It’s Friday night and you have to choose between going out or staying home and watching Netflix. You open Snapchat and see a bunch of your peers hitting the town. Then it hits you: FOMO, or the fear of missing out.
FOMO is natural and happens to all of us. What can be worse is when we happily decide to stay home for the night and log into Facebook, where some of our old high school friends have updated their employment statuses to great six figure jobs. On Instagram, you follow lots of celebrities, influencers and downright rich people who wear the trendiest clothes, attend elite parties and go on luxurious vacations. You then spend the rest of the night feeling like an underachiever, watching life through a screen where everyone looks successful. It's the "fear of not doing": the feeling we get after scrolling through social media and seeing the lives of everyone else that almost always appear to be better than ours.
Like FOMO, the "fear of not doing" is a digital form of peer pressure.
Instagram was recently ranked as the worst social media platform for mental health, and it's not hard to figure out why. Originally, Instagram began as a social media site that allowed us to share photos with our followers. It also gave us something Facebook did not — the ability to see what we actually want — people’s photos — without seeing long and annoying status rants or being victims to “poke wars.”
Whether it's someone with a new internship, a perfect selfie, endless vacations or a 2-year-old who can afford Gucci, Instagram reminds us how much better the lives of others are. What we often forget is that Instagram allows us to curate an image of ourselves and display what we want others to see. We only show what we want — sometimes to the point of exaggeration — and simply don't post our downfalls or hardships.
Comparison is said to be the thief of our happiness, and if so, then Instagram is the biggest culprit.
Armani Croft, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said that she can definitely relate to the "fear of not doing", and experienced it this past summer when she worked at an internship in New York.
“When I had my internship, so many people went on awesome vacations. Even though I was being productive, I also felt like I deserved a vacation, which I knew wasn’t happening, so it was a mix of jealousy and disappointment when looking through my feed,” Croft said.
Chris Mindanao, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said he used to experience social media-induced FOMO all the time. Now, he realizes social media can often distort reality.
“Honestly, I've begun to see the ‘show’ that it really is. In reality, none of these people are really having as much fun as they try to portray. I'll be at one of these parties, for example, and I'll witness it for myself. It's nothing special, but on their Snapchat or Instagram it's all hyped up in order to make it look like they have a fun, interesting life. It's not the truth.”
It’s so easy to experience this “fear of not doing” feeling, but you can argue that, for the most part, what you see is just an illusion. Social media just offers a curated glimpse into someone's life, and in turn, is extremely misleading.
Limit the amount of time you spend on social media and approach it with a new perspective. People who seem to have a lot going on in their lives usually don't also post their struggles. Look at Instagram and Facebook more as highlight reels rather than allowing them to lower your self-esteem. Most of all, celebrate what you do have going on for yourself. Accomplish goals on your own time, not because everyone else on social media seems to be achieving more than you.