FOMO and Social Media: A Real Problem for Some Teens

It’s normal for teens to want to feel that they belong with their peers and that they’re having similar experiences to other teens. That’s always been true. But today’s teens have heightened challenges when it comes to missing out. That’s because social media allows them to see in real time what it is that they might be missing out on. Take a look at what you need to know about FOMO and social media and how it might be affecting your teen. 

What Is FOMO?Today’s teens don’t just have to hear about what their classmates did over the weekend in school on Monday – they can see it in real time on social media. 

If you’re not familiar with the acronym, FOMO stands for Fear of Missing Out. If your teen seems to constantly be checking their Instagram timeline, FOMO could be what’s driving them. These days, teens don’t have to just wonder whether they’re missing something cool that their friends are doing – they can check their friends’ social media updates and see what everyone is up to. 

Social media can contribute to FOMO in more ways than just showing teens what they’re friends are up to. It’s in the best interest of social media sites to contribute to users experiencing FOMO. After all, the more teens are checking social media, the more clicks they’re getting and the more ad space they can sell. For Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, Instagram, and others, FOMO is a feature, not a bug. That’s why notifications and updates are often timed strategically to appear just when a user is most likely to navigate away from the page. A notification to check out a friend’s latest post or activity keeps users on the page longer. 

A Carefully Curated Life

It can be depressing for teens to feel like everyone else is having more fun than they are. 

One problem with teens and FOMO is that teens sometimes don’t realize that what they see online isn’t necessarily as great as it looks. People tend to post the photos and updates that present their activities in the best light and make them look as interesting as possible. As a result, social media feeds are specifically curated to look a certain way. Users may not be trying to induce FOMO in others, but their desire to present a specific image on social media can lead to that. 

This means that when your teen is looking at social media during an event that they’re missing out on, they’re only seeing people having fun while they’re at home. They aren’t seeing wardrobe malfunctions, hurtful gossip, misunderstandings, or boring stretches of time where nothing is happening. Other people’s lives look much more glamorous and interesting than they really are. 

Can You Fix FOMO?

Teens may feel anxious or depressed when it seems like everyone is having fun but them. It’s important to encourage your teen to take a break from watching what everyone else is doing online and to put their attention on what they’re doing instead. Point out to your teen that they may be missing out on equally fun experiences of their own if they spend all of their time watching what someone else is doing. 

Remind your teen that the timelines they’re looking at are curated, and just as your teen probably doesn’t post their own embarrassing, boring, or sad moments for the world to see, other people are not posting those either. That doesn’t mean that those people don’t have embarrassing, boring, or sad moments. Nobody’s life is perfect and interesting and fun all of the time. 

Parental computer monitoring software can help you determine if your teen is spending too much time online and not enough on their own activities and can help you set healthy boundaries that can help your teen avoid FOMO and instead relax and enjoy what’s happening in their own space. To find out more about how computer monitoring software can work for you, get our free trial.

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