Is social media making you unhappy?
Feel like your life doesn't measure up or anxious that you can't be in two places at once? You may be experiencing FOMO, or "fear of missing out."
Facebook: Friend or foe?
Sure, we love keeping in touch with our friends, sharing cute animal pictures and swapping recipes, but is it worth our personal happiness?
According to a study by the University of Michigan, college-age adults say they felt bad when using the social media platform. Overall, usage of Facebook caused them to feel less happy in the moment and more dissatisfied with their lives.
But that’s just college kids, right? Nope. And it’s not just happening on Facebook, either.
In fact, fear of missing out (FOMO) is becoming a popular term — and chances are that if you’ve ever seen a status about a friend’s wild weekend and regretted planting yourself on the couch all Saturday, you’ve probably experienced it.
The grass is always greener on the other side. You want to chill out at home but you want to go out and socialize at the same time. Your life isn’t as thrilling as hers. His career is better than yours. You had to choose between three events happening at the same time, yet you want to know what’s going on at all of them simultaneously. That’s FOMO.
A survey by MyLife.com finds that 56 percent of people fear they’ll miss out on events, news and status updates if they unplug from social networking. And 51 percent of people visit and log on more regularly to social networking platforms now than they did in the past two years.
Another study found that unsatisfied psychological needs are the reason people monitor their social network pages and compare themselves to others in those circles. Not only does being concerned about not being somewhere cause distress for some people, it takes you out of the present moment.
You know… the actual life you’re living. Or are you?
Less FOMO, More omm-oh
Dr. Judith Orloff, a psychiatrist and author of The Ecstasy of Surrender: 12 Surprising Ways Letting Go Can Empower Your Life, says she has witnessed some of her clients experience a very real fear of missing out.
"My patients often feel their lives are boring or ‘not enough’ compared to what all their ‘friends’ on social media are doing," Orloff says. "This leads to depression, anxiety and low self-esteem."
So how do we stop the FOMO?
First, accept that you can’t be in two places at the same time. Because physically, you can’t. You have to live with the decisions you make. If you missed a barbecue or a charity event, so be it.
And if your FOMO is more of a slight jealously that others have it "better" than you, stop comparing yourself to them. Social networking puts others right in front of you, so to speak, so you constantly see others. In doing so, you may tend to liken your life to theirs — and wind up feeling like yours doesn’t measure up.
Orloff says that it is imperative not to compare yourself with others in order to be emotionally free. Try to catch yourself in the process, and then stop doing it. And remind yourself of all the great things you have in your life.
And if all else fails, step away from the smartphone.
FOMO: Tackle it, accept it or learn from it?
Who knows, maybe FOMO is a good thing. In some cases, perhaps it reminds you of the things you want to do in your life — like spend more time with friends or try a new activity. When we let it drain us, though, it becomes a negative force. And if you’re in front of your computer all day like me… well, the force is with you.
Gratitude, to me, is the biggest defense against FOMO. When reminded about how awesome my life is, it’s clear that I wouldn’t want to change places with anyone. And if there are things that I want to change in my life, I can. But I’ll do those things for myself and not because I think I "should" be doing them. I just have to remember to practice that gratitude… it’s a conscious choice.
"Focus on what you have in your life to be grateful for, rather than feeling inferior to others. The only way to truly feel happy to is to come from your heart, appreciate the heart in others and be grateful for every breath," Orloff adds. "The rest is an illusion and can't bring happiness unless you're happy already with yourself."