I think it's safe to say that many people suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) in our age of social media. Especially with Instagram, there's always someone somewhere doing something more fabulous, interesting, fun, fulfilling, etc. than we are. It's easy to fall down the rabbit hole into a vortex of inadequacy and feel that our lives are dull, boring, and meaningless. Regardless of whether or not that's actually true.
Although FOMO may become more prevalent with the rise of social media I don't think it's new. When I was in college in the late 90s/early 00s, before social media existed, Instant Messenger was the big thing, which allowed me to connect with my friends at other colleges. I remember being jealous of how much fun they were having going to parties and events while I spent a lot of my time in rehearsals for shows and the rest of my time homesick in my dorm room. The fear that I was failing to have a "good" college experience was very real.
Even earlier than that I had done my fair share of comparing my life to my peers', in high school and middle school. Going father back, to elementary school, there was plenty of coveting what others had. I think everyone has at some point looked at their friends' lives and made unfavorable comparisons of their own. The voice in our head that tells us we're too fat, thin, poor, introverted, boring, etc. is relentless. It's also pretty much always wrong. Because at the same time that you are looking at your life and thinking it's not enough someone else is probably looking at it and envying you.
When I realize I'm having FOMO I see it as a sign that I need to pause and evaluate. I ask myself - what's going on right now that I'm dissatisfied with? The FOMO is rarely about the traveling someone else is doing, or the beautiful, expensive clothes someone is wearing in a magazine or on Instagram, or the life of a friend that seems more complete than my own. It's about something specific in my life, like feeling trapped by an unpleasant situation at work, not making time to be creative, or just being exhausted. It's a sign I'm not getting enough of the things that make me feel fulfilled. It's also a sign that I'm not fully present in my life.
It's easy to use social media as an escape from our daily lives. A little escapism isn't bad. It's when we get in so deep that we think that we would be so much happier if we were just different, more like the lovely, shiny images of people enjoying themselves in exotic locations that it becomes a problem. Because we wouldn't be happier. Fulfillment is not about material circumstances. It's an internal experience, one that we have to take responsibility for in order to create.
With the holidays beginning I think it's especially important to keep things in perspective. It's easy to get sucked into the images of beautifully decorated, cozy homes, huge trees with piles of presents underneath, and happy families, and lose sight of the things that we already have in our lives. I'll be making an effort to step away from all of it and focus on the parts of my life that I love at this time of year.
Photo by Sophia Dunkin-Hubby