Teens are Suffering from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)

post by Natasha Parent, Graduate student in the Human Development, Learning, and Culture Program at the University of British Columbia.

Although this blog and website is primarily focused on the issue of cyberbullying, there are other topics relevant to kids and technology, such as FOMO, that are having a negative impact on mental health.

What is it and how can we help? FOMO or the “Fear Of Missing Out” is the fear that others elsewhere are having more fun, or that you are missing out on a rewarding experience.  It can lead to feelings of anxiety, envy, insecurity, and loneliness. Nowadays, teens quantify their popularity through “likes”, “views”, “friends” and “followers” on social media sites, such as Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter. This can lead to FOMO by making teens feel left out, uncool, and lonely.

How to recognize FOMO: If your tweens or teens are saying things like “I wish I was there”, “They’re having so much fun without me”, or “I wish I was that cool”, they may be experiencing FOMO.

How to respond to FOMO: Talk about what’s being posted and what isn’t: People show their best face on social media. A lot of what is posted online these days is superficial, staged, or fabricated. Remind your tweens and teens that people are only posting about their peak moments (vacations, accomplishments, photos in which they look particularly good). No one posts about the unappealing aspects of their lives (going to the dentist, grocery shopping with their parents, doing their least favourite chore).  Everyone is doing these things too; they just aren’t posting about it!

Conversation starters: “Do you think their life is always like this?” “Why do you think they posted this?” “How would you feel if you didn’t know what they were doing right now?”

Despite our understanding of FOMO and how it can contribute to feelings of anxiety, envy, insecurity, and loneliness, it’s important to remember that technology is not the enemy. It’s true that maladaptive or over-use of technology can lead to problems among teens. However, this same technology can be extremely beneficial to the development of their social networks, self-esteem, and confidence. Most importantly, taking away the technology can harm tweens’ and teens’ relationships with their friends and could push them further “out of the loop”.

Read more about FOMO:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/why-we-worry/201612/social-media-loneliness-and-anxiety-in-young-people

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health-fitness/body/mind-healing-conquer-fomo-fear-missing/

 https://yourteenmag.com/technology/fomo

Read more about the positive effects of social media:

http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/21/living/social-media-positives-teens-parents/