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FOMO ~ Fear of Missing Out

Clinical Psychologist, Arousha Toufigh


November 22, 2022

FOMO ~ Fear of Missing Out


Welcome to MeTime Healing, where we recognize and care for your relationship between the digital world and your mental well-being.

In this day and age, our highly digitalized society offers many benefits. The internet has unlocked a world of opportunities, specifically with our phones and social media allowing us instant connection with anyone and everyone, at any moment of the day. But our hyper-connected world has also led to many of us becoming hyper-dependent on this constant contact, making our journey through the digital landscape a complicated one. While social media can enhance connection and lead to a sense of belonging by offering platforms that facilitate self-exploration, social connection, and online support, it is easy to fall into the trap of becoming overly consumed in the online world.

Among emerging adults, self-discovery, exploration, and identity development are crucial. This stage of life can sometimes be confusing or lonely, and using social media can be a comfort during such difficult personal times. The issue arises when relying on social media as a companion without considering how it may affect your mental well-being. There are a variety of negative effects of social media, particularly among emerging adults, most of which are likely familiar feelings to those of us habitual social media users.

Some of these relatable and detrimental effects of social media include:

● Constantly seeking validation from others ○ “Needing” more likes, comments, reactions, and appraisals from people online ● Body image issues and dissatisfaction ○ Caused by unrealistic expectations and impossible-to-reach standards ● Comparing your life to others ○ Endlessly viewing other people’s successes, milestones, and social lives ● Negative effect on mood ○ All the above can impact self-perception and self-esteem in negative ways

In addition, one phenomenon that many people struggle with due to excessive social media use is FOMO, or the Fear Of Missing Out. Stemming from an attachment to social media, FOMO refers to the preoccupation of social media users with the lost opportunities of events when they are unable to view, attend, or take part in these events, either virtually or in-person. So why does FOMO happen to some people? Well, the answer may be found when considering addiction and how it works.

We’ve all turned to our phones to scroll on social media for five minutes then look up and discover it’s been hours instead. The underlying neurological mechanisms that social media platforms take advantage of can help explain why this occurs. Every time you scroll on your TikTok feed or go through an endless sea of Instagram stories, the reward center of your brain is activated and dopamine is released. Dopamine, known as the pleasure neurotransmitter, is fired off after each video, meme, or funny comment you see. These little hits of temporary pleasure understandably leave you craving more and more, until you realize just how long you’ve spent staring at your phone.

It’s important to remember that these platforms were designed to be addictive, to cause you to continuously seek the instant gratification that you receive from the release of dopamine. This is what social media relies on a dopamine-driven cycle of constant audience engagement. In other words, they rely on the addiction to your phone.

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Addictions can cause many issues and impact your well-being.

Addictions to your phone, social media, or even video games for instance have been found to increase feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depressive symptoms, as well as decreased self-esteem and overall lifetime satisfaction. Excessive screen time can also lead to changes in your sleeping habits, which may then lead to feelings of fatigue and altered decision-making capabilities. Now how does FOMO come into play? Well, even when we know all these negative effects of excessive social media use, we may still end up in the cycle of addiction. This may be explained by FOMO. When you step away from your device and the social media sphere, content is still being created, people are still posting, connecting, and interacting online. When you turn on your phone after a busy day and see a joke whose context you don’t quite understand, FOMO is perpetuated further, and you may feel as though it is necessary to continuously stay up-to-date on the latest news and trends that you missed out on.

Often, when we’re not online we feel a sense of desire to be connected, which unfortunately may sometimes be at the cost of our day-to-day activities. This continuous need to feel included in everything that happens in your online sphere can have detrimental effects that further promote phone and social media addictions.

At the end of the day, it is easy to feel constantly caught in a vicious cycle of trying to stay connected while also trying to juggle real-life activities without missing out on either one. This is one of the greatest modern-day challenges that most of us go through.

MeTime Healing recognizes that we are facing a digital era that comes with a host of mental health challenges. We aim to empower individuals to use social media productively and take control of not only the quantity but also the quality of their social media use.

Our team of professionals is dedicated to helping you navigate your digital use of social media mindfully and guides you in breaking a negative cycle of social media abuse and addiction to continuously improve your mental well-being. We provide a safe space for individuals to disconnect, recharge, and prioritize their own well-being. By embracing JOMO (Joy of Missing Out) and finding joy in missing out, individuals can find healing, personal growth, and a sense of balance in their lives.

We are committed to helping you prevent digital burnout and navigating your path to embracing the digital world healthily, consciously, and positively!

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