The Link Between Social Media and FOMO in Teenagers

Teenage Girl Being Bullied By Text Message

It may be hard to accept for some people, but we can’t be everywhere at once. Sometimes multiple events will happen at the same time, and we’d have to choose which one to attend. Other times we won’t be invited to certain gatherings or outings. While many people accept this and move on, others may become consumed by this knowledge and develop FOMO—Fear Of Missing Out.

What’s FOMO?

FOMO refers to the anxiety and discomfort someone feels when they think they’re missing out on fun experiences. It’s normal to feel down when you miss an event. You may have felt pangs of regret upon seeing a friend’s photos of a cool concert you couldn’t attend. However, those with FOMO experience heightened levels of anxiety, insecurity, jealousy, and resentment. Think of a get-together in which all your friends but you were invited, or when coworkers are talking about a popular TV show you don’t watch.

FOMO can be traced to social comparison theorythe notion that people determine their social value and self-worth based on comparing themselves to others in a positive or negative light. A man may feel better about himself if he discovers that an old classmate has become overweight, or worse about himself if said classmate is now wealthy.

How Social Media Creates FOMO

Although various situations can lead to FOMO, it’s fair to say that social media plays a major role in its formation. A 2013 study featured on Mashable stated that a whopping 56% of people who use social media experience FOMO.

Some experts argue that it has become a chicken-and-the-egg situation, meaning that it’s uncertain if heavy social media use leads to FOMO, or if FOMO leads to increased use of social media.

The negative effects of social media are far-reaching. FOMO is also linked to social media addiction, in that anxiety in possibly being left out or uninformed fuels the need to keep visiting social media sites.

The Frequency of FOMO in Teens

To be fair, people of all ages can experience FOMO. For example, working or deployed parents often worry that they’re missing their children’s milestones and magical moments. However, teens are among the most susceptible to FOMO because they highly value social acceptance and popularity with peers. A 2013 study revealed that teenagers are more likely to engage in risky activities in the presence of their peers compared to when they’re by themselves.

The strong influence of social media on teenagers is well-known and documented. According to a 2013 Pew Research Center study, 81% of teens use social media, compared with 72% of adults.

FOMO negatively affects teenagers’ physical and mental health. This includes anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, loneliness. sleeplessness, and mood swings. It’s crucial then, for parents to help their adolescent tackle their fear of missing out.

How to Help Your Teen Deal with FOMO

It sounds deceptively simple to combat FOMO, but it can be as challenging as beating an addiction. For some teens, avoiding social media for just 24 hours is a Herculean task. That being said, parents can help their child overcome FOMO with a few tips.

  • Don’t invalidate your teen’s feelings by telling them that things will get better in the long run, or that certain events aren’t important.
  • Encourage your adolescent to find offline hobbies or sports to keep them busy.
  • Suggest to your teen to host his or her own events. Invite friends to a movie, bowling, or some other outing.
  • Help your teen understand that people often present themselves on social media in a positive light, and that their lives aren’t as perfect or fun as it seems.
  • Limit your teen’s online time. For example, don’t allow them to bring their phones at the dinner table and keep them out of their rooms overnight.
  • Simply telling your adolescent to turn off his/her phone may be difficult, so consider using a parental control solution like the Hub by Securly. The Hub allows you to, among other things, turn off internet access on their devices and monitor their online activity.

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