FOMO - Fear Of Missing Out
How many likes did I get? Are people commenting on my post? How many people are following me? Where is the party?
Do you feel like social media is controlling your life? Are you feeling like you’re struggling to compete and to keep up? Are you reactively checking your phone without thinking about it? Do you catch yourself looking at social media and wondering where the time has gone? Clients frequently tell me about the social media habits that they’ve learned and are trying to break. Several clients have reported that they’ve removed social media apps from their phones to avoid wasting time but still find themselves pulling out their phones without thinking about it.
You might find it interesting to learn that a lot of research has been done on social media. In a 2018 study, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that social media can contribute to feelings of anxiety and loneliness. More specifically, they found that less social media reduced feelings of anxiety and loneliness among the people in the study. (Link Here)
For the study, the researchers selected 143 undergraduate students and monitored screen time to develop a baseline usage for each student of the apps for Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. After getting the baseline, a random group was selected and were asked to limit their social media usage to 10 minutes per day per app. The control group was asked to monitor screen time for each app but not asked to set limits. The results of the study were very interesting. First, the random group that limited screen time reported less loneliness and anxiety than before they started the study. The other group that only monitored their screen time reported lower anxiety and less concern about being left out than before they started the study.
Are these results surprising? Perhaps at first, however, they makes sense when you note that that much of social media is about showing others how great your life is and about comparing yourself to others. In other words, social media encourages people to create online personas that do not represent reality, and users find themselves trying to measure up.
What does this mean for you and me? As with any study, the results are generalizations and may or may not apply to you. In particular, this study was based on college student use of three particular social media applications on phones. That said, if you find yourself being controlled by social media, why not try your own experiment? It is possible to use social media without letting it control your life. Here are some things you might try:
1. Monitor your screen time. Just being aware of how much time you’re spending on the apps can help you make an informed decision about the time that you spend.
2. Limit your time. Set a timer on your phone and allow yourself a specific amount of time to check the apps. You can regain control by actively (rather than reactively) choosing to check the apps and limiting your time.
3. Set your expectations and stop thinking you can keep up because you can’t -- it is literally impossible. There is a lot of information pouring toward you on social media. Even if you don’t have a huge number of friends or a huge following, the pages will be filled with advertisements targeting you. I know it may be tempting to try to keep up but these platforms are designed so that matter how many times you scroll through the latest on any of the apps, there will be more information. This is worth saying again: These social media platforms are designed to scramble the pages with a mix of old and new information so that they look different each time you look. By design, it’s impossible to keep up.
Social media can be useful, interesting, and informative if you don’t let it control you. I encourage you to find ways to take your power back.