Facebook and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)

For some, the hardest vice to give up for the new year isn't booze or fatty food – it’s Facebook
Rose tinted specs (image posed by model)

January, thank goodness you’re over. I’ve been eating leaves, drinking carrot juice and spinning for a whole month, so you’d better be proud of my efforts.

Did anyone keep their new year’s resolutions? My dry Jan morphed into a merely drier one, although I did join the gym and have even been a couple of times.

I must say, I’ve been impressed with those giving up social media for a month or two. I did this last year and at first I found it difficult – facing the fear of missing out (FOMO), trying to be OK with not knowing how many likes my last status received, missing out on Mr Kiss updates, wondering who he was with and what he was up to. Kinda ridiculous, hey?

Some friends confess that spending too much time scrolling through their Facebook feeds can generate heart pangs, disappointment or unnecessary disillusionment, but that it’s also a hard thing to give up for the FOMO.

Sometimes we can let our self-confidence be dictated by what people make of us online. We let the amount of likes or comments per Facebook status define our identity, moods and character as individuals. We want to be likable and interesting and may post with an underlying hope that “certain people” will notice us and observe that our posts are well received.

Of course we wish to entertain, be quirky, make people smile and feel proud of us, turn someone’s attention towards us, share what we’re up to with friends and family – but hopefully not so much as to create a character that perhaps doesn’t represent who we are in real life.

Now, fair enough – no one wants to be the over-sharer or the grumpy sod posting hard times and “woe is me” to the universe. I wouldn’t ever encourage someone to use social media as a platform for that. However, just because some couple is posting a picture per day of their immaculate-looking relationship, it doesn’t necessarily mean that their life is a grand adventure in every other area.

When I bombard myself with people’s updates, usually over a morning brew, I often feel a tad overwhelmed and have to consciously catch myself from falling into the illusion that everyone’s lives are flawlessly fun and simply perfect. Although this may be true for some (and if so, how very lovely for them), the reality is that we’re only seeing a small percentage of a person via their social media activity. Even that slice of life will have undoubtedly been carefully selected by the individual, edited and perhaps elaborated upon to form a rose-tinted version of who they’d like to be.

So who’s guilty of this? Well, I am for a start. For example, below is a Facebook status of mine onto which I threw some fantasy glitter in order to make it more attractive to followers. Let me explain the reality behind it…

14 July 2014: Had my first fencing tournament tonight. Kicked a boy’s butt… Now heading home to eat a bag of kinder eggs to celebrate #‎fenceimmense (94 likes)

So, pretty harmless really, and technically what you might call the truth. Yes, I did have my first tournament that night, and I did win against a boy – but I also lost to about ten other boys and four girls, so in reality I was pretty shocking to be honest. And I did go home and eat Kinder eggs, but not really to celebrate; I just like chocolate. Overall, although there were truthful elements to this status, I’d still call it a slight Pinocchio post, making out that I was more of a pro than I actually am.

I really do try and fill my spare time with positive, productive and exciting activities, and I think that’s important to do, especially as a single person. And of course, there’s no harm in telling people about these activities on social media – but remember that you don’t need to justify yourself to anyone.

I’ve also begun to realise that I don’t want to use these positive experiences to cloud people’s judgement of me, to make them think that I’m always this happy-go-lucky girl. I of course have my down days, my “why hasn’t Mr Kiss replied” moments, and on occasion I need to bury my head under a pillow, unwilling to face the world.

Being brave in these circumstances can be really tough, and I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t go through these difficult times. Don’t be afraid to admit that these moments are hard, but remember that when you see something online that brings you down, it’s highly unlikely to be the whole picture.

Lets make a start on being the real us this year. FOMO can jump on my treadmill and jog on!

Follow Lisa Coleman on Twitter at @Lisa_D_Coleman.

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