media users found that 67% of adults polled believed that social media usage is linked to loneliness and social isolation. Only 5% of adults polled believed social media was positive for mental health in general.
Reduce Time On Social Media
If you’re experiencing FOMO from social media use and have noticed that it’s taken a toll on your mental health, it could be beneficial to reduce your dependency on social media. Not comparing ourselves to others might be easier said than done, so try an out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach if you want to continue enjoying the benefits of social media. Follow accounts that inspire you and unfollow or mute the accounts that trigger feelings of FOMO. Silence the notifications on your phone, so you aren’t reminded throughout the day about social media activity.
One study found that people who were already dissatisfied with their lives were more likely to have FOMO. Gratitude may reduce feelings of FOMO and dissatisfaction by shifting our attention away from other people’s lives and focusing instead on the worthiness of our own. Practicing gratitude has been shown to increase feelings of happiness and reduce stress and symptoms of depression. Keeping a journal and writing down at least one thing a day that you’re grateful for could be a simple way to incorporate gratitude in your daily life.
Find Support In Therapy
If you or a loved one are experiencing the negative effects of FOMO, therapy may be a helpful option for shifting your attention towards your own life. One study developed a method for managing and reducing FOMO, including raising a person’s self-awareness of why they felt FOMO and under which contexts, followed by learning to manage their expectations about interactions on social media. Participants also tested methods such as practicing positive self-talk, doing activities they enjoyed that distracted them from social media, and setting goals for changing negative habits related to their social media use. A therapist may be able to work with you in a similar way by discussing with you how and when you experience FOMO and what you can do to alleviate those feelings when they arise.
An increasingly popular method for getting therapy is through online therapy platforms such as BetterHelp. Research has found that online therapy can be effective in treating an array of mental health conditions and illnesses, including depression and anxiety. One type of therapy now available with online therapists is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a type of therapy that helps the patient manage and change negative emotions by changing self-limiting thoughts and beliefs. One study discovered no significant differences between the effects of in-person and online CBT in terms of post-treatment outcomes.
An additional benefit of online therapy is from wherever you have an internet connection and smart device, such as a computer or phone. One feature of BetterHelp that may be helpful for people with FOMO is the option to message your therapist in between sessions. You and your therapist may decide to use the in-app messages to help keep you accountable to the goals you’ve set for yourself.
Take a look below at a review of a BetterHelp therapist from someone experiencing similar issues:
“Nancy is very knowledgeable of the things causing stress/anxiety in our lives today (Covid, social media, addiction, self-love, money, family, etc.). She is a wonderful listener and a quick responder. She backs up her advice with factual evidence, and overall makes you feel better.”
What is the fear of missing out?
The fear of missing out, commonly known as FOMO, is a psychological phenomenon where an individual experiences anxiety over the possibility of missing out on something important. This often manifests in a compulsive desire to stay updated through social networking sites or social media apps.
Why is fear of missing out good?
In some cases, the fear of missing out can serve as a form of human motivation, pushing people to engage more deeply in social activities or events that could enhance their life satisfaction. However, this positive aspect must be focused on to avoid adverse effects like possible internet addiction.
How do I cure my fear of missing out?
To address your fear of missing out, consider limiting your social media engagement and focusing on real-world social connections. Practicing mindfulness and setting boundaries can also help in achieving better well-being overall.
What are the symptoms of fear of missing out?
Symptoms can include constant checking of social media platforms, feelings of social exclusion when not invited to events and overall dissatisfaction with an individual’s social life. These symptoms can have a negative impact on mental health and well-being.
Is FOMO a symptom of ADHD?
FOMO is not specifically a symptom of ADHD, but it can overlap with impulsivity and hyperfocus, which are common in ADHD. However, labeling it a mental illness associated with ADHD may be oversimplifying.
How common is fear of missing out?
According to the World Journal of Clinical Cases, FOMO is increasingly common, especially in younger generations who are active on social networking platforms. Its prevalence could make it a concern for public health experts and future social or environmental research.
What is the fear of missing out in students?
In students, FOMO is often associated with the fear of missing out on social events, study groups, or other campus activities. This can lead to problematic internet use, affecting studies as students constantly check updates and messages to feel included.
Who experiences FOMO the most?
While FOMO is a common experience and part of normal human behavior, it is usually most common among young adults and teenagers. These groups are more active on social media, which can amplify feelings of social exclusion.
What is the fear of missing out and regret?
Often, the fear of missing out accompanies regret over past decisions, making the situation more emotionally complicated. This is because FOMO is not just about the fear of missing future events but also about regret over missed opportunities.
What is the fear of missing out on FOMO and social media?
FOMO and social media are intricately linked. The design of social media apps and social networking sites often exploits basic psychological needs for validation and inclusion, exacerbating feelings of FOMO and potentially leading to internet addiction.
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