Social Media and FOMO: What the Fear of Missing Out is Doing to Your Family — Part 1

Monday, 14 October, 2019

Jen Ferguson

Happy pictures capture happy moments, right? That seems like a simple concept. But why is it that the concept of “moments” doesn’t apply when we gaze into the world of social media? “Moment” translates into “always” in the blink of a Facebook or Instagram refresh.

When I think of why I originally signed up for Facebook over a decade ago, I can honestly say it was to reconnect with people I thought were lost to me. It was fun to catch up, to see what people were doing, to watch families be created, and witness adventures unfolding. But somewhere along the way, this ceased to be the full extent of my motivation.

Does social media influence your mood? 

A darker side emerged as I realized how my emotional state could easily pull my feelings in one direction or another. I could get on Facebook perfectly happy and close the tab grumpy, irritated, and disgruntled.

I could also use it as a tool to improve my emotional state—that is, if my community played along with me in my game. By posting a picture, I could let the comments and likes fill up what was empty and lacking in my heart. “Look what I did! Look how happy we are! #Blessed!”

We essentially expect people to affirm what we already appear to know. But do we really know? If we did, would we need this much external affirmation?

It’s hard not to compare our pictures with those of others. We post a picture, so full, alive, and content, but our feed refreshes and we see someone so full, so alive, and so content, too, but on the beaches of Maui when we were on a lake in Kentucky.

We post a picture of ourselves at home on New Year’s Eve celebrating with those we love in pajamas and plastic champagne flutes. We are so happy to have such good friends! But our feed refreshes and there we find others celebrating with their loved ones, but all dressed up, maybe on Times Square with crystal champagne flutes. We were excited to spend a cozy night at home with hot tea and Netflix, but our feed refreshes and we realize we weren’t invited to the party down the street.

There’s a name for this—FOMO

Social media can make what we were grateful for pale in comparison to what others have or experience. We are left questioning—is there something better out there for me, too? If so, we don’t want to miss it.

As a result, we spend hours perusing, continually checking, inhibiting our very ability to have a better quality of life with the very people who are truly invested in us. The name for this is FOMO or fear of missing out.

One study defined FOMO as ‘‘the uneasy and sometimes all-consuming feeling that you’re missing out—that your peers are doing, in the know about, or in possession of more or something better than you.’’

We’re doing this as 30-year-olds—and 40-, 50-, and 60-year-olds. And our brains are completely developed! We have an entire generation under us that don’t have that luxury yet. We should be able to see there is an unending cycle at work here that, if left unchecked, will leave us hungry, fearful, and discontent with the things we do have and do experience.

As parents, we need to make sure we disengage from this cycle so we can teach our kids how to disengage, too.

Next week learn about the real dangers of FOMO and social media and how to curb this addiction in yourself and your kids!

This week’s guest contributor, Jen Ferguson, is from Protect Young Minds, a national organization whose mission is to empower parents, professionals and community leaders to protect kids from pornography and harmful content.