The desire to fit in and belong is not new. It’s a fundamental part of human nature. People have a natural inclination to compare themselves with others, especially in areas where they feel inadequate. It’s all completely normal, as long as these feelings don’t get in the way of our relationships with others and how we perceive ourselves.
Unfortunately, social media may be a contributing factor as it drives an unhealthy phenomenon for many users known as the fear of missing out, or FOMO. The term was introduced in 2004 to describe both the perception of missing out and the desire to stay continuously connected to what others are doing. People have always experienced the feelings associated with FOMO, and social media is not the only contributing factor, but it’s important to understand how much Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, and other apps can affect your mood and well-being.
Symptoms of FOMO
FOMO can have a direct impact on mental health, especially among kids and teens because they spend more time online and have a stronger need for acceptance and belonging. Symptoms can vary greatly, but a few signs that you may be struggling with FOMO include:
- Feeling depressed and less satisfied with life
- Increased social anxiety and stress
- Trouble concentrating or sleeping
- Withdrawing from others
- Mental and physical exhaustion
How To Get Over FOMO
If you’re experiencing FOMO, here are some steps you can take to overcome it:
- Understand and limit social media usage. The average person spends more than two hours a day using social media, which can also be addictive. When scrolling your news feed, you’re not being exposed to the full picture of other people’s lives. It’s more like a highlight reel, and constant exposure to the happiness and achievements of others may leave you feeling lonely and inadequate. You don’t have to quit social media, but don’t let it control your happiness.
- Think positive. Focus on what you have instead of what you don’t have. When you constantly think about what else is out there and what you might be missing, you’re not present in or invested in the life you have. Practice positive self-talk, surround yourself with supportive people, and work to change areas of your life you’re unhappy with.
- Seek real connections. Reaching out to friends and family, even with a simple text or phone call, can help you shake the feeling of missing out. Give your relationships the time and attention they deserve. You can also work on building healthy new relationships by getting out and doing the things you enjoy, volunteering, or joining a club.
- Practice gratitude. When you make gratitude a habit, it can improve your mental and physical health—and your relationships. You’ll be less likely to compare yourself to others and feel less envy and regret. One of the easiest ways to practice gratitude is to write down a few things you’re thankful for every day. Check out my previous blog on the benefits of a gratitude journal for tips on how to stick with it.
You’re far from alone if you’ve experienced FOMO, and that’s an important thing to keep in mind. But if it becomes more than an occasional feeling or the symptoms begin to interfere with your daily life, it may be time to seek professional help. A therapist can help you shift your perceptions, break down unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors, and develop coping strategies.
Dr. David Lowenstein is a Columbus, Ohio-based psychologist with more than 35 years of experience. He conducts individual, family, and group therapy sessions in his German Village office and also via telehealth. Dr. Lowenstein is also available for expert forensic testimony, and for educational workshops and presentations. He is frequently called upon as an expert source for print, radio, and broadcast media. Contact Dr. Lowenstein at Lowenstein & Associates, 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206, or call 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.