How Social Media Has Led to FOMO

I’m sure somebody has mentioned the implications of FOMO at some point in our class, but I felt it was worth mentioning after I missed out on the last football game last weekend. These days, most Millenials have heard of the phrase, a.k.a. “fear of missing out”. The word has certainly spread rapidly due to the increased usage of social media these days. FOMO most often occurs on weekends when you have to miss out on a night out with your friends for any particular reason. Basically, you get FOMO when you can’t participate in something you want to do. In an Elite Daily article, Michael Hogan, Ph.D refers to FOMO as “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent… the desire to stay continually connected to what others are doing.” For example, last weekend I made the decision to go home and study because I was taking the CPA exam the following Monday. It was BC’s last home football game of the year, so I had to miss out on the festivities of gameday. At first, I wasn’t disappointed about missing out because our team was no longer bowl eligible. However, as I was sitting at home studying, I obviously opened up the various social media apps to procrastinate. I saw all the Snapchat’s of people tailgating and having fun, and honestly contemplated driving back to catch the postgame action. If it wasn’t for Snapchat, I don’t think my fear of missing out on the football game would have been existent at all.

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If it were our parents choosing to miss out on something fun when they were in college, they likely didn’t have to worry so much about what they were missing out on, because they didn’t even know a lot of it was happening. Social media has made it so that everything is broadcasted and made public, whether through Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or Instagram. These platforms make it difficult to avoid what people are doing, especially for a big event like one of the six home football games. This brings up another point, which I have noted in other people’s blog posts. For big events like this, it seems like people actively try to make it look like they are having fun to their followers. Sometimes there are so many Snap Stories in one day that it makes you wonder if someone is actually having fun or if they are spending their whole time trying to get a “fun looking” Snap Story to give off this perception. I have been guilty of it, as I am sure many others have too. Anyway, this is sort of an off-topic observation, but I felt it was worth mentioning within the whole FOMO concept.D-Custom-FOMO-Social-Media

In all honesty, the concept of FOMO is sort of a silly thing. Everyone has their own life, and missing out on one football game or one party certainly does not mean your life is ruined. There is always next football season or next weekend to attend another party. But when you’re sitting at a desk staring at the same accounting problems for hours on end, FOMO totally becomes a real thing, as I am pretty sure everyone in our class has experienced it in one way or another. Overall, I think it is important to hold everything in perspective and not get worked up over missing out on one little event. On days like these, it might be a good idea to shut down your cell phone and separate yourself from this sort of distraction. It might even feel good to get away from that world for a day or night of studying (and will likely make you more productive!). Social media is a great tool, but I think a lot of people in our generation have become too dependent on it. We really shouldn’t let a few Snapchats dictate how we feel either when we are attending an event or sitting at home missing out on one.

9 comments

  1. Unfortunately, FOMO is very real and we’ve seen its effects on campuses across the country with increased rates of depression and suicide. The freshmen in my TA class often spoke of the “fear of missing out” when they first got to Boston College. Their friends from high school were constantly posting pictures of their great times at school, and my freshmen felt like their college experience was sub-par. What they failed to recognize is social media is simply a highlight reel – no one is going to post about their lonely nights or hours spent in the library. FOMO has the potential to encourage us to be social and get out more, but it has a much stronger potential to distort our views of the good things in our lives.

  2. Thanks john for this post. Ofcourse the FOMO phenomena has been growing over the past few years because of social media. As you said, I sometimes feel that I can’t avoid certain events because they are all over my Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram and Fb feed. As you mentioned, as much as I feel that FOMO increases with social media, I also feel that sometimes social media helps make FOMO much less. When I am not able to go to a game, I can now lifestream or look at snaps to remain updated with everything happening minute by minute. I hence am not missing out as much. I totally agree that we shouldn’t let social media dictate our feelings and that we shall be able to shut down every now and then from the social media world. We all need times to relax and reflect on life away from the constant connectivity, true, but again it comes back to how we each use social media in our own ways. Thanks for sharing and hope you aced your CPA exam. You will have many upcoming games to watch so don’t worry. Good job.

  3. First off, all my best on your CPA exam. I think FOMO is one of the big reasons why social media can cause so much anxiety (besides the potential for cyber bullying). Before social media, when someone wasn’t invited to a party or couldn’t make an event, you only heard from other people what happened and eventually the news died down. Now, of course, pictures make very concrete who was and was not at a particular event. And there’s always the potential that one day someone will be paging through pictures and ask why you weren’t in any from a particular night. All I can say is I’m certainly glad I was out of middle school by the time social media became ubiquitous.

  4. Nice post. I wonder if social media channels, instead of creating FOMO, have just moved it up in time. In the past, for example, people might have heard about a great time people had the next day, or on Monday in class, or some other way. Now, of course, you view the “highlight reel” in real time on Snapchat or Instagram.

    Maybe “real-time FOMO” is the real legacy of social media in this area. Don’t we all talk to acquaintances on a Monday and the topic of conversation is “what did you do this weekend?”

  5. Since I am someone who probably should’ve grown up in the 50s, take this with a grain of salt: FOMO sounds like a kind of light mental instability or underdevelopment; a tantrum, if you will. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been bummed out about missing events plenty of times but it has never reached the point of being a phobia. Nor has it ever really distracted me to the point of not accomplishing the task I was working on. Then again, this phenomenon isn’t all that surprising, considering that our generation is genuinely addicted to social media, as I blogged about at the beginning of the semester.

  6. Nice post. FOMO is definitely a sign of the times and one of the defining features of the Millennial generation. But as I was reading your post, I started thinking: didn’t our parents perhaps have similar feelings when they were trying to call a friend on a Saturday evening on their landline, got the busy, or worse, no answer signal, and started to wonder what their friend might be up to when you expected them to be home? @jonah741 pretty much talks about the same idea, I believe.
    But you hit the nail in the head here: Having constant live steams of others’ (idealized) activities and fun events does foster a feeling and fear of having to keep up with the Joneses even more.
    Good luck on the CPA exam!!

  7. You bring up a great point John. Social media causes extreme FOMO, and I’ll go as far as to say that it is the main contributor to the isolation I feel when I am not at an event that others are at. There have been times when I have asked myself if I should give up social media entirely. Wouldn’t I be happier and more productive without it? I think that with the role that social media plays in our lives these days, there is a tendency to broadcast everything that we do. I would not consider myself the most active on Instagram or Facebook, but I do realize that every time a very fun time takes place, I feel the need to update these outlets with some visual evidence. Is this a bad thing? Not entirely. While we do fear missing out, these capabilities also allow us to connect with friends and family that we are otherwise physically unable to be with at the time. I think it is important to recognize that not every moment in your life is picture worthy. Sure, there will be times were we are stuck on the outside of the bubble. Social media only adds to this feeling. It is important to remember that most of my relationships are only sustained and enhanced through social media, not created.

  8. This is a great post that relates really well to a more recent one about our personal social brand, and I think it really is something that existed far before social media (for example, calling non-Greek students at universities GDI’s or Goddamn Independents). In addition to this fear of being left out, I have noticed that it really pushes friends of mine to really want friends to go out with them almost as a way of validating their decision that they’re doing the “fun” and “right” thing. But it’s really a crazy thing when you put this concept into as objective of a perspective as you can: you start realizing what you actually enjoy doing with your friends, and I think the same thing happens to them as a result. Since this is my senior year, I wanted to try going out more and “have fun” with friends of mine who did that, and I tried to do this at the beginning of the year. But eventually what I realized was this wasn’t the kind of person who I wanted to be, and that I wasn’t really having fun at all. What I enjoy alot more is just getting burgers or something with my buds and plopping down on the couch on a Saturday night to watch some great college football, and the Fear of Missing Out thanks to Social Media is finally gone.

  9. I talk about this with my friends all the time! One of my roommates has what she calls “chronic fomo.” Like an illness.

    I definitely have fomo once in a while, especially if I was planning on doing some activity and then I couldn’t go because of a test or something. The same thing as having to cancel plans has always been but just exacerbated by SM. But if I consciously decide not to go, or wasn’t explicitly planning on going, its not too bad. I think taking every picture with a grain of salt is good advice. I’ve definitely been guilty of crafting a beautiful snap story when in reality I was cold and miserable. I think a great snap story is either the product of a great time or incredible boredom.

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