For all of the amazing benefits that the internet provides—new ways to connect, freedom of speech and amazing access to information—the internet is not all hearts and roses.
FOMO—or Fear Of Missing Out—is a real issue that many people face today. With the instant access and gratification of the internet, FOMO is a kind of social anxiety that people feel if they aren’t constantly plugged into their social media and up-to-date on the latest news feed. As a result, this form of anxiety can wreak havoc with your self-confidence online. We’ve got some tips about how to handle yourself and your interactions to keep yourself feeling confident and happy.
Firstly, what exactly is Fear.Of.Missing.Out?
Everyone has a desire to be included, but in the case of people who suffer from FOMO, this desire is a full-blown anxiety. A study by Andrew Przybylski showed that the patients who felt like this reported a belief that others had more rewarding experiences than they did. The combination of the idealistic portrayals of others’ lives on social media and the desire to make connections with others, coupled with the accessibility of the internet is a formidable combination. So, what can you do to regain self-confidence when you feel like everyone else’s life is better than yours—at least according to Facebook?
- Get a reality check.
Remember that everyone shares the most interesting and exciting things that are going on in their lives when they share on social media. People often exaggerate or just share the fun stuff because they, too, want to be included and to receive acknowledgement. Just because someone shares pics of themselves skiing in the Alps or meeting a famous celebrity doesn’t mean their life is better than yours. Maybe that person argued all day with their boyfriend or girlfriend before posting those photos. Maybe they have low self-esteem or are struggling to pay for said trip; you have no idea. Don’t let the sparkly façade of what people are willing to share make you forget that everyone’s lives are full of mundane things and that even your idols are more normal than you think.
- Study your online interactions.
Think about what you post before you post it. Do your words and actions come from a desire to connect and interact? Do you sometimes feel like you want or need to show off a little bit? Do you ever turn to Facebook or Twitter for comfort when you feel down?
Sometimes we look to social media for a solution to our problems. The reality is that we can never feel validated by a certain number of likes or re-tweets because our need for love and attention cannot be fulfilled by those figures. The only thing that will make us fulfilled is valuing ourselves and having real interaction with other people. The next time you feel like you need to vent online or whine about your bad day, notice that you are seeking attention and validation through your actions.
- Study your habits.
How do you feel when your smart phone is in the other room? Can you even imagine leaving your house without it? Do you instagram your every meal, every sunset that you witness and every selfie opportunity? Have you taken a selfie at the grocery store or doing a similar, mundane task?
Hey, we’re not here to judge you—selfies can be fun and so can documenting your life. But it’s important to be aware of your habits and how they make you feel. If posting pictures of yourself brings you validation, then there will never be enough photos of yourself that you can post to make yourself feel happy. As we mentioned before, basing your validation on other people’s reactions is dangerous—because that is not their job. If your best friend can’t like your latest picture because she’s at work, you will have to wait until she is free to get that validation. You don’t want to be dependent on others to feel good about yourself because everyone deserves to feel self-confident all the time, not just if someone says or does exactly what you want.
- Unplug yourself occasionally.
It’s important to take a break sometimes; turn off your computer and take a walk in the sun—without tweeting a picture of the flowers that you pass on the way. Rehabilitate your habits around feeling included and validated. Invite friends over to play board games. Call a relative and catch up. Meet up with your old sports team and play ball. Whatever it is, really interact with real people and see how the time flies. This is that connection you’ve been seeking.
- Don’t be afraid to get help.
It can be really helpful when you are feeling down about yourself to talk to a professional—or even a close family member, depending on the level of your discomfort with your self-esteem. Some people find talking to a therapist or counselor intimidating, while others would rather talk to a stranger than their family or friends—do whatever makes you feel comfortable.
Remember that this is just a passing anxiety and doesn’t define you. Your life is not any more or less boring than anyone else’s. In fact, doing things with real people rather than living at your computer makes you even more interesting than the rest of us!
Just knowing that you’re not alone is important. We all want to feel included by others and having a popularity judge in your pocket or at your fingertips is a tantalizing temptation, but don’t give in to it. If you feel that your self-confidence online is suffering from FOMO, get offline and consider talking to a professional. You’re far too interesting and have too much to do to waste your time feeling left out!