There is not a soul in the world who has not experienced FoMO (fear of missing out). Even my three year old gets FoMO. FoMO is not a modern day affliction, but the level of intensity which we experience FoMO is. Because of social media, not only are we aware of what our family and friends are doing, the constant barrage of information breeds the feeling that we will miss something.
Contrived online personas make the FoMO even more acute – beautiful, cool, successful people are out there doing amazing, fun and clever things – that I’m not part of. You may not have had that exact thought, but perhaps you have experienced an incarnation of it – even if subliminally.
FoMO undermines even the hardiest personality’s peace of mind.
But it also undermines your relationships with your loved ones, with your children. Being so distracted by what’s happening beyond the walls of your own home means that you disengage. I’m certainly guilty of this; although I am trying to change this.
It is inherently human to crave social interaction. Social media is a part of this but it seems like we’ve lost the balance. Often, when we lose the balance from these important aspects of our lives, it affects our health and wellbeing.
A recent study found that higher use of social media correlated to higher rates of depression and anxiety, but another study found that that if your “psychological needs were deprived” you would be more likely to use social media.
That finding is quite startling to me; quite alarming. At a guess, around 97.5% of my friends, family and extended community uses social media. I wouldn’t like to suggest that most of those people’s mental health is compromised – but perhaps if we keep at it, at this rate, we will end up that way. Because let’s face it – we’re all on it, and not just once a week.
For me, I’m on Facebook at least a couple of times a day, but I don’t consider my mental health to be compromised. I admit to getting drawn in to the FoMO that social media can propagate, and I can understand how someone who is feeling a little fragile could easily spiral down into something deeper, something more unhealthy than fragility.
And I know that it has ruined friendships.
It’s such a shame that living our lives through someone else’s lens can damage what are otherwise happy and functional relationships.
You can measure your degree of FoMo here, at Rate My FoMO – this has been used in the studies that I talk about above, and was put together by psychologists to help them support their hypotheses around social media. Ultimately, it’s a bit of fun, but also an interesting exercise.
So if you feel like you’re at risk, here are some ideas to dampen the fire of FoMO:
- Mindfulness is the perfect salve to FoMO. If you’re trying to be practise mindfulness – stay off social media, as it will destroy your best intentions. Mindfulness is about looking inward – not outward, and it is sometimes uncomfortable. But it’s discomfort with a long term benefit, unlike the harm FoMO can do.
- Take a digital detox. Disconnect entirely from social media. It can be a little extreme, so perhaps work up to it.
- If a full digital detox is too much for you to handle, start by turning off notifications on your devices. I did this about 18 months ago and it has made an enormous difference. There have been times when I’ve deleted social media apps from my phone as well. This might work for you. To replace that incessant checking, carry a poetry book or a rubix cube – replace that short sharp burst of virtual interaction with some sort of activity.
- Accept that you won’t be invited to everything. Consider if you would seriously want to be invited to everything. There is something great about doing things your own way. And finally: