If you’re constantly checking Facebook, desperate to see where your friends are and what they’re doing, and then becoming upset when you discover they’re having dinner without you, you may be suffering from a condition known as FOMO, or “fear of missing out.”
Dr. Krista Schenkel, a family practitioner who serves as medical director of Penn State Health St. Joseph’s Strausstown facility, spoke about FOMO recently during a program offered by Women2Women.
St. Joseph is a founding, presenting sponsor of Women2Women, an organization managed by the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce & Industry that works to help empower women to become leaders in our community.
FOMO, Schenkel explained, is a form of social anxiety disorder that is becoming increasingly prevalent as use of social media increases. By some accounts, nearly three-quarters of young adults in the United States report experiencing the phenomenon of FOMO.
It is particularly common among those between the ages of 13 and 33.
FOMO can result from the perception that other people are having more fun, or are happier than you are, Schenkel said. In their social media posts, friends may appear to be engaging in exciting activities, seemingly without a care in the world.
However, Schenkel related, social media posts often portray an idealized version of the truth.
“Let’s face it. Most social media posts are not giving the entire truth,” she said. “Anyone can put anything on social media and make their life sound amazing.”
Schenkel referred to her own experience in Disney World, showing a photo of herself with her husband and daughter that she’d posted on Facebook. The photo, she explained, was taken after a very long day. They all were exhausted, with their 3-year-old nearing a meltdown.
In the photo, however, the family appeared to be having a great time.
“We looked so happy, but really we were miserable!” she said.
A danger of the FOMO syndrome is that it tends to cause people to spend more time on social media, taking them away from the really important aspects of their lives.
According to Schenkel, the life of a typical woman contains five priorities: career, sleep, daily obligations, family and social activities.
Once the obligatory parts of a woman’s day are done, such as working, errands, commuting and sleeping, there are not many hours left. That means that it’s really important to carefully consider how those hours are spent.
Using that time for social media can minimize time you spend with your family and friends, and limit activities that you enjoy and make your life ultimately valuable
“Sometimes we get so caught up with what we’re seeing on line that we’re not being involved in the real world,” Schenkel said.
While she is not opposed to Facebook and other forms of social media, Schenkel said it’s important that users are in control of how they use it.
Employing Facebook to organize a hike with friends, and then attending and enjoying the hike is a positive use of social media. However, skipping the hike to stay home and engage in social media is not.
“I’m not saying that Facebook is an evil thing,” Schenkel said. “I’m just saying that you need to be careful about how you utilize it.”
While FOMO seems to be affecting an increasing number of people, there is an opposing movement – JOMO – that also seems to be gaining traction.
JOMO, Schenkel explained, stands for “joy of missing out,” and embraces disconnecting from technology and living in the moment in an attempt to find a balance between the two things.
JOMO allows you to move at your own pace, Schenkel said, and to pay attention to what is happening right now, such as the feel of warm sunshine, the sound of your children’s laughter or the smell of your first cup of morning coffee.
“Those are the things that we should fear missing out on,” she said.
Schenkel reminded the women at her talk that when they are 80 years old and looking back on their lives, they will not regret that they didn’t receive more “likes” on Facebook.
“But, what you may regret is not living out your personal truth or spending more time with the people you love,” she said. “We need to be aware of our priorities so we can all make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Want to find your FOMO score? Take this quiz!