Cyber Safety Advice for Parents Blog

Why the Fear of Missing Out (FoMO), on Social Media, can cause issues leading to Anxiety and Depression

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Be honest, if someone were to ask you, do you control your mobile phone, or does it control you? It’s quite possible, you would say, you have control over your phone. Most people think that. Of course, in reality the phone has possibly total control over you. Consider this, if the amount of stress a person feels, can be directly related, to how in control they feel about their life. Then how much of an impact is digital technology having, if it is controlling you or more importantly your children !!

We want you to pause for a moment, think about where your focus is over the course of the day. How often, do you feel the need to check the update status of Friends, or Followers on Social Media, or perhaps check out Stories on Snapchat etc? Were you even able to get out of bed this morning, before your daily indulgence of News Apps?

It can almost feel like you’re missing out on something, if you don’t stay involved and check in, over the course of the day. This is known as Fear of Missing Out or FoMO. It has been described as ‘‘the uneasy and sometimes all-consuming feeling, that you’re missing out on what your peers are doing, in the know about, or in possession of more, or something better than you’’.

This feeling or fear of missing out, can actually cause you to experience some very real world stress and anxiety. It is a need we all have, to indulge ourselves in the online lives of others. This feeling can be very pervasive. A genuine apprehension “that others might be having rewarding experiences”, while you’re not there. We feel this constant “desire to stay continually connected”, to see what Friends or Followers are doing. It’s that irrational urge, you experience which makes you reach for your phone and scroll down through page after page, just to make sure you’re not missing anything.

The problem with this is you, don’t do it just once, you do it constantly over the course of the day. Even at inappropriate times. Nothing worse than being in a bathroom taking care of your business, only to realise you left your phone outside. At first there is that feeling of dread, what if I get a message or update to something I posted, and I’m not finished? What will I do?

You find yourself experiencing separation anxiety from the device, worrying about where you left it. In this rare moment of isolation from technology, thoughts drift to other means of distraction to entertain yourself. The need to fill the entertainment void is so strong, you decide to weighing yourself on the bathroom scales, before and afterwards, just like the old days 😉 It is a question for another day but why do we always weigh ourselves, when in the bathroom of other people’s houses?

When speaking to teens, we try to give them an understanding, of why they behave the way they do with their technology. By being constantly connected, the need to be connected even more increases, because there is a Fear of Missing Out. The problem with this need to be ever more connected is clear from research consistently shows, “higher levels of fear of missing out” equate to “those with lower levels of general mood and overall life satisfaction.

The dissatisfaction comes from the comparison of your own life, to the cherry picked version of lives, others post online. People filter images now to such an extent, if your to meet them in the real world, your surprised to discover, they do not walk around with stars, glitter, or a rainbow surrounding their head. Nor do they have that cute bunny rabbit nose, you see so frequently in their images. We are all striving for a perfection which does not exist and never will, because we combine image filtering technology with reality.

“If one only wished to be happy, this could be easily accomplished; but we wish to be happier than other people, and this is always difficult, for we believe others to be happier than they are.” Very wise words from Montesquieu. The second we try to compare our own state of happiness with another, we are already well down the path of towards the feeling of negative emotions.

But our emotions do not just stop at the Fear of Missing out. People can become jealous of the lives of others online. Why is this person always having a better time than me. It is not possible, tell how much fun a person actually had, from an image. What we perceive, is just an interpretation of what we see. If a person wants a reason to feel better about themselves, what they are seeking, will not located within the endless void of social media. All that exist there, are inflated cherry picked comments, posts and images, a person will end up comparing, to an already reduced self-esteem.

It is so easy to allow what we see online, take control of our own emotions. The subject matter being constantly viewed and focused on, will directly impact what way we feel about ourselves. It can highlight the areas of our lives, that we believe we are missing out on. Not enough money, clothes, status, friends, this list is endless, but real emotional harm can occur when we start to compare our own personality and looks.

A lot of what we experience in life, we little or no control over. When we have no control over something, it induces a negative emotions, envy, fear, hate, jealousy, disgust. This is one of the primary reasons, we should only ever focus on what we are actually in control of. What we have the ability to take control of, rather than what we can’t.

We can take control of how often we choose to spend time on Social Media. We can spend a little less time looking at the cherry picked lives of others. We can reduce the time spent comparing ourselves to the cherry picked lives of others. In doing so, this will begin to increase our self-esteem. There is only one person you really need to compare yourself to, that is yourself. Can I be better, than I was yesterday? Sometimes the simplest answer to the most difficult problems we will all face in life, comes from within.

Remember the wise words of the White Witch in the 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz. At the end of the movie, Dorothy Gale was really upset because she believes, she will never be able to return home to Kanzas. In her state of despair, she asks the White Witch, how will she get ever home? “You had the power all along dear..”. We all have a little ability we sometimes forget. We have the power to make ourselves feel a little better. Simply by just switching the digital device off for a while.

Have a great weekend Folks !!!

Team @COTDAge

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