How often do you check Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.? Do you find yourself comparing your lives to others’ social media posts or pictures and feeling down? Are you afraid that someone is doing something better than you are, having fun without you, or you are constantly missing out on something? Do you think “man, they have such a better life/make more money/have nicer stuff than me?” Do you attend events you don’t want to, spend money you don’t have, or try to be like someone who doesn’t share the same values and beliefs because you feel you need to to “fit in” or be like them?

The fear of missing out, or FOMO, is a feeling or belief that you are missing out on something or don’t measure up to others, whether it be attending a social event, having the latest fashion trend, owning the “in” car or gadget, knowing the best restaurants or vacation hot spots, having a ton of money, attending the best schools, and on and on. This fear and constant comparison can impact your mental health and well-being. It can lead to disappointment, feeling isolated or lonely, a decrease in self-esteem or confidence, anxiety, or even depression. Constantly being connected to social media can lead to you missing out on life and truly experiencing all the positives that you already have and are.

Once you realize the negative impact social media is having on your life and well-being, you can make changes to fight FOMO and its consequences. Try these steps:

  1. Cut back on your social media time: It’s a simple step, but an effective one. Just spend less time on social media. If you have to, set a calendar reminder for a set amount of time and stick to it. Eventually you won’t feel the “need” to constantly be checking.
  2. Determine what is important to you, what you value: If you are constantly comparing your life to others and trying to emulate them, it is hard to know who you are and what is important to you. It is crucial to determine what makes you happy, what do you consider to be fun or successful or important, how do you like to spend your time or money, what kind of life do you want to live? Once you can answer these questions, you can cultivate a life for yourself that you are proud of and feel confident about, regardless of what others are doing or have. Let go of the anxiety or depression that comes from comparing yourself to others and be proud of who you are and what you have.
  3. Change your negative thoughts into positive ones: try to monitor your thinking when you are looking at others’ social media accounts. Do you say negative things to or amount yourself in response to what you read or see? Try to challenge these thoughts and replace them with positive ones. Also, acknowledge that nobody’s life is perfect, even if social media would make it seem that way.
  4. Make social media work for you, not against you: Many of us compare ourselves to what we see in social media and feel incomplete, inferior, not good enough, etc. Instead of social media bringing you down, use it to motivate you. If you see a fitness post and think “wow, I am so fat,” try instead to think “I might not be that fit, but I workout and am getting in better shape/stronger, I will reach my goal.”
  5. Practice gratitude: Try to live more in the moment and real life and acknowledge what you already have that you are grateful for. Appreciate what you have and open your eyes to all the wonderful things in your life. Practice gratitude and self-acceptance daily.

Always remember, people select what they post about, typically leaving out the negative or down moments, and create a “false online persona.” Don’t compare your real life to their edited online life!