The existence of social media has brought with it a range of benefits - it allows us to stay in contact with friends, to keep up-to date with events, and to stalk an endless amount of people. This has led to a paradox, by becoming aware of all the opportunities presented to you, you also become increasingly aware of all the ones you miss out on - all the parties and pub trips you learnt about after they happened. Some people (and I am guilty) feel the constant need to upload albums of endless photos to Facebook - and what is the purpose? Why do we need to show others that we have fun?
Choosing to have a night in on Saturday leads to waking up on Sunday with a plethora of snapchat stories documenting the night before... that you weren’t there for. This may lead to the dreaded fear of missing out (FOMO), which is empty and overbearing, and leaves you questioning yourself and the solidarity of your friendships. I found this to be especially true in the first few weeks of starting university, where friendships were fresh and the need to be included was high. The ability to be in-the-know 24/7 has led us to have a strong desire to stay continuously connected, and a feeling of emptiness when we are excluded (whether it’s by your own choice or others). Have we become too reliant on each other, and too scared of missing out?
If the FOMO is real for you, then you’re not alone. Defined as ‘a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which you are absent’, research by Pryzbylski et al., (2013) found a correlation with social media use and susceptibility to fear missing out. Correa, Hinsley and De Zuniga (2010) found highly extroverted and neurotic individuals were more likely to rely on social media to connect with others - and more likely to experience anxiety, depressed moods and loneliness. Although it is hard to find a university student who is completely off the grid when it comes to social media, it appears that individuals who are susceptible to experiencing FOMO are also the ones who find it harder to switch off - they are the people who check Facebook during meals, after waking up and in lectures (Przybylski et al., 2013). Turkle (2011) even suggests that the constant communication technologies distract us from important real life tangible social experiences. And this isn’t surprising - think of the people in restaurants glued to their phones, and the people viewing the concert through their iPhone screen.
The issues surrounding FOMO also begs the question - are people having as much fun as they look like they are? Social media allows us to create an idealised version of ourselves, and whilst there is a growing movement amongst social media influencers to expose “Instagram vs Reality”, that doesn’t necessarily apply to watching people you know having fun without you. Chou and Edge (2012) found that individuals who spend more time on Facebook believe that others are happier and lead better lives than themselves. This is especially true with those who had a larger number of Facebook friends they didn’t personally know - perhaps it’s harder to see the ‘reality’ of someone’s life if you only ever see it through a screen.
So, maybe it’s time to accept that Instagram is a lie, nights in are great, and living in the moment is much better than doing it for the Vine (RIP.)
Chou, H. T. G., & Edge, N. (2012). “They are happier and having better lives than I am”: the impact of using Facebook on perceptions of others' lives. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 15(2), 117-121.
Correa, T., Hinsley, A. W., & De Zuniga, H. G. (2010). Who interacts on the Web?: The intersection of users’ personality and social media use. Computers in Human Behavior, 26(2), 247-253.
Przybylski, A. K., Murayama, K., DeHaan, C. R., & Gladwell, V. (2013). Motivational, emotional, and behavioral correlates of fear of missing out. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(4), 1841-1848.
Turkle, S. (2011). Alone together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other . New York: Basic Books