“Do you believe you’re missing out, that everything good is happening somewhere else?” - Brand New, “Jesus Christ”
In terms of eras, the age of social media is in its adolescence. Therefore, psychological conditions associated with social media are undeveloped, but they do exist. One such condition is the fear of missing out, or “FOMO.” FOMO is a disorder in which people are worried their friends might be having more fun and rewarding experiences than them.
For example, you’re stuck taking math 101 in summer school while your friends road trip to Lollapalooza. FOMO is characterized by an unrelenting desire to monitor or be connected with what your peers are doing. Researchers have developed a quiz to diagnose how bad you’ve got FOMO, take it here: The FOMO Quiz.
Feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and depression can stem from the fear of missing out. Brooke Randolph, LMHC, resident mental health expert at DietsInReview.com, said this condition is relatively uncharted territory, and she’s “never treated someone with an unhealthy reliance on social media.” However, she says that if social media is managed correctly, FOMO won’t occur.
When I asked if social media strengthened bonds of friendship or created low self-esteem, she said, “Both can occur. It is dependent on how it is used and the perception of the user.”
There is no concrete evidence that social media use contributes to the development of psychological illnesses. Brooke even suggested that people with pre-existing social anxiety could benefit from social media. “For most people with social anxiety, social media allows them to control socialization to the amount of contact that works best for them,” said Brooke. One good component of social media platforms is the ability for the user to turn the on or off switch, but having the ability doesn’t mean they have the will power.
Everyone has been guilty of FOMO at one time or another. People text while driving or crossing a street, hop on Facebook at work, check Twitter during social gatherings and sporting events—all in the quest to find a more fulfilling social experience than the one they’re in. We don’t post pictures of our bills, dirty bath tubs, and prescriptions for a reason—we would hate to tarnish our reputation or give the idea our lives are normal and humdrum. We present ourselves in the most flattering light possible on social media sites to give the impression our lives are quite exceptional. There’s no shame in only sharing the more exquisite moments of your everyday life, but the sugar coated sheen we polish on our posts becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of FOMO.
When we see someone else having a more privileged experience than us, we get bummed and try to one-up or match the idealized lush life. And so turns the FOMO wheel.
If you feel you display some of the symptoms of FOMO, I humbly invite you to put down the phone or close the laptop; having a concentrated, focused conversation with your pals is pretty refreshing, IMO. I know living IRL is tough, and while social media can make you feel super connected and important, your likes, shares, and retweets ain’t gonna be eulogized. Tweet if you liked the article!