How We Can Help Children And Young Adults Overcome FOMO
Stop feeling anxious and start living.
Before FOMO or "The Fear Of Missing Out" became a thing, I was scrolling Facebook for 2–3 hours every day until I realized I had a severe problem.
Fear of missing out (FoMO) was first introduced in 2004 to describe a phenomenon observed on social networking sites.
FOMO is not caused by fear but by feelings of anxiety around the idea that an exciting experience or important opportunity is being missed or taken away from me.
FOMO is comprised of two processes/behaviors :
— > My perception of missing out < —
— > Followed by a compulsive behavior < —
My compulsive concern that I might miss an opportunity or event was at the time triggered by people posting something on Facebook. This was almost twenty years ago, and little did I know where we would be today.
While I quickly changed my compulsive behavior of checking Facebook and started engaging in more constructive activities, FOMO resurfaced in my life four years ago when I started working as a nursing science teacher, meeting young adults every day.
One of the first things I noticed was a wide range of negative life experiences and emotions these teenagers were experiencing due to their problematic attachment to social media — FOMO.
Some of the negative consequences on their mental health are poor communication skills, lack of social functioning, poor sleep, poor academic performance and productivity, and physical well-being.
All created by social media — more on that later.
Today children as young as 7–9 years old exhibit behaviors linked to FOMO, primarily because at that age, most kids have had a phone/screen addiction for years.
It has become so socially acceptable to give our toddlers free access to electronics that most adults stopped reacting.
I meet these stressed-out, sleep-deprived kids every day, and there are days where I find myself frustrated and sad when driven home from work.
The impact of free access to electronics and social media on young people's mental health is an adult responsibility, we as a society must come together to support children and young adults
It is time that we stopped blaming stressed-out parents who use all types of electronics for babysitting their children and made a collective effort to educate people of all ages to break this destructive trend.
Teenagers' urge' to check their social media for instant gratification and their constant pursuit of dopamine hits is NOT their responsibility to regulate.
This responsibility lies on us adults end of the story!
The desire for a 'hit' of dopamine, coupled with fear of not gaining instant gratification since nobody cares about them on social media, is too much for children and young adults to handle on their own.
This desire is the main reason why they keep refreshing their social media feeds, to see if someone liked their picture.
This is not something they will stop doing when "they get older." That is not how behaviors and habits work.
I see a clear link between students who experience FOMO and the few 5–10 % who focus on life outside of social media.
The ones with FOMO are energy-depleted, anxious, and constantly on the brink of burnout, with no support to handle their phone addiction.
The few but brave students who are so privileged to have adults in their lives who help them set boundaries and handle electronic devices and social media are full of energy and vibrant.
A New Way Of Relating To FOMO
The main challenge with FOMO that most children and young people discover much too late, is that it prevents them from experiencing what's happening in the here and now, Missing what they wished they were doing.
I have some insights I would like to share with you that have helped me support a few young people in using technology wisely and living more fulfilling lives.
FOMO originates from unhappiness. Yes, the low levels of satisfaction, the absence of fundamental needs such as self-esteem, competence, autonomy, healthy boundaries, and good communication skills.
If you think about it, it makes perfect sense:
What else would lead me to check social media right after waking up, during meals, between classes in school, before going to bed, and even in the middle of the night?
Does it sound uncomfortably like addiction? That is because it is just that. Even if it has become socially acceptable, it creates much of the same behavior as a drug addict.
I worked with drug addicts for 11 years, and the list of what most children and teenagers with Social media addiction have in common with drug addicts should be a wakeup call for adults of all gender and race:
— The disconnection from oneself and loved ones
—The self-medication and numbing behaviors
—The lack of communication skills and confidence
—The lack of emotional intelligence
— The consent search for stimulation or pleasure
— The loss of self-control — creating negative outcomes
Much like the addict believes that he has no real value or use. Social media makes our children believe that others are having more fun and are happier than they are, so they become unable to see social media for what it is:
A split secund of manipulated highlight in someone's life, which they know nothing about, will become the fall of children and young adults.
I see young people posting every day when I walk from my classroom to the teacher's room, alleviating the discomfort they experience.
They carefully present an edited version of an extraordinary life. A wish, of course, is all a lie, and that is a part of the problem. Feeling fake can break anyone.
I talk to my students about the "why" of their posts on social media and how they contribute to the spread of social media for happiness.
Especially the uncomfortable truth that young women post semi-pornographic pictures or videos of themselves.
A Shift In Focus
As a burnout survivor, I have learned the hard way that the key to happiness comes down to one thing and one thing only:
My ability to pay attention!
My happiness is determined by how and what I point my attention to.
What I pay attention to will always drive most of my behaviors and determine my level of energy and happiness.
I see an enormous scarcity of attentional resources in young people, not because they are dumb, but because they lack the necessary support to withdraw their attention from social media and once again attend to what we are all here for.
To live life to the fullest and contribute to a better world, one encounter at the time, one day at the time.
FOMO IS A Marketing Strategy
A website that I won't mention by name starts a blogpost like this I quote:
“Are you looking for the most in-depth FOMO marketing guide online?
If so, you’re in the right place.
FOMO (or “fear of missing out”) is one of the most effective marketing tactics you can use to increase conversions.”
FOMO marketing has become the norm to entice us to buy certain products or services we don't need.
That type of marketing triggers FOMO in young adults, making them buy things they don’t need, to impress people who don’t care.
Some companies FOMO marketing strategies include:
- Showing other people buying or wearing the products, also called influencers
- Displaying a clock counting down until the promotion expires
- Creating competition by revealing how many other people are looking at the deal or have already bought the product
- Promoting experiences by showing tangible proof of people enjoying the event or product
FOMO marketing triggers even more anxiety, creating a never-ending destructive cycle.
FOMO IS Changing All Of Us
I remember when I left home in the morning on a walk and found myself going with the flow all day.
I walked in nature, went to the sauna with a friend, had dinner, or saw a movie by myself, while having no clue what others were doing, and no one knew where I was until I returned in the evening.
Today FOMO can make us engage in unhealthy behaviors like texting while driving, just to mention a few.
According to the NHTSA, The number of fatal crashes involving texting has increased to over 30,000 in 2020.
While texting encourages rapid-fire, single-sentence thoughts, to the extent that we are willing to put others in danger, this communication style isn't conducive to face-to-face communication.
Most teenagers are really bad at communicating, soon we will have a world full of people who can’t communicate or function in relationships.
What's the point of having an educational system that doesn't educate for the future?
How To Support
The first step in supporting young adults in defeating FOMO and experiencing increasing life satisfaction is to understand the mechanisms behind FOMO.
It's impossible to change what I don't understand and take action to remove it.
Awareness is information, but not knowledge.
We have to take action to empower children and families.
I, as an adult, must help my children take breaks from social media and pay more attention to the present moment, the surrounding people, and the environment.
Being more in the moment removes threats being perceived by the amygdala and lessens stress and anxiety.
Other actions I can take to help my children alleviate FOMO include:
— Redirecting focus to wins in the present moments instead of what is lacking — Guiding them to Happiness, Confidence, and Success
— Buy a journal so your children can write down fun memories and experiences instead of posting everything on social media. The shift from public validation to private admiration of what truly makes up a great life.
— Keeping a gratitude journal — when expressing gratitude, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, the two crucial neurotransmitters responsible for our emotions, and they make us feel 'good.'
Supporting them in planning face-to-face, real one-on-one connections with friends creates a sense of belonging and reduces the feelings of missing out.
— Encouraging them to call or send a direct message to a friend instead of a public post — This intimate interaction also increases feelings of connection and decreases FOMO.
Everything I mentioned above is completely useless. If I, as an adult, DONT KILL MY PHONE!
If I am constantly on my phone, how can I inspire change?
How I conduct myself is constantly influencing my children, every action I take is a seed I plant in them, a potential trauma, or a future skill.
How can I expect my children to accept or even be proud of their absence on social media when I am not leading the way?
How can I have an honest discussion with my children about the unreasonable expectations social media promotes when I cannot put away my phone?
Or who can I even begin to have an honest discussion about the link between social media and poor self-esteem and self-image when I don't question the 'idealized body image'?
How do I even begin to explain that 99.9% of all we see on social media are manipulated images promoting and entrenching unrealistic expectations of how young people should look and behave when I keep posting manipulated images myself and my life?
I don't know about you, but I sure don't meet the expectations social media put on us, but I am well aware that social media is damaging for my self-esteem if I don't put an end to it.
I have the awareness to make a bold choice. Children and young adults do not have the same privilege.
How can I inspire my children to see the benefits of turning off notifications for their social apps when I have all my notifications on and constantly check my phone.
I don't have all the answers
What I do know is that social media will come to play an increasingly destructive role in young peoples life’s, leaving them in a content state of anxiety, loneliness, burnout, and hopelessness.
What I do know is that if we all come together to support young adults to escape this loop, we will with no doubt empower them to be the best version of themself.
Dear friend, I invite you to start a trend where we celebrate the Joy of Missing Out, where we support children and young adults to disconnect from Social Media and connect in real life.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope this was helpful, and please share it with the world.
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