You all know the feeling I’m talking about—the familiar rise of anxiety in your chest when you login to your most cherished form of social media, the compulsion of checking your Facebook account 20+ times a day.
This feeling used to be provoked by an away message on your friend’s AIM account in middle school: “Hanging out at Kristie’s with Marnie, Sara and Jessica! HAVING SO MUCH FUN DANCE PARTY TO BACKSTREET BOYS!” Now, it could be as simple as a missed photo opportunity on Instagram or a 140-character tweet about your random friend from high school’s new internship in an African village riding elephants and herding sheep.
Whatever the source may be, we all know what it is—the Fear of Missing Out, or FOMO. This new disorder, that of which I diagnosed myself with my freshmen year of college, plagues teens and twenty-somethings everywhere with a smart phone and the gift of vision.
FOMO can cause you to go to the bar on a Tuesday and chug lemon drops when you have a test on Wednesday, accept an invitation to go skydiving even though you’re terrified of heights but YOLO! or even justify buying that new $50 t-shirt because “I saw it on Urban Outfitters Instagram account and I needed it NOW.”
So, what really is FOMO and why is it new to our generation? (Keep in mind: FOMO tends to affect the most outgoing and social of individuals.)
1. It’s social media-based, which allows us to peek into the personal lives of anybody and everybody.
Don’t worry, your best friend’s mom is petting her cat Sassy and watching The Real Housewives of New Jersey according to Facebook. And Kim Kardashian just left a photo shoot and decided to upload a selfie to Instagram. Adults in the 90s weren’t worried about what their favorite celebrities or friends were doing because they had no way of knowing, which meant no FOMO.
2. It’s created and fostered through many different mediums.
Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine and Snapchat can all give the user FOMO. It’s inescapable, and the modes of social media are only increasing every day. How are we supposed to keep up with so much socializing?!
3. People tend to post moments in their lives that are fun, exotic and interesting on social media.
It’s all a ploy to show off what amazing things you’re doing and make yourself seem like, so cool. Yep, “I’m on Spring Break in Puerto Vallarta drinking a Corona and you’re not. #wishyouwereme.” Or, “Can’t wait for Coachella this weekend! #hippie #freespirit.” This is all to ensure maximum FOMO for followers.
4. FOMO has a certain way of hitting you where it hurt sometimes.
It was a bummer that you had to miss a trip to Chicago because of your Grandma’s 80th birthday party, but now it really fuckin’ sucks after a three page photo album is uploaded to Facebook.
5. FOMO is actually really strange in that it promotes comparison.
You just had a long week at work and cannot wait to watch The Notebook and inhale Hershey bars, but after seeing a new Instagram of your friends at that hip new bar, your weekend plans seem to immediately dull in comparison. FOMO ensues.
Although I am jealous of my parents who lived their young adult lives in the throes of Rock n’ Roll, velvet bell bottoms and keg beer instead of iPhones and Facebook, social media and the subsequent FOMO is a part of my generation, that of which I’m also guilty of feeling and perpetuating. After all, where would we all be if that kid you met at a party in college and your second grade teacher’s daughter didn’t know what you did last weekend?