Parents have been known to express concern if their child is ‘always on’ social media to the detriment of their relationships, time management and wellbeing.
In the other camp are those who fear that their child is socially isolated from their peers because they ‘couldn’t care less about the social media their friends are using and what they may be missing out on’.
For many young people ‘FOMO’, or the ‘Fear Of Missing Out’ can be exhausting and overwhelming. It’s been referred to as the ‘acronym of the insecure.’ Its counterpart is JOMO or the ‘Joy Of Missing Out’ which the Australian Psychological Society says is about ‘turning off, being self-confident, resilient and autonomous.’ Not easy for a young person who struggles to unplug from social media and the hyperconnected world they are a part of on a daily basis.
These competing choices and tensions are expressed perfectly by Michael Leunig in his poem, The Joy of Missing Out.
This is especially seen through the contrast of stanza one and two, but more specifically the lines:
“Trying to have it, see it, do it…
…The anxious clamouring and need.”
And the concluding lines of stanza two:
“Without regret, without a doubt,
Oh, the joy of missing out.”
So why does it matter?
FOMO encapsulates the feelings of anxiety and isolation a person experiences when they are excluded from an activity which everyone else is participating in with Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter personifying these feelings.
Endless scrolling has become the norm with news feeds being inundated with things to ‘have, see and do’. Posts need to be constantly checked for ‘likes’ which according to Kristen Fuller ‘stimulates the firing of dopamine in our brains and soon we become addicted to the knowing, the likes, the instant gratification, the attention and the busyness, so we keep going back for more.’
As people only tend to post carefully selected, edited and filtered snapshots of their real life on social media, it can create the illusion of a life which is perpetually perfect and happy. While most adults know that this does not mirror reality, this can be particularly upsetting for young people who feel as if their mundane life doesn’t compete with other people’s ‘perfect’ lives.
While parents need to be there to support their children in their explorations of the online world, they also need to be there to remind them to embrace the non-screen experiences in life. Helping them understand that social media is not ‘real life’ and that much of what they see is artificial and contrived may reduce envy and anxiety induced FOMO. It’s also one of life’s lessons that missing out on something is a reality that when accepted can be a defence against FOMO.
Most importantly, young people need to learn how to be wholly present in the now, without being preoccupied with their social media feeds or smartphone notifications, and their success in doing so will rely largely on their parents modelling this behaviour in the home.