Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) takes many different forms, and cell phones and social media have the power to take it straight to addiction. FOMO is an obsessive concern that someone will miss out on an opportunity to attend “the best party ever,” or another exciting event.
Teens and young adults are especially susceptible because of their immaturity and impulsivity. They and are in the natural phase of pulling away from mom and dad, which is when experimentation with drugs and alcohol is more likely to occur.
Teens and young adults who suffer from this phenomenon are afraid that something better will be happening somewhere else and they won’t be a part of it. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. provide a view, unrealistic at best, into the exciting lives of everyone else. Parties, outings and hanging out with friends, smiling, laughing and carrying on can make some young people jealous when they feel their lives don’t live up to the glamorous ones others are posting.
Social Media Peer Pressure or Digital Peer Pressure
Additionally, the photos and conversations on many social media sites can be drug and alcohol related. The party they are missing shows everyone drunk; the hike they couldn’t make it to is where their friends are smoking pot. Research from the Journal of Adolescent Health states that teens are at least three times more likely to drink and four times more likely to smoke when they viewed partying behavior involving drugs and alcohol on their friends’ social media sites.
What Can a Parent Do to Prevent Fear of Missing Out?
The reality is, how someone presents themselves on social media is not usually an accurate view of what is really going on in their lives. Social media has become an avenue for people to reinvent themselves and if people are being completely real and honest, every post would not be “absolutely fabulous.”
- Talk to kids about the reality of life – it’s filled with ups and downs – everyone is not in Europe, at the best party or is the most popular kid. Show them by example that it’s ok to have a nice, down-to-earth life where everyday is not an event.
The instant gratification that comes through immediate, “likes,” “favorites,” and “shares,” perpetuates a world where there is no down time, no time for reflection or quiet to figure things out. By being constantly connected there is no real time where humans cultivate real self-esteem and find true friends and hobbies that propel one into living a purpose driven life.
- Encourage family time and allow for kids to have their own down time free of cell phones and social media. Maybe this time is spent reading, drawing or writing in a journal. Creativity helps to craft self esteem and is a good way to find a special talent to pursue and feel good about.
Staying aware of how much time teens and young adults are using cell phones and social media sites is important. There isn’t enough time in the day with school, homework, afterschool activities, family time and friendships to be obsessing on a world in a box.
- Establish clear boundaries with cell phones and social media and tech free days. Know who your child’s friends are. Social media puts kids in a position where not only are they communicating with age appropriate friends from the neighborhood anymore, but also with older people from all over the world whom a parent knows nothing about.
Fear of Missing Out is a cultural addiction, and as a society we can take it’s power away. Think about it. What do you give your attention to? When you drive are you 100% present? Or are you waiting to check your texts and e-mails at the next stoplight? When you forget your cell phone at home can you simply finish your errands without having to zip back home and grab it? Do you constantly update your Facebook page with witty posts and selfies?
What are you willing to do to change the FOMO culture?