It seems almost pointless to rattle on and on about the internet and how it has shaped our modern world. We essentially have created the world we live in today on the foundation of the internet. We use it to communicate, transport and live day to day. Without the internet, the world, unfortunately, stops turning. It also seems like all of the dangers that surround social media, particularly when it comes to mental health, are common knowledge. So often we hear the discussions of basing our success off those we see online, being connected yet distant with other people and of course cyberbullying; however there is one aspect of this conversation that has been around long before social media but has been greatly magnified because of it. That of course, is FOMO, or the Fear Of Missing Out.
Social media too readily gives people platforms to project a perfect version of themselves. But it also is an outlet for people to leave themselves out. For example, my brother is in high school, and while none of his friends go to school dances or sporting events, they are always texting someone who is there via Snapchat. They are afraid to be in person because phones are a social crutch, and social media feigns involvement. They never fully get what they want out of the event because they aren't there, and it honestly makes missing things feel worse.
Think of FOMO through the eyes of an anxious first-year college student. You’re on your own for the first time and you most likely won’t know a lot of the faces you’re now living with. I think FOMO on social media hits hard for people going either back to college or going for the first time. They see the people they went to high school with doing these crazy/fun things at a huge university while they are at community college or a state school (not that those places are bad!) It can pressure people to be someone they aren’t or do something they would never imagine themselves doing because they want a story to tell their high school friends.
Social media gives people who use it an idea of a false reality, and because social media is so readily accessible it feels entirely real. I have actually temporarily deleted some of my social media accounts from my phone because I experienced such bad FOMO. It was hurting my mental health, even after the number of Covid cases were going down in the past few months. I was living with someone who was extremely high risk during the holidays, and seeing all of my friends traveling and hanging out in general was so hard to watch. Even though I am healthy, I had to protect my family by staying in. I wanted to spend time with friends and travel so badly, and it felt like everyone else but me was able to do so.
In the end, I think FOMO and social media really comes down to what you value as important in life. It’s sometimes hard to give up having a presence on social media, and having the access to connect with so many people. However, the first step for overcoming that anxiety, is to attack the root of the cause, and if going cold turkey isn’t your cup of tea, an easier first step is to take a break and limit that screen time.