Lately, it seems like every social media update I see drives me deeper into the depths of postgrad despair, but I thought that was just a personal thing. Apparently, social media can actually drive you insane. A new study came out that shows how social media increases your FOMO (fear of missing out), and that your specific case of FOMO varies based on the social media sites you frequent.
The study found that 56% of people experience social media anxiety. They’re worried about missing an important post and appearing uninformed, which leaves them constantly checking for updates. What exactly are we afraid of missing out on? Betty’s brand new diamond ring and the subsequent pictures? If you blink, you’ll also miss Betty’s divorce in a couple years. Are we scared we won’t get to see Jake’s beautiful vacation pictures from Aruba, a place we’ll never go? After all, even if it was affordable option, it’s terrifying to ask for PTO. While FOMO is very real, the actual missing out is not. After all, if you don’t have time to check social media because you’re out living your life, you’re not missing out on anything—it’s the people constantly checking for updates who are missing out on a good time.
The study breaks down the specific types of FOMO correlated with the following sites:
1. Pinterest: Fear of domestic inadequacy.
The only way you can successfully perform Pinterest tasks regularly is if you’re a crafty sorority girl or a bored housewife. If you’re a postgrad trying to successfully navigate life, it’s more than likely that you’re far too tired to craft the perfect cupcakes. Plus, who exactly are you baking for? Unless you have children, you don’t need your baked goods to be Pinterest perfect, because eating cookie dough raw will suffice. After all, isn’t dessert for dinner the best part of adulthood? All that website does is make you crave every treat in the world while simultaneously feeling the need to workout until your thigh gap is as enormous as the gap between how Pinterest crafts look online and how they actually turn out in real life.
2. Instagram: Fear of missing out on places that look better than where we are.
This makes perfect sense, because a study came out that says that Insta is the most depressing of all social media sites. Unlike Facebook, there’s not even that one depressing post from the girl you knew on your floor freshman year whose life rivals the most melodramatic soap opera. All you see are perfect beaches, stunning sunsets, and meals you can’t imagine cooking, or affording. You don’t think about how these people are taking time out of their lives to find the perfect filter (Valencia) and constantly checking their phone until they hit the sweet spot — 11 likes, of course — to make them seem pretty and popular. They may not be as #blessed as they lead you to believe.
3. Twitter: Fear of looking dumb for not keeping up with the latest hashtags.
This one is totally understandable, but I think it’s mostly adults and people who are #blessed that struggle with hashtag city. Someone should holler at my boss, who once sent me an e-mail that said “Tomorrow let’s talk about #hashtags.” As long as you don’t go hashtag crazy like a Belieber, you’re golden.
4. Facebook: Fear of personal failure, as instilled by the success of others.
Facebook forces you to constantly question your choices, since everybody else chose differently, and their lives look fabulous—from far away, least. After all, the grass is always greener. The problem with FB is that you only see the best possibilities. While everyone has that one sad sack who constantly posts about their terrible, no good, very bad day, the rest of the folks only show off their very best moments, filtered to perfection.
5. LinkedIn: Fear of career failure and resume judgement.
Mostly I’m scared because I don’t know how to use LinkedIn. Will my boss, who I’m “connected” to, see me applying for jobs? Will potential romance interests see if I creep on their page? It’s like Facebook for grownups, only stalking isn’t fun. In a twisted turn of events, they recently lowered the required user age to 13. Now little nuggets can experience the terror of the real world first hand. Welcome. It’s weird here.
6. Spotify: Fear of bad taste in playlist selections.
This fear is real if you link your Spotify to your Facebook page, which you shouldn’t if you’re going through a bad breakup or you’re a Taylor Swift fiend—wait, is that the same thing? I, of course, have perfect taste so I don’t have to be scared. I maintain that the whole listening to “Trouble” twenty-seven times early Sunday morning was a glitch.
This study shows that while we’re self-obsessed, obsessing over other people is what’s ultimately driving us insane. The reality is that they’re thinking about themselves, not us. People are looking at their own page, back-stalking themselves into oblivion, wondering what the consensus would be on their not-so-fabulous life, but making sure it looks picture perfect to the outside world while they cry into their microwavable meal about their postgrad life. If you’re already down in the dumps, you’ll be FOMO-ing at the mouth if you’re too obsessed with social media sites, but if you’re living in FOMO city already, you’re more likely to use the sites to begin with. After all, how else can you confirm that everyone else is having fun without you?
It’s the classic chicken or the egg. Does social media make you FOMO, or does FOMO make social media more popular? The author of the study says you should limit your social media use to a couple of times a day, which seems fabulous, until you think about how boring a day at the office would be without sneaking a peek at your Twitter feed 4,000 times. Maybe that’s what makes it worse—you’re sitting at your desk looking at someone’s pool pictures. But hey, if you feel your FOMO taking over, consider taking some time off from the social media world. You may die of boredom, but at least you won’t feel left out.