By Claire Hansen
Blog Content Contributor
FOMO = Fear of missing out.
We all know this wicked feeling. In a world dominated by media, where anything and everything is shared, missing out is an uncomfortable reality we all experience at least once in awhile. It can be hard to tell where these feelings come from, why we have them, or, most importantly, how to stop them. It is a hard concern to cope with, so I think it is time someone lays out a plan we can turn to when we find ourselves struck by this insidious curse.
In today’s modern world, life seems to be all about being in the loop. Everyone knows what everyone else is up to, thanks to our lovely friend Social Media, and as time goes on we seem to realize that these oh-so-wonderful tools used to put our best moments in the light may, in turn, put our minds in the dark. If you are someone who is already not feeling so great about life to begin with, then you are naturally more inclined to wonder where you stand in relation to everyone else. What comes next after that? You fire up Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter or the likes to access all of that information with just a few swipes of the thumb. It is a dangerously easy trap to fall into. Soon enough we all find ourselves living in this vicious cycle, where we turn to social media to help us feel better about our own lives, but instead, actually end up feeling worse. We begin to spend more time judging the lives of others’ than enjoying our own. The result is our potential confidence and motivation towards life dwindling down to a useless heap of envy and depression. Do not get too disheartened yet, though, as research has provided us with answers for why we are all going crazy and how to cease the insanity.
I think it is safe to say that FOMO is largely a result or consequence of the ever-growing role that social media plays in each of our lives. However, we all know to some extent that social media does not exactly provide an accurate representation of people’s lives in their entirety. It is only the carefully filtered and edited highlight reel; the best of the best. Yet, we still instinctively compare it to our behind-the-scenes. As Montesquieu once said, “If one only wished to be happy, this could be easily accomplished; but we wish to be happier than other people, and this is always difficult, for we believe others to be happier than they are.” It is no wonder why we feel insufficient after saturating our brains in the ideas of false, unachievable realities. Even if we know in the back of our minds that these are not accurate depictions of true life, the constant comparison can be undoubtedly destructive to our self-esteem. Our solution to this onset of FOMO is to then post something ourselves; in other words, to join the game. But joining the game only strengthens the cycle. Soon enough we are all riding the emotional roller coaster and nobody is happy. Whatever you posted, even if it made you feel better, only contributed to the issue by making anyone else who saw it feel worse. So, how do we break the cycle?
It all boils down to where we pay our attention. If we put a lot of our focus on social media, (aka, the fake life,) we will not find happiness at all, especially if we are comparing it to our real life. By being so absorbed in the worlds of others, we are automatically neglecting to participate in our own world, and that is how the monstrous FOMO arises. Bad things do not bother us unless we are thinking about them; it is as simple as that! If we always compare what we have to the best-case-scenario of what we could have, then it’s no doubt we will always be left unsatisfied. But, if we take that thing we are unsatisfied with, and imagine how we would feel if it were taken away from us or removed from our life completely, we instantly find ourselves a little more thankful and appreciative of it. By simply reallocating our attention and altering the way we perceive things, we can learn how to be grateful for even the most overlooked things in life. And research shows that with gratitude, comes not only happiness, but an array of other positive things as well, like higher grade point average, life satisfaction, social integration, and absorption, as well as lower envy and depression. It is all about making the comparisons that make us feel we have more, as opposed to our usual comparisons to the digital world, that make us feel we have less.
In present-day society, it is the unfortunate truth that we probably all suffer from FOMO in some way or another. With the ever-growing role that media of all kinds plays in our lives, it is conclusive that the FOMO epidemic won’t be cured anytime soon. Luckily (and kind of ironically, too), media and the internet can also provide us with the advice we occasionally need when life gets us down and we do not know how to handle those inevitable feelings. It is important to keep in mind that the internet is neither a bad tool nor a good tool; it is simply a creation of modern technology, and it is up to each of us individually to decide how we want to use it.
Featured image contributed by Claire Hansen.