Ladies and gentlemen, there is a new diagnosis out there, but it isn’t in any of the books (yet). It is known as FOMO and it seems to be targeting a large number of young people. Symptoms include, but are not limited to: general sadness, anxiety, ruminating thoughts as to whether one’s life is interesting enough, and a misguided belief that other people are having more fun. Symptoms can be alleviated by ignoring social media.
If you’ve ever been scrolling through Facebook and feeling not so great about the path your life has taken, you have experienced FOMO. If you noticed that two friends went to lunch and you didn’t get the invite, and your day was ruined, you have experienced FOMO. (The second one doesn’t seem to happen as much to the men out there does it?)
FOMO is the fear of missing out, and while it is not a disease, it is becoming an epidemic. One which is more prominent in those whose primary source of contact with friends is via social media. Many of us are guilty of harboring jealousy for a friend whose life looks flawless. The keyword here is “looks.” The problem with using Facebook to gage a person’s happiness is that is can be so skewed or misleading. I am guilty of it too! It’s not like we all hurry to post a picture of that day we stayed in pajamas until 4pm, or rush to post a status update to remind people how monotonous our job has become. We all want to present our best selves, and there is nothing inherently wrong with that.
However, I do become concerned when I notice an influx of clients who base their success or fulfillment on another person’s Facebook life. It is an easy trap to fall into. We are all aware that Facebook does not encompass every aspect of our own lives, but for some reason when we see it as a representation of another person, we don’t take that into account. We start comparing the quality of our relationships, the size of our birthday parties, the shape of our bodies, the success of our careers. The list is endless of the comparisons we make on a daily basis. Sometimes the comparisons can be a motivational factor.
Some of you might be familiar with Maria Kang, a young mother who posted a picture of herself in a bikini with her young children, and the caption, “What’s your excuse?” She claims that photo was meant to motivate other young mothers, with the thought: If she can do it, so can I. The reactions she received were varied, and many were negative. Many women’s initial reaction was to think of the challenges in their own lives, and to assume Maria did not face those same challenges (genetics, full-time job, lack of support from spouse). Now I don’t claim to know what challenges she faces, but I do know that she did not post them on Facebook… until she received backlash. If we were to get caught up in that game with our own friends we would quickly learn that everyone’s lives come with hardships, and while one aspect might look appealing, it might not be worth trading for another.
So my advice is this: The solution does not have to be drastic. I am not suggesting that we remove ourselves from social media altogether, or assume that everyone is being fake. But I do think that next time you are feeling the green-eyed monster start to creep in, take a minute to put things in perspective. Yes, I am upset she got a promotion and I haven’t, but I am working hard as well. Yes, their relationship looks great, but I’m sure they have fights too. Those quick little reminders will help you from snowballing, and will help you to remember that these are your friends, and their happiness is yours as well.