The use of social media can lead to poor sleep quality and cause damage to mental health. It can be associated with depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
Many people in today’s world live with their smartphones as virtual companions. These devices use electronic social networks that alert users to news about friends, favorite celebrities, and global events. Social media has become firmly integrated into the daily lives of many people.
At its core, social media is a powerful communication tool that has changed the way individuals communicate with each other. It speeds up the way people exchange and share information, thoughts, and ideas over virtual networks. However, social networks have their downsides. The results of some research suggest that overuse – especially overuse – can negatively affect mental health, in many ways.
Social media is associated with depression, anxiety, and feelings of isolation.
In addition to the detrimental effects on sleep, social media can also trigger mental health problems by exposing individuals to online violence. In a 2020 study conducted on a sample of more than 6,000 individuals aged 10 to 18, researchers found that approximately half of them had experienced online violence. One of the disadvantages of social media platforms is that they give individuals the opportunity to initiate or spread harmful rumors and use offensive words that can leave permanent emotional scars. Social media can cause a sense of inadequacy. People may feel as if their life or appearance is not conducive to the lives of others on social media, leading to feelings of envy and dissatisfaction.
A 2018 study found that frequent use of social media increases rather than reduces feelings of loneliness.
The use of a smartphone is associated with fear of negative and even positive evaluations of others, as well as with negative effects on mood.
What is FOMO – fear of missing out
Unregulated social media leads to a constant fear of leaking information, events, which many call FOMO – fear of missing out. People may feel like others are having more fun than them, which can affect self-esteem and cause mental health problems. Individuals can compulsively check their phones at the cost of not sleeping or choose social networks instead of personal connections or meetings.
Here’s what you should know about the history of FOMO, what research says, how to recognize it in your life, and how to manage FOMO to prevent it from negatively affecting your sense of happiness.
FOMO or the fear of leaking refers to the feeling or perception that others are having more fun, living better lives, or experiencing better things than you. It involves a deep sense of envy and affects self-esteem. It is often exacerbated by social media sites like Instagram and Facebook.
FOMO is not just a feeling that there may be better things you could be doing at the moment, but it is a feeling that you are missing something fundamentally important that others are currently experiencing. It can be applied to everything from a party on Friday night to a promotion at work, but it always involves a feeling of helplessness to miss something big.
A brief history of FOMO
The idea that you may be missing out on a good time is not new in our era. However, although it is assumed to have existed for centuries (you can see evidence of FOMO in ancient texts), it has only been studied over the last few decades, starting with the research work of marketing strategist Dr. Dan Herman from 1996, who coined the term “fear of leaking”.
Since the advent of social media, however, FOMO has become more obvious and more commonly studied. Social media has accelerated the FOMO phenomenon in several ways. It enables a situation in which you compare your regular life with the most important events in the lives of others. Therefore, your sense of “normal” becomes distorted and you seem to be going worse / worse than other people. You may see detailed photos of your friends enjoying the fun without you, which is something people may not have been so aware of in past generations.
Social media creates a platform for bragging; it is a place where things, events, and even happiness itself sometimes compete. People compare their best, perfect experiences, what can make you wonder what you are missing?
Not surprisingly, adolescents often use social networking sites and as a result, may experience FOMO. Interestingly, however, FOMO acts as a mechanism that drives greater use of social networks. Girls suffering from depression are more likely to use social media, while for boys anxiety has been the trigger for greater use of social media. This shows that increased use of social media can lead to higher stress rates caused by FOMO.
FOMO can be experienced by people of all ages, several studies have shown. One study, published in the journal Psychiatry Research, found that the fear of leaks was linked to greater use of smartphones and social media and that the link was not related to age or gender.
Potential Dangers of FOMO
In addition to a heightened sense of unhappiness, the fear of leaking can lead to greater involvement in unhealthy behavior. For example, the same research in Computers and Human Behavior found that FOMO is associated with impaired driving, which in some cases can be fatal.
Fortunately, steps can be taken to limit your FOMO if you notice this phenomenon in yourself.
Research shows that the fear of missing out can result from unhappiness and dissatisfaction with life and that these feelings can motivate us to make greater use of social media.
In turn, greater engagement on social media can make us feel worse about ourselves and our lives, not better. In this way, it helps to know that our attempts to alleviate the feeling of FOMO can actually lead to behaviors that make it worse. However, understanding where the problem lies can be a great first step in overcoming it. The following can help.
- Change focus
Instead of focusing on what you are missing, try to notice what you have. It’s easier said than done on social media, where we may be bombarded with images of things we don’t have, but it can be done. Add more positive people to your “feed”; “Hide” people who brag too much or don’t support you. You can change your feed to show you less of what drives your FOMO, and more of what makes you feel good about yourself. Work on identifying what can diminish your joy online. Work to keep them to a minimum while adding more to your feed (and life) that makes you happy.
- Keep a diary
It’s common to post on social media to keep track of the fun things you do. However, you may notice that you notice too much whether people confirm your experiences online. If this is the case, you may want to take some of your photos and memories that are not online and keep a personal diary of your best memories, either online or on paper. Keeping a diary can help you shift the focus from public approval to private appreciation of the things that make your life great. This change can sometimes help you get out of the circle of social media and FOMO.
- Look for connections and contacts in the real world
You may find yourself looking for a bigger relationship when you feel depressed or anxious, and that’s healthy. The feeling of loneliness or exclusion is actually the way our brain tells us that we want to seek greater connections with others and increase our sense of belonging. Unfortunately, engagement on social media is not always such that a sense of belonging can be achieved — it can happen that we go from one bad situation to an even worse one. Instead of trying to connect more with people on social media, why not arrange to meet someone in person? Making plans with a good friend, organizing a group outing, or anything social that draws you out with friends can be a nice change of pace and can help you get rid of the feeling of missing out. That puts you at the center of the action.
- Focus on Gratitude
Research shows that engaging in activities that increase gratitude or simply telling others what you value about them can lift your mood, as well as the mood of everyone around you.
This is partly because it’s harder to feel like you’re missing the things you need in life when you’re focused on the abundance you already have. This is also true because if others feel good it makes us feel good. Improving your mood can be just what you need to get rid of depression or anxiety. You probably won’t be tempted to go to the rabbit hole of social networks and FOMO when you realize how much you already have. You will begin to feel that you have what you need in life, just like other people. This can be great for your mental and emotional health.
Traditional therapy – done online
Find a therapist on U-Matter Counselling and seek advice or appropriate help if you need it. You can contact firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, or by phone at 604-690-5476 (Canada, Burnaby BC).