I remember downloading Snapchat back in 2016. I had been suggested the app by a friend of mine who gave me some spiel along the lines of: “This is the hot new thing; everyone is doing it.”
As a meek seventh grader longing for social interaction, I reluctantly joined. This marked my leap into the rabbit hole of social media, for better or worse, and eventually led me to download Instagram just a year later.
Owning an Instagram account made me feel like I was finally part of something greater, even if I wasn’t posting anything. I was finally one of the cool kids that had a social media account.
As time went on, I saw more and more parties, vacations, social gatherings, Dairy Queen runs, etc. on social media and wondered when the stream would end.
Maybe it’s just a matter of the season, or cultural norms, or the superb financial situations of young teens with rich parents living in American suburbs or some group effort to do as many cool activities as possible in one go.
When I realized that it never ended, I always wondered why they never bothered inviting me. Why are these people doing all these awesome things without me? What was I missing?
Even subconsciously, though I wanted to reject it with all my being, I could not escape FOMO. It’s difficult to deny something so deeply ingrained in social media’s design.
FOMO, or the fear of missing out, is the collection of various feelings of envy and apprehension one might feel when they miss out on something that may have been important.
Note the word “may” as FOMO is rooted in the future and is based on the belief that such events would, in some way, change your life or have an impact on your current situation. Or you just simply wanted to attend those events and missed out on them.
In the context of parties, for example, one might believe that they missed an opportunity to meet new friends at a massive party, and they are now feeling FOMO about the whole debacle as a result.
Though social media acts as a metaphorical portal into the lives of our peers, there are simply too many opportunities for engagement and an essentially unlimited stream of content. Out of this, FOMO operates on a greater scale than ever before.
Outside of social media, though, we all experience FOMO to some degree. Much of this can be chalked up to the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
How much of it should we tolerate? And more importantly, can we avoid FOMO?
In my opinion, no. FOMO is unavoidable. Though it is prevalent throughout social media, FOMO has existed as long as humans have been around.
Marketing campaigns regularly utilize FOMO to persuade their audiences. Cryptocurrencies utilize FOMO to entice buyers into, well, buying early.
Stock markets incentivize FOMO as a means to not lose out on either short or long-term investments.
Although FOMO is unavoidable, it can be reframed. By treating FOMO with less significance, one might realize how far we can distance ourselves from what we see on social media while still maintaining healthy amounts of connectedness.
Within the last few months, I found that I wasn’t getting the same rush of FOMO as I previously was with social media. Things didn’t feel as invigorating, so I shifted my focus to other stimuli.
During this period, and up to this day, my social media use shifted from a tool to soothe my already low attention span to another communication app.
While I don’t credit this shift to FOMO, I do believe that letting go of some things and knowing that you won’t be invited to some events provides necessary closure. We humans have a pattern of looking back into the past and analyzing events that already happened, particularly when it involves our close friends or peers.
Social media preys on this, and it does us no good stressing over an event that already came and went.
Don’t get it twisted, FOMO can be a great thing. For some, it can lead to more social encounters and eventually force your hand to reach out to people you might not typically reach out to.
Thus, FOMO can be used to propel us outside of the comfort zones we all inhabit.
Looking back, it’s simply absurd how much I cared about it all. I fed into FOMO just as much as FOMO had a stranglehold on my social life. Nowadays, though, I realize that social media can be used without overpowering feelings of FOMO.
Overall, though it remains prevalent throughout our whole human ecosystem, FOMO should be dealt with on an individual basis.
If it works for you, then great. If it doesn’t work for you, then that’s also great. The bottom line is that we can’t change the past. But, we can change the way we frame the future.
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