This Friday, I went to my first high school party. After weeks of convincing (read: begging) my parents, the big day came. I was extremely nervous but at the same time excited; cue the Mean Girls Halloween Party experience.
However, getting my parents to agree was an ordeal: there was crying, pleading, and a little bit of dramatic door slamming.
“But Mom,” I implored, “if I don’t go then I’ll be left out!” Having strict parents, I struggled to explain the loneliness and regret felt by being the only one who constantly had to decline invitations.
I was feeling the FOMO.
FOMO, or “fear of missing out” is the regret felt when declining a social invitation. Of course, marathoning Netflix is fun, but scrolling through Facebook the next day and seeing pictures of your friends at parties sends a twinge of angst down your spine. Watching other people trying new things, having get-togethers, and creating a “holistic” high school experience is never fun.
There is a growing concern about FOMO in regards to social media. With Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. at our fingertips, there’s no way to avoid the latest social news. Going out and updating the virtual world gives teens a sense of validation, importance, and attention. In fact, according to The New Daily, “66% of teenagers want to share details online when they were having a good time”. The more replays, retweets, and likes received makes us feel important.
Another statistic found that 55% of teens who use social media heavily worry about other people having more rewarding experiences than themselves. Scrolling through Facebook or Twitter feeds, the feeling of self-loathing intensifies. FOMO can get really bad – to a point where teens develop depression and anxiety over their social (media) life. By not knowing what friends are doing, who’s texting you, and how many messages you’ve missed in the group chat, life seems to fall apart.
Social media isn’t always what it seems. Consider Essena O’Neill, a popular Instagram model who opened up the discussion on FOMO and social media presence. In her effort to create her picture perfect life, her real life suffered. Caught up in the ridiculous competition for likes, views, messages, followers, and more, the line between the virtual world and reality blurs. In fact, a study by the University of Michigan found that the more people checked Facebook, the worse they felt about themselves. If social media makes us hate ourselves, why do we use it as a platform for our lives? Why is FOMO so prevalent in the adolescent’s psyche?
The problem with FOMO is that it is unescapable: so long as you’re connected with friends and schoolmates, there are going to things others do that make you feel jealous. Taking small steps, like turning off your phone at night or only allowing yourself to waste 10 minutes on Instagram at a time can curb FOMO. Additionally, it’s good to remember that just because you don’t go to a party, doesn’t mean you don’t have fun. The definition of fun differs from person to person, and there is no right or wrong way to have fun.
Am I glad I went to the party? Absolutely.We all want to be liked and accepted by our peers. There’s nothing with that. However, it was an enjoyable experience because I was with my close friends and we the purpose of the gathering was to be together – and not just for the Snapchat stories. What I learned from that Friday night is that it doesn’t matter if you have a party or a pillow fort; as long as the company around you make you feel happy and welcome.