In today’s digital era, “FOMO”, or Fear of Missing Out, has become a common phrase, especially among avid social media users. It’s a psychological phenomenon reflecting general anxiety that we may experience. It has wider ramifications on one’s mental health and well-being.
This article delves into understanding FOMO, its connection with social media addiction, and its impact on mental health. Also offers practical ways to handle this modern-day challenge.
Many of us feel overburdened when bombarded by irresistible content. The spare time we earlier had is now being spent on social media, watching and sharing information in various forms.
While absorbed in digital media, we somehow get trapped with FOMO (fear of missing out). We don’t feel like missing anything worthwhile. We intensely desire to keep checking and seeing content in images, messages, and videos whenever we get a notification. Even if the notification off, a strong urge compels us to check our mobile at short intervals.
Understanding FOMO and its Roots in Social Media Addiction:
FOMO is not only making us addicted to social media by constantly checking out our mobiles, but we also tend to spend hours together because we don’t want to miss anything worthwhile.
FOMO is not just a buzzword; it’s a real psychological issue that can lead to significant stress and anxiety. In the age of social media, it’s amplified by constant exposure to updates, photos, and videos of people enjoying life, seemingly without any worries. This continuous digital connection fuels social media addiction, as users persistently check their feeds to ensure they’re not missing out on something.
The Mental Health Impact of FOMO:
A neurotransmitter secreted by our brain – dopamine plays a significant role in the digital addiction we are experiencing in the modern age. Our brain’s dopamine levels are impacted by the constant urge to like, retweet, comment, and share we get on various social networking platforms. The same hormone is released when we engage in any pleasurable or enjoyable activity, such as gambling, smoking, drinking alcohol, or consuming other drugs.
To preserve the same degree of ‘pleasure’ level (or, say, kick), the demand for dopamine, however, continues to increase. If we don’t get the same level of dopamine, we become restless, agitated, irritated, and frustrated. Because of this reason, more and more people are addicted to using social media: first, there is an endless supply of messages, videos, images, and status updates on social media. Second, there is a FOMO effect, and lastly, there is an intense urge to use social media due to the “reward” we get through dopamine.
The relentless pursuit of staying updated with the social media can impact on one’s health. FOMO may lead to inadequacy, loneliness, and being ‘left out’. It’s not uncommon for individuals experiencing FOMO to exhibit symptoms of anxiety and depression. The irony lies in the fact that social media aims to connect us more than ever, but it can also make us feel more isolated.
Overcoming FOMO for Better Mental Wellness:
Awareness and Acknowledgement: The first step in overcoming FOMO is recognizing the excess and wasteful time we spend on social media. We must be honest with ourselves about our inner urges, feelings and the impact of social media on our mental well-being.
Digital Detox: Consider taking regular breaks from social media. There are many steps we can take to detox digital behaviour. This doesn’t have to be a radical disconnect, but setting aside specific times or days when we unplug. Starting with an hour and gradually increasing the hours can be a good beginning for a digital detox or fasting.
Cultivating Real Connections: Shift the focus from online interactions to real-life connections. Spend time with family and friends without the distraction of digital devices.
Mindfulness and Gratitude: Being aware and practising mindfulness can help us live in the present moment rather than living in the past or future. Even worrying about what others are doing. Mindfulness is a potent exercise with many benefits for our emotional and mental health. Further, keeping a gratitude journal can shift our focus to the positive thoughts and positivity in general in our lives. This results in reducing the FOMO effect.
Setting Realistic Expectations: Understand that being part of everything is impossible. Accepting this can significantly reduce the anxiety associated with FOMO.
Seek Professional Help if Needed: If FOMO is severely impacting your life, don’t hesitate to seek help from a mental health professional.
Healthy Habits for Reducing FOMO Effect:
Limit Social Media Use: Set specific time limits for social media usage. Apps like screen time that monitor our usage can help us stick to these limits. After the prescribed limit, unless we increase the usage time, we will be restricted from using social media.
Curate Your Feed: Follow accounts that inspire and uplift us rather than those that trigger feelings of inadequacy or jealousy.
Engage in Offline Activities: Engage in hobbies or activities that we enjoy and that keep us grounded in the real world.
The Role of Mental Health Awareness in Handling FOMO:
Awareness of mental health is crucial in controlling the impact of FOMO. Understanding that social media is a curated, often unrealistic representation of life can help mitigate its harmful effects. Awareness programs and mental health initiatives can significantly educate us about the importance of mental and emotional wellness and the impact of digital habits on mental health.
FOMO and social media addiction are realities of our digital age. The cost of digital addiction is high. We need to check the tendency to spend unnecessary and wasteful time on social media. We must foster awareness, set healthy boundaries, and focus on genuine connections. By doing so, we can mitigate the impact of FOMO on our mental health. It is all about maintaining a finer balance. This can help us enjoy the benefits of the digital world without compromising our mental and emotional well-being.
Handling the FOMO effect in this age of social media addiction is not just about reducing screen time. It’s about enhancing our real-life experiences and emotional wellness. By taking proactive steps, we can navigate these challenges and lead a more fulfilled and mentally healthy life.