Digital Media Literacy: FOMO: Our Relationship with Social Media

Lesson 19: FOMO: Our Relationship with Social Media


FOMO: Our relationship with social media

A set of exciting social media posts.

Picture this: You log into social media, and see a photo of some friends at a party. You scroll down and find a video of another friend cliff-diving in Cancun. Other friends are posting tons of comments about the movie "Garden Cop," and you haven’t seen it yet. After seeing all this, you may start feeling something called FOMO, or fear of missing out.

Watch the video below to see how social media could be making you anxious.

FOMO and social media

A set of exciting social media posts next to a set of dull moments.

FOMO is the anxiety we experience when we feel there’s something exciting happening elsewhere and we’re not a part of it. It’s been around for a long time, but these days, it’s usually triggered by posts on social media.

Social media gives us instant access to the activity of our friends; that’s what it’s there for. This can be a good thing, but it also makes it all too easy for us to compare our lives to theirs. That can lead to us second-guessing our decisions and feeling insecure in general. It can even get to the point where there’s a looming sense of FOMO even when we’re not online. 

A person regrets that her life isn't as exciting as the social media posts she sees.

Fighting back against FOMO

A notice reads "Limit your time, take a few days off", while a person fishes and flies a kite.

So how do we deal with FOMO?

An answer that might quickly spring to mind is simply quitting social media, but that’s not practical for a lot of people. Instead, you can try limiting your time on it or even taking a few days off. This can give you a chance to focus on what’s important in your life and enjoy the things you are doing without comparing them to others.

We can also change how we view social media. The lives of our friends do sometimes look pretty exciting online, but let’s put some quotation marks around that word “lives.” Their social media activity isn’t their actual life per se; it’s more of a highlight reel of exciting things they’ve posted to contribute to their online identity.

A timeline of a person's life, containing both exciting and dull moments.

It’s easy to see these highlights and think your life isn’t as exciting as theirs. But what we’re usually not seeing is what’s going on behind the scenes: the negative things or the boring routine of their day-to-day lives. They may post something awesome, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s just a short snippet of their day

The odds are, when they’re not out doing these awesome things, they probably experience just as much FOMO as you do.