FOMO on social media is palpable

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A person lying in bed, visibly tired but scrolling away on their phone.
Sleep is restful and nourishing, but TikTok is more fun. Ilorcraft via Pixabay and echapman via Pixabay, manipulated by Lee Lim

Poor use of social media can trigger unhealthy thought patterns 

by jose alcantara, contributor

FOMO is an acronym for ‘fear of missing out,’ and is an aspect of our psychological makeup that has probably been around since the beginning of civilization. We live in a society wherein social interaction is not only needed but is a must to survive. Humans are very social creatures. Whether an introvert or extrovert, we need to be around others to maintain relationships, and that’s how FOMO comes into the picture. Not being able to be part of something may make us feel excluded, or wary that we might be missing something eventful or important. Fear of missing out is real and it’s something that would be hard to completely rid oneself of. 

Social media today is a space in which people most experience FOMO. People tend to overthink what they read or see on social network sites or platforms and wonder if they are missing out on anything. Social media might have brought people closer, but it is also a cause of anxiety, depression, addiction, loneliness, and ultimately FOMO. As social media becomes more prominent in our society, the number of people who will likely experience FOMO will increase, with the youth trying to keep themselves relevant and caught up on any trend. This will mostly push them into thinking that they could never miss anything about anything or they will fall behind.  

The fear of missing out could be experienced by simply looking at social media posts of your friends hanging out and thinking that they deliberately posted them to make you jealous. Another example of FOMO is overthinking that your friends may have a secret group chat you are not a part of. People who are prone to feelings of FOMO will most likely force themselves to adapt, change, or lie to avoid having those thoughts. One could lie about having watched a new movie to avoid being judged, change their appearance for social media, or force themselves to adapt to a situation they know they do not fit. 

FOMO is most prevalent among young people, as they make up the majority of consumers of social media. In 2018, around 7 in every 10 millennials reporting having had experienced FOMO. Young adults aged 16 to 24 years old form a big percentage of people who experience FOMO. I have personally experienced FOMO, especially as an immigrant who moved here to Canada when I was at an awkward pre-teen stage of my life and was trying to fit in.  

Everyone had Facebook. I was added as a friend by my classmates, but feared that I would not be able to follow what they are posting and talking about in those spaces. I also felt FOMO as I was concerned that I would miss out on my friends I had left back home. 

FOMO is an issue that is also greatly influenced by people we follow on social media, be they celebrities or influencers. Having access to merely a snippet of those peoples’ lives, one could experience FOMO as one compares themselves with others. FOMO is caused by social media and its effects are seen based on the number of people who have experienced and are constantly experiencing it. 

We should find a way to lessen the degree to which one experiences FOMO. It might sound like an issue that others could label as jealousy, but FOMO is much deeper than that and could lead to other issues like depression or loneliness. A simple way to avoid having FOMO is to cut down on time spent on social media. We shouldn’t think that social media is a space for us to always be in. Time goes by on a whim, and it is alright to miss some things.  

Growing up in a society that stays connected through the help of digital communication in the form of social media will have its pros and cons, but people will experience a different level of FOMO. The fear of being out of the loop is real, and we need to remember it is okay to not be a part of everything. 

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