Fear of missing out (FOMO) is a syndrome that affects a large part of the young population. We'll tell you all about it!
What is FOMO or fear of missing out?
This term reflects the state one is in when others may be enjoying themselves and having rewarding experiences without you.
Many social media users, especially adolescents and young people, aren't aware of this circumstance, which can become pathological, and lead to phone addiction and the need to stay updated (online) to know what others are doing, among other behavioural symptoms.
The ongoing interaction made possible today by social media, with direct messaging, likes, reactions and quick responses, generates a dependence that may seem innocuous, but increases psychological discomfort when one feels disconnected.
The main negative consequences of FOMO syndrome on one's psychological health and well-being are demotivation, low mood, anxiety, stress, concern about not living up to what seems to be a socially active and enriching life, and constant comparison and dissatisfaction with one's own life. This causes feelings of emptiness and discomfort with life in the face of the real circumstances that the adolescent has to live.
Where does the fear of missing out come from?
- Living up to it. The social pressure an adolescent experiences to feel integrated and accepted by their peers is magnified through social media. The tendency to show an idealized life, enjoying and doing exciting things, makes adolescents feel out of place if they don't follow that pattern.
- Being permanently online. Contacting friends instantly, reacting to what they do, seeing live how they're enjoying themselves... it ends up becoming a necessity not to miss important experiences. There's a generation of young people who have grown up digitally connected. This constantly exposes them to what their friends and acquaintances are doing in real-time, which can increase the fear of missing something important.
- Search for approval. On social media, teenagers seek to increase likes, comments, followers... linking their well-being to their followers' opinions of their posts. They're not aware that this need for validation ends up becoming a measure of their own self-esteem. If they don't receive the expected validation, it translates into a misperception of others' lack of interest and, consequently, a misperception of themselves.
- Constant comparison. Recent studies have shown that social media generates a continuous comparison among adolescents. The idea behind this comparison is that their life isn't as exciting as that of those they follow, so their perception of their life is negative and leads to discontent and personal dissatisfaction.
- Fear of being left behind. The changes of everyday life, added to those of social media, which have a high impact on adolescents, cause them to fear missing out on something; this implies comparison and the need to be connected in order to keep up to date, to know everything that is happening and to react to news, updates, events, etc. Not doing so, fosters that perception of being left behind.
- Emotional difficulties. In some cases, FOMO may be a manifestation of underlying emotional insecurities or difficulties, such as low self-esteem or loneliness. FOMO syndrome can be a way to avoid dealing with these emotions.