What is the Fear of Missing out (FOMO)?
FOMO, or the ‘Fear of Missing Out’, describes the anxious or uncomfortable feeling you get when you believe you’re missing out on something. You could get FOMO over a missed event or social occasion, but it can also make an appearance when you feel like you’re missing out on big life events, like going to university, being in a relationship or even just hanging out with friends. It can come as both a response to being excluded by others, and by withdrawing yourself from social interaction and activities.
Experiencing FOMO is very common, and something we all feel from time to time. However, social media can intensify that feeling and it’s important to get support to deal with it. Research from Centre for Mental Health states “Fear of Missing Out has been linked to intensive social media use and is associated with lower mood and life satisfaction”. Social media can heighten feelings of FOMO by reminding you of what others are doing or who they’re with. People often only present a polished, curated version of their lives on social media, and this can introduce or reinforce feelings that you don’t belong or you’re not popular enough in comparison.
How does FOMO link to bullying behaviour?
Unfortunately, experiencing bullying behaviour and FOMO can come hand in hand, as they can both lead to feelings of loneliness and social rejection. If you’re purposefully left out or excluded from activities on a repeated basis, this is indirect bullying behaviour. Experiencing this is likely to trigger FOMO.
How might FOMO affect your mental health and wellbeing?
Experiencing FOMO can leave you feeling jealous, disconnected, and lonely. On social media it’s even linked to an increased desire to receive likes and comments, or be included in group chats. The consequences of FOMO negatively impact mental health, self-esteem, and sleep patterns, which can increase fatigue. Over time these feelings can contribute to long-term mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.
As young adults, there can be a pressure to socialise often with others and, as a result there can be stigma around declining social invites, spending time alone and taking time out to recharge your social battery. The term ‘social battery’ refers to how much energy someone has for socialising, and can be useful to monitor and prevent feeling drained from social interaction. In order to try and avoid FOMO, you may be more likely to run down your social battery because you’re afraid saying no to an invitation or event may trigger FOMO. However, setting boundaries (like taking a break from socialising from time to time) can benefit your mental health by allowing you to focus on yourself.
What can I do if I’m experiencing FOMO?
Speak to someone
Speak to a trusted adult and be open with them about your experiences of FOMO. Sharing our experiences reminds us that we are not alone in our feelings, and speaking to others can also invite healthy opportunity to take our mind off how we’re feeling. Ultimately, by telling a trusted adult, they'll be able to provide you with or signpost you to further support services.
Appreciate the time you have to yourself
Being social every day is tiring. It’s important that you set boundaries so you can enjoy your time spent socialising with others, without compromising having time to yourself. Why not spend some time practising self-care and doing activities you enjoy? Filling alone time with activities that bring you joy is not only a good distraction from FOMO, but it may help you appreciate this time when you get it.
Shift your focus
FOMO is built on the perception that other people are having a better time than we are, and it relies on us comparing our lives or experiences to other people’s. Let’s change the emphasis by taking time to appreciate what you have instead of what you’re missing. Focusing on the present and what you’re grateful for helps to promote a positive mindset. Mindfulness activities such as reflective journalling, practising positive affirmations and showing gratification are great ways to implement this way of thinking every day.
Take a break from social media
Using social media regularly can increase feelings of FOMO. Having a complete break from social media or limiting yourself may help reduce FOMO. Remember to use all the tools available to you to support your mental health when spending time online. You can set daily screen time limits, restrict the content you’re seeing and block or remove others from your social media if they’re having a negative impact on your emotions.
Write or record your feelings
Writing down how you’re feeling can help you keep track of your emotions, find ways to support your mental health and identify reoccurring negative triggers. You could start a journal to monitor your feelings and fill it with stories and photos of happy memories to look back on. Or perhaps you’d like to record your feelings as song lyrics or poetry, to help you reflect on and feel empowered by your emotions.
Nurture meaningful relationships
Channel your energy into strengthening the important friendships and relationships in your life. Organising and spending time with loved ones can provide you with a break away from social media and put you in control of your own experiences.
If you can't speak to a trusted adult about what has been happening, or don’t feel you are getting the help you need, there are lots of organisations who can offer support:
Mind: The leading mental health charity Mind, have lots of resources and information for young people who are struggling with their mental health. - www.mind.org.uk
The Diana Award Advice Messenger: The Diana Award Advice Messenger provides free*, 24/7 text support across the UK. If you are a young person under 25 who needs support, you can text DA to 85258. Trained volunteers will listen to how you're feeling and help you find the next step towards feeling better. Texts are free from EE, O2,Vodafone, 3, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile and Telecom Plus.