Most of us are guilty of doing it ‘for the gram’. We are social creatures conditioned to make a good impression on others, and social media has become a tool that helps us achieve that. Here’s a common scenario: you want to spend your Friday night at home in pyjamas, but end up dragging yourself to the party because it’s unbearable watching your friends have fun while you seemingly waste the night away.
This is a classic example of Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), a term coined in the 2000s for anxiety that stems from observing an interesting event through social media, and longing to be part of it.
Oftentimes, we get caught in the vicious FOMO cycle and end up doing things that do not actually bring us real satisfaction. When done in extreme, it can adversely affect our mental health.
Let’s first learn how FOMO affects our mind -
Constant social media updates trick us into thinking that we ‘need’ to be updated, and that only the ‘best’ content is worth posting on our platform. It turns into a chase for likes and comments that then leads to a competitive mindset, sometimes with ourselves. We begin comparing our recent post to previous ones, and it nags us to no end when it doesn’t perform as well as we had hoped. This mindset ultimately spurs stress and anxiety, and most critically, impacts self-esteem.
When we constantly look at how others lead their lives on social media, a reflexive redirection of focus happens that makes us pay attention to what we have versus what we don't. This creates a scarcity mindset that takes a toll on both mental and physical health as we constantly compare and feel like we are not enough - when that may in fact be far from the truth. Remember, everyone has bad moments but only shows the good ones. Seeing a world through rose tinted glasses makes us feel, think and behave in unhelpful ways.
Craving Reel Life vs Real Life:
The tendency to upkeep a social media presence and post Insta-worthy content makes one live behind the camera more often than not. This could be the fixation on looking picture-perfect in a new dress but not having any tangible memory of a dinner date, or spending much of the evening stressing over how to capture the perfect sunset. The constant pressure to post on social media removes us from the actual experience. Socializing in its real sense diminishes and starts to create unfulfillment especially when traveling and sharing moments with loved ones that are meant to be special.
As a result of these triggers, the pressure to live up to unrealistic standards raises severe mental health concerns like eating disorders, financial burnout, sleep disturbances and depression.
To break such behavioral patterns and reduce FOMO thoughts, try introducing small changes to your lifestyle. When done consistently (clinically proven 21 days), they become habits. Here are a few things you can try out -
1. To combat scarcity mindset, look for a small joy that social media brings you, but make sure it’s one that qualitatively outweighs the stress. Seek it out daily. Focusing on simpler joys will show you the positive power of being connected through social media.
2. Find healthier ways to express your emotions. Documenting experiences on a blog, journaling and venting out in a private space helps you reflect and make sense of your thoughts more authentically.
3. Define a true friendship or relationship, and follow only the people that fit that definition. Consider this a people-detox exercise to make your social media a more positive space that you can turn to for all ups and downs in life, without the pressure to be someone else.
Be careful not to fall into extreme behaviours while setting out to make changes to your social media consumption. While small changes are helpful, a complete social media detox can be just as detrimental as being hooked on it.
Social Media is an intrinsic part of our fast paced life that helps us stay connected with others, and we should strive towards a balance.
Be yourself and follow those who let you be!
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Article authored by MindPeers India Private Limited. Copyright 2021. Cannot be duplicated.
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