FOMO - A Teen's Affliction
Written by Keshav Gautam
Ever watched a Netflix show just because 17 out of your 183 followers on Instagram shared a story, expressing how excited they are about the arrival of the new season of a show? Or felt left out while scrolling through your social media feed seeing your acquaintances at a party, whereas you are just slouching on your couch?
Well, this is what we, Gen Z, call FOMO, “Fear Of Missing Out”.
This is a feeling, or better yet call it a kind of social anxiety, stemming from the belief that others might be having fun while you are not. And, guess what? You are not alone. More than 50% of social media users have experienced it in some way or other. Now don’t get a FOMO for not experiencing an episode of FOMO.
What’s even more intriguing is that the people behind these social media apps, like our very own Zuck, are very well aware of your insecurity of missing out on any event in your crush’s life. The whole concept of these hyped-up apps’ features, be it “stories” on Instagram and Snapchat, or “check-in” on Facebook, are a perfect paradigm of it. These apps are the cause and cure for your FOMO. “How is it the cure?”, you ask. Well to put it simply, to curb your FOMO, you tend to post a picture with an implied caption: See! My life is cool, too!. And someone from your 183 followers will see your so-called cool post just to feel the same FOMO you did a while ago. The cycle continues. This virus keeps spreading. This leads to more social media engagement, which is good for those tycoons in silicon valley, who are flying around in their jets, planning their spiritual trip to the Himalayas for their mental peace. But it’s bad for your mental peace.
In fact, people of every age group experience it and there’s nothing wrong about it, you are a human after all. It’s just a primal human instinct. Here’s a fact for the nerds: ‘This stress you feel is associated with a part of the brain called the amygdala, which is one of the key components of the limbic system, the system responsible for our behavioural and emotional responses.’ However, things get worse when it leads to negative self-talk, low self-esteem, reduced attention span, and ultimately “Imposter Syndrome”. A syndrome where the sufferer persistently doubts his talents and accomplishments.
Now you don’t have to deactivate your social media account and switch on your old sturdy Nokia 3310. Neither, do you have to cut off your “coolest” friend circle. Using Instagram and other apps is not always bad, but allowing them to dictate your happiness is terrible. In fact, suddenly not using them can even lead to yet another major FOMO considering your brain will be daydreaming about all the wild things your friends might be doing. One must accept the fact that these apps are not the actual portrayal of someone’s life. It’s more like the pseudo-perfected version of it.
By focusing on the things you love about the present, you can gradually tune out your FOMO. Now, this might sound mushy but it works. Instead of FOMO, start practicing JOMO. Now, what’s that? It’s “Joy Of Missing Out”. Rather than staring at others’ posts in discontent, think about how lucky you are to have real connections. Live a real life. You’ve got the most real friends and family, and when you sit together, set such a vibe that taking a picture of it and posting it seems like spoiling the moment. Feel lucky. Think about those people and things that you have been taking for granted. Think how important they are to you and write a “gratitude journal” for thanking all such people, things, and moments. Now, if you think that’s silly, try it before you jump to conclusions.
As Steve Jobs once said, “Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life”. Everyone is built differently in different circumstances. It’s felonious to compare two distinct beings. Ruminate why you exist. Why do you want to impress others? Is it all going to matter in an infinite universe? This sounds way too philosophical but sometimes looking at the big picture helps in getting a wider perspective about life.
And always remember these words of Morty (from Rick and Morty S1E8),
“Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody's gonna die... Come watch TV.”