FOMO is the fear of missing out and refers to the perception that others are having more fun, living better lives and experiencing better things than you are, creating a deep sense of envy and affecting your self-esteem. While it's not a new concept, it has undoubtedly been exasperated with the onset and acceleration of social media over the last ten years or so.
Social media creates a platform for comparison where things, events and even happiness itself seem to be in competition at times. People and especially teenagers, spend their days looking at the highlight reel of other people's lives and compare their best picture-perfect experiences, often leading them to feelings of jealousy, guilt and often unworthiness.
FOMO can affect people of any age or gender or class. However, research has shown that increased use of social media can lead to higher stress levels in adolescents caused by FOMO. Girls experiencing depression tend to use social networking sites at a higher rate, whereas for boys, anxiety was a trigger for greater social media use*
Worryingly, FOMO is heavily linked to higher engagement in social media; it appears that FOMO is linked to both feeling a need to engage in social media and increasing that engagement. This means that FOMO and social media habits may contribute to a negative, self-perpetuating cycle.
Ways to reduce a sense of FOMO
Change your focus
Rather than focus on what you feel you lack or don't have, think about the things you do have. Try not to think of other people's posts as competition. Add more positive people to your feed Follow positive hashtags, delete or mute people who tend to brag or post filtered, unrealistic images of their life. Change your feed to show less of what triggers your FOMO. Analyse what you do on social media that makes you feel positive and what makes you feel negative and cut it out.
Reduce your time of social media
Social media can be a fantastic tool for connecting with people, learning about the world and being creative but if it's leading to FOMO, then try reducing your time on devices. It's a vicious circle; FOMO perpetuates more time spent on social media and sometimes you just need to break the habit. Take time out to just be in your own life, try some mindfulness or meditation to bring things back to you and the present.
Keep a journal
Sometimes without knowing it, you can start posting on social media, not just to record the fun things you do but also to gain validation on your experience from other people. Keep a private journal to record your memories and photos and shift your focus from public approval to private appreciation of the things in your life that you love.
Connect with real people
Feelings of loneliness, depression or anxiety can make you try harder to connect with other people. We look for a sense of belonging and validation from our friends. Unfortunately, social media engagement is not always the way to accomplish this - while it might be immediate, it can also seem hollow and fleeting. Try to connect with friends in real life to gain a deeper connection and more fulfilling engagement. It can help you shake the feeling that you are missing out and puts you in control of organising a social event yourself.
Focus on gratitude
Focus on what you are grateful for. Carry out small exercises like writing down three things a day that make you smile, contacting a friend to say thank you for something they have done. These little activities can lift your spirit and make others happier too, which in turn will make you happier. Concentrating on all that is positive in your life and taking the time to feel thankful will help you to feel that you have enough in your life without having to worry about what anyone else is up to.
By carrying out this advice, it will help you to turn your FOMO into JOMO, which of course is the joy of missing out. Sometimes it's nice to know you don't need to join in with everyone else to be content with what you are doing and who you are.