Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,
My daughter has always been very social. But she’s almost 16 and suddenly everything that everyone else is doing is more exciting, fun, and the event of a lifetime.
She spends so much time on Twitter, Instagram, texting, and Facebook, her father and I can’t keep up. We’ve always tried to oversee what and with whom she’s engaging.
I walked into her room, which looked like a tornado landed (not like the immaculately clean room she used to have), and she was sobbing. I thought a friend died.
It turns out that when we “made” her stay home and help us clean out the garage, “everyone in the world” went to the beach and had the best time they’ve ever had, according to the pictures and tweets. She read 107 tweets about it.
I tried reasoning with her, using humor, and finally, we took her phone and computer, until she could get a grip on reality. She exploded. Her hysteria almost landed her in the hospital.
My friend said she probably has FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). I’ve heard of it, but I didn’t think it was real.
Is FOMO real?
Unfortunately, FOMO is a real “thing.” FOMO means someone who has an all-encompassing anxiety and nervousness about missing out on social events, people, or experiences they perceive to be superior to their own life, and maybe, their own self. FOMO, for some, is an uncontrollable need to stay connected with other people’s lives online.
Our experience is that some teens are so addicted to the lives of others, they disappear into depression, and may stay at home, eating ice cream and watching other people – to the extent that they can’t go out to an event because they feel they’ll miss something else.
Some people start believing that everyone is better, with better opportunities, friends, and social lives.
It’s a vicious cycle of not living their own life and feeling their life isn’t worth living, because they don’t think theirs will measure up to anyone else’s.
It may become compulsively obsessive.
Tips to help with FOMO:
1. Maybe you’re not actually missing out on anything but your own life. Engage in social media for 40 minutes a day. Develop a talent (sports, arts, academics …) and practice an hour daily.
2. Start creating your own real life. Schedule time to identify and learn about your spiritual, physical, and emotional self. Don’t make comparisons.
3. Become a well-developed person. Instead of watching others, who seem well-developed, based on social media “staging,” define yourself before others do.
Remember, social media is often a façade.
Rhonda and Dr. Cheri