by Elior Moskowitz
Social media is a blessing and a curse. It’s great for staying in touch with old friends, finding people with similar interests, and sharing your ideas—but it’s also a breeding ground for self-comparison, like a bully that chips away at your self-esteem. Its weapon of choice? FOMO: The “fear of missing out.”
FOMO is defined as a feeling of inferiority and anxiety about missing out on meaningful experiences triggered by self-comparison and prompted by social media. It’s running rampant, with over half of all social media users and nearly two-thirds of Millennials reporting such fears.
Here are a few tips for how you can face your disabling feelings of FOMO and live the kind of life you really don’t want to miss out on:
Fear #1: You’ll feel FOMO forever Studies show that FOMO preys on and exacerbates (rather than merely creates) dissatisfaction. This creates a mental trap that’s hard to escape—as Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake says, “Social software is both the creator and the cure of FOMO. It’s cyclical.” This means that most of us feel FOMO sometimes, but we usually opt to “join ‘em” rather than “beat ’em” by posting equally as appealing snapshots of our own lives to try and keep up with those who instigated this feeling in the first place. Inevitably we feel like we come up short…thus perpetuating the cycle.
Fix: Step out of the cycle The first step to fighting FOMO is to lessen your time spent on social media. The average person will spend over 5 years on social media in their lifetime—and this number is on the rise. Keep track of exactly how much time you spend checking your devices (apps like Moment can help with this) and then set some boundaries. A good goal is to check your phone 2 or 3 times during the day. Then, bring awareness to why you’re posting, not just what you’re posting. Posting out of anxiety or a desire to compete just feeds your FOMO, but making the process more mindful will help you regain control.
Fear #2: You’re in the wrong place at the wrong time When you constantly fear you’re missing out, you actually do end up missing out…on your own life. Don’t allow social media to steal your inner peace by wishing you were always somewhere else or losing sight of what you do have. As meQuilibrium co-founder and CEO Jan Bruce says, “What you focus on will flourish.” If you constantly focus on what you don’t have, you’ll always feel like you don’t measure up.
Fix: Practice appreciation Try cultivating a mindset of gratitude by countering the negative thoughts about what you’re lacking with a reminder of what you do have. Reclaim social media as a tool to maximize relationships that you’re grateful for—use it to make plans with friends, share photos with your family, and maintain your long distance relationships. That was the original purpose of social media: to be a tool of connection.
Fear #3: You don’t measure up When you get caught up in the shiny glamour that others project on their social media feeds, it’s easy to forget that the same people who post those perfect selfies, brunches with mimosas, and scenic vacation views also have bad days—they just don’t choose to document those moments. Social media is highly cultivated: You are seeing what others want you to see, not their reality. You’re comparing your bloopers to someone else’s highlight reel.
Fix: Put yourself first Rather than letting other people’s representations of themselves dictate how you should be, take time to examine your own personal values. Do some digging into what is at the root of your FOMO: Do you feel like something is lacking in your life? Could you foster and strengthen more connections with others? Tune into your needs. If you need some R&R tonight, rather than a loud, crowded, and Instagrammable party, do it—and #own it.
The account that matters most is the accountability you have to yourself, and you have as much control over your thoughts as you do your social media pages. In fact, when you use social media as a tool to savor the moment, rather than a means to live it, you can start making the most of your life, rather than missing out on it.
Elior Moskowitz is the Content Coordinator at meQuilibrium. She is a frequent Cup of Calm contributor and writes often about leadership, lifestyle, and wellbeing. She holds a B.A. in Psychology and English from the University at Albany.