How social media contributes to FOMO

By Georgina Lavan


Source: NUBI

You’ve travelled to work/school to find that you’ve left your phone at home. That sickening feeling rises in your stomach – “how am I going to check my Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat today?”

Welcome to the world of FOMO, the acronym for ‘fear of missing out’. The Oxford Dictionary defines FOMO as “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media” (Oxford Dictionary, 2013). FOMO is a big deal. One in two teens and one in four adults in Australia suffer from FOMO (APS, 2015). In fact, studies have shown a strong positive correlation between the number of hours spent on digital technology and symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Social media is a HUGE contributor to FOMO. Think about it? Your friends are inclined to update you with holiday snaps, celeb run ins, their wedding day or the purchasing of their first home over being at home sick, getting fired from their job or breaking up with their significant other. That’s because we self-edit our lives on social media strategically with the aim to, in a nutshell, let everyone know that our lives are fabulous!

In fact, according to the Stress and Wellbeing in Australia Report (2011 – 2015):

  • Adults will spend an average of 2.1 hours a day on social media, compared to children who spent 2.7 hours per day.
  • On average, 59 per cent of teens feel the need to keep track of their friends when they are on holiday.
  • 51 per cent of teens on average feel that it is important to post status updates when they are having a good time.
  • Just under half of Australian teens (approximately 45%) feel that their peers are having more rewarding experiences than them and 46 per cent also wonder if they are spending too much time keeping up with what is going on with others.
  • More than one in two teens (57%) find it difficult to sleep or relax after spending time on social networking sites, and 60 per cent feel brain ‘burnout’ from constant connectivity of social media

“We’ve always been scared of missing out on the occasional party or seeing friends doing other stuff which you’re involved in, but with social media, that feeling has increased in intensity dramatically” – consumer psychologist, Adam Ferrier.

The issue with FOMO as a phenomenon is that whilst we’re focusing on either the past (where we’ve missed out on something) or the future (in fear of missing out), we are neglecting to live in the present, including spending time with family, friends and colleagues because we’re too busy focusing on the lives of others. This in turn means that we’re sending a message to those in our present company that we feel there is something better out there. Not exactly the best way to maintain relationships.

So, how can we reduce our FOMO?

  • Take some time out from your devices: whether it’s a no phone zone at the dinner table, or no phone in bedrooms, you’re choosing to engage with those around you during meal and family times.
  • Keep computers in common areas: By monitoring your children’s computer usage in a centralised area, you’re eliminating the likelihood of them staying up late online in their bedrooms.
  • Set boundaries: If family members aren’t willing to budge on the rules, take things a step further. Brands like kSafe offer timed locking containers where you can store your devices and set a countdown before anyone can open the jar. It’s an extreme, but an effective one.
  • Keep phones off the table: Meeting friends at the pub or café usually means that the phone goes on the table. If you receive notifications, you’re more inclined to pick up your phone whenever it buzzes. Keep it in your bag, or have a rule that the first person who picks up their phone pays the bill.
  • Shut down for the night: If you need your phone in your room for alarm purposes, set it and put the phone on your bedside table an hour before bed. This gives your body some time to shut down for the night to ensure you get a good night’s rest. Don’t forget to put it on silent!
  • Remember it’s not always about you: It’s very easy to point the finger at ourselves when it comes to missing out on social events. Instead of assuming there is something wrong with you, think outside the box as to why you might not be present at an event. It’s very easy to get upset at seeing your friends at a birthday together when, in fact, the birthday boy/girl is someone you don’t even know.

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