“What’s Happening, What’s on Your Mind”: FoMO & Social Media

FoMO, the Fear of Missing Out: The phenomena in which one feels the need to say yes to every experience, holding the belief that they may pass up on something generally amazing otherwise.

Sounds like you? If yes, welcome to the sad, sad club.

If not, then here’s how it tends to go, at least for me: It’s 8:30pm on a Tuesday night, and you have some sort of pressing thing that you really have to get done for Thursday, whether this be for school, work, or something personal. So, to avoid an all-nighter on Wednesday, you’re trying to get some of it done now. But then, you open twitter, see one of your friends tweet out that they’re going for a milkshake run (Or some other, probably more exciting thing), asking for people to join.

Oh no.

Suddenly, the world starts slowing down, revolving around you and your phone very cinematically. You know that you have to make a decision, and relatively fast, but what do you say? You were kind of thinking about getting milkshakes earlier, but at that time when you thought it wouldn’t be happening, so you had a compensatory cookie. You know that if you partake in milkshakes it will be sugar overload. You begin to reflect on your poor pancreas, and all it has done for you. However, milkshakes are the nectar of the gods. Then there’s that assignment you have to do; you know that you’ll be miserable if you have to stay up doing it tomorrow, and you’ll probably feel like crap and the actual product may not be as good as you’d want it to be. At the same time though, there’s a little voice shouting at the top of its little lungs to value life experience over work-related priorities. You haven’t seen these friends in a couple of days- what if they don’t do this again? What if they do, but if I decline this time they won’t invite me to the next outing in the assumption that I’m too busy? What if they go out tonight with the objective of getting milkshakes, but end up having some unrelated and totally awesome and random experience?

By the time you resume rational thought, you’ve already got a milkshake in your hand.

Now, for those of you that would be able to respond to that text with a simple response, without the above thought process, congratulations. I sincerely applaud you. Please show me how.

This is becoming a huge problem, for a lot of people. According to a survey given by JWT, a global marketing company, the majority of those surveyed answered that they feel the need to say yes to everything, and over half responded that they feel that they don’t invest enough time into their personal interests.

But why is this such a big problem today in particular? Well, dear reader, it might have something to do with the device you’re reading this article off of. Or at least, some of the things it contains.

Social media is fueling FoMO.

Now, before you write me off as some technologically-averse old-timer, I pay tribute to my various accounts just as much as anybody. Every night before I fall asleep, I can’t help but scroll through them. It’s undeniable that in today’s world, having an online presence is necessary.

However, the extent to which we do this is us getting in our own way.

The problem lies in the connection social media provides us, and the ease of access we have to it in our lives. We are able to scroll through twitter, refresh it, and then see everything that’s happened worldwide since we first opened the app just 3-5 minutes ago. This should be overwhelming to us, but often, it feels easier to absorb than the current task we may be trying to avoid. I will often open an app on my phone for a micro-study break, even though I’m not actually giving my brain a break, and am rather overloading it with infinitely more information, it still feels, to an extent, relaxing.

Though it feels this way initially, what’s never a good feeling is when I’m on that study break, and I see pictures of my friends at a really cool concert, or just generally hanging out. I have a mini-crisis that I’m doing something wrong with my life, even though I planned or wanted my night to go the way it currently is for a reason.

FoMO stems from a place within us that wants to live a meaningful, enjoyable life, but by spending all of our time worrying about how you could be living your life better in comparison to others online, we’re really just decreasing our enjoyment of life. We tend to be so sure that we’re doing the opposite.

I know that you’ve heard about the rainbow of different dangers associated with being online extensively, and that the knowledge of these things probably won’t lessen your usage. I know it doesn’t lessen mine.

But it’s important that we just be aware of these issues. There’s a big difference between doing something without knowing the damage it does to you, and choosing to do it as an informed individual. Knowing is a way of protecting yourself.

Turn off the Facebook notifications on your laptop. Flip your phone screen over and put it on silent. Be present in what you are doing, not what you could be.

Nobody has a perfect life, but almost everybody online tries to show you otherwise.

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