Social media and FOMO syndrome: when you believe that other people’s lives are better

One of the main consequences of interaction through social networks, and the best known, is that feeling that everyone has a more interesting life than ours. Who has not felt that way to a greater or lesser extent? Well now, that feeling has a name, and it’s called the FOMO syndrome, the acronym for Fear Of Missing Out, which in Spanish would be something like the “syndrome of being missing something.” Even if it has a name, it is not a disease, nor a disorder, and no psychologist is going to put that name on your record. It is simply a behavior that is triggered by a stimulus, that many people have in common, and that causes us a lot of discomfort. What’s more, it can have serious emotional consequences.

It is clear what the FOMO syndrome consists of : imagine the wonderful plan on Saturday night to order a pizza or sushi for dinner, put your favorite series on television and have a beer, all in the company of your partner, who barely you have seen per week and you love to share this moment with you. What could muddy this? Look at the Instagram storiesand see that both your best friend and some colleagues from work are at the concert that you were lazy to go to. What a good time they have, and what a boring person you are, right? Or maybe it happens to you on a Tuesday, that you are going to work in your beloved office in Madrid, but you see that a former university colleague is in London starting her new job in a multinational company. Is it that you have thrown your life away or what happens? You have the feeling that you are missing something.

Not something new

The FOMO syndrome has been established in our lives in a much more daily way with the arrival of social networks. However, have you ever felt it in the past, in an even much more vivid way: do you remember when you were not allowed to go to that concert that all your friends did, but it was very far from your home? Or when everyone started going to the disco but they still wouldn’t let you go out? Or when you got home an hour before your friends, and you thought that all the best happened in that time when you were not there? In adolescence, many people who did not have mobile phones or social networks felt the FOMO, that is why those dramatic fights with parents so that they would let you go everywhere. It is that if you did not go, you would miss a unique moment.

Now imagine that, in addition to staying at home feeling empty, marginalized and helpless, we could see the event that we were missing on Instagram or Twitter. Well, many teenagers have that feeling.

But the FOMO syndrome is not limited to “being at home while this is happening”, it is in general. That someone is showing the outfit with which he is going to a wedding? You regret that either you don’t go to weddings, or you can never afford such a handsome dress. That someone is dining in a restaurant? You are sorry because you go to the McDonals. That someone is on vacation in Thailand? You may not want to go to Thailand, but you are sorry because you think that everyone is taking advantage of their youth except you . No matter what example we put, the problem is in our constant comparison.

Why does FOMO syndrome occur?

People have the tendency to compare ourselves to each other, but it is not something natural either, but the way we have learned to relate. Especially in recent decades, when consumption habits have increased, and today our identity revolves more around what we consume, from clothes, to movies and series, through experiences (travel, food, sports …).

What also happens is that in social networks we tend to always show our “best” image, that is, to show the things of which we are most proud, or the most worthy of teaching: we are not going to show a plate of lentils, because that does not impress anyone , we show that restaurant dish, so beautiful and appetizing, for which we have paid so much that not to immortalize it. Our outfit is so cool, how handsome we feel today , how much we love our partner, our own achievements and those of our family members, etc.

However, that distorts the image that others create of us, and vice versa. If everything that is taught is good, beautiful and successful , we think that this life is a dream, but we do not see the things that can sometimes be faked (we are all taking a family photo, but maybe we get on badly) or that they are more intimate (this person may be showing how much fun he has with friends at a party, but two weeks ago he could barely get out of bed due to the sadness of having broken up with his partner).

It seems like a pretty trivial question, after all, almost everyone has felt that “something was missing” at some point. However, it can lead to self – esteem problems and disorders such as anxiety and depression . It is more common in young adults, and also in adolescents.

The solution for FOMO syndrome

We might think that the solution is easy: delete your social networks. However, and in the opinion of other psychologists, this would only be a measure of avoidance of the problem. This is proposed for many of the problems that derive from interaction with social networks (harassment, mass and public lynchings, monitoring the life of another person, envy, or the FOMO itself), however, the real solution consists in learning to use social networks in a healthy way. If there is a new means of communication, such as social networks, which have their strengths and weaknesses, why do we have to give them up?

It is a matter of learning and educating ourselves in this new way of communication. Therefore, when we feel the FOMO syndrome, we can stop to reflect: think that we should be happy if that person is having a good time; remind us that all people have normal lives (even famous ones!) , with their pluses and minuses; reflect on what other people might think of us when we upload a similar post; learn to accept ourselves, self-esteem plays a very important role in the development of FOMO syndrome; also look at the most daily publications of the people we follow, to help us get back to reality.

On the other hand, there are celebrities, influencers, youtubers, etc., who try to create content on social networks where we see the most normal and everyday face of their lives, what they call “their dramas” , to counteract others that may undermine the self-esteem of the followers: “I don’t get up with makeup on,” said youtuber PercebesyGrelos, alluding to other influencers.

Elle Mcdonald

I am Elle Mcdonald Specializations in Psychology . Graduated in psychology from the University of Tennessee in 2000. Diploma of Advanced Studies in the Department of Personality, Evaluation and psychological treatments with excellent results.

First Level of Master in Clinical Psychology at the Center for Behavioral Therapists (recognized with a scientific-professional nature by the College of Psychologists)

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