Social media: the most grand and most bizarre social experiment in the 21st century thus far. With the constant bombardment of updates on the lives of everyone you’ve ever known, it’s easy to start comparing your life with theirs. As you sit on your bed alone, scrolling through Facebook, still in your pajamas at 2pm, you see that all your classmates went to a rave together last night. Your ex-neighbor is just casually ran into George Clooney on the sidewalk in New York. Even your grandma is posting about her exhilarating bingo nights. You start to think “How does my grandma have a better social life than me?”, and slowly begin the cycle of self-pity.
You’re probably feeling FOMO, or the ‘Fear of Missing Out’. In a 2013 study, three fourths of responders (mostly college-age students) admitted to feeling FOMO, agreeing with the statement “I get worried when I find out my friends are having fun without me”. It’s totally okay to feel jealous and lonely at times, but if the FOMO feelings are coming back too often, here’s how to cope.
Two of the most common types of posts to have FOMO are event posts and social gathering posts. For event posts, I’m talking about that one chick who seems to be everywhere, all the time: last month she posted a selfie from a punk concert, last week she hiked up through Yosemite, and today she IG’d a Renaissance painting from some fancy schmancy art museum. While scrolling through her profile, you can’t help but think “How is one person so cool, interesting, and cultured?”, “Is she secretly a nomad?”, and most definitely “How does she even afford all these events?!?”
It’s important to remember that social media is just a highlight reel of the person’s life. Sure, she may post some super envious house party photos every Friday night, but what you don’t see are the other 6 days of the week. Though it probably won’t be present on Instagram, chances are that punk/hiking/Renaissance chick also spends a lot of time on her couch alone with Netflix and Ben & Jerry’s, just like you! Everyone does some pretty awesome things, but some may hype up those events on the Interwebz more than others. Nobody’s life is as exciting as it seems on social media. Promise.
On the internet, you may also be constantly bombarded with photos, tweets, and odd, inside-joke-ridden Vines from your fellow classmates at social gatherings. It’s easy to think “Why didn’t they invite me?” or “Oh my gosh I have no friends why is my cat the only living organism who understands me?”
A question to ask yourself is “Would I even enjoy myself if I was hanging out with them right now?” You might feel left out whenever the popular crowd posts selfies from their Starbucks dates, but take a second to think about how you would feel if you were there at that moment. All of those FOMO feelings seem a bit silly once you realize that “Wait, Jenny hasn’t spoken to me in the last 2 years. Why am I suddenly feeling jealous that she’s getting overpriced coffee without me? We wouldn’t have hung out, anyway.” Once you realize that you’re much happier where you are currently than wherever the popular crowd is, your FOMO may start to fade away.
If you’re suddenly feeling left out because you see all your classmates hanging out on Twitter and you haven’t spoken to a human being in real life in the last 3 days, use this as motivation to get social! Call up a friend (new or old) and ask to grab lunch together. Help your dad cook dinner. Grab your cat and dance around with him to Taylor Swift. If all else fails, you can even hit me up and we can talk (I’m relatively nice, promise). Remember that, just because your classmates hang out on the daily, that doesn’t mean you are suddenly the most lonely person on the planet. You probably have awesome friends and family that are also willing to spend time with you! Instead of constantly thinking “TFTI”, start sending out your own invites.
With social media, it’s easy and convenient to compare your friend’s peaks to your valleys. Keep your mind in balance whenever scrolling through your timeline, and always ask yourself what would make you happiest.