Photo: Bradley Wint/Try Modern

Social media “Fear Of Missing Out” detrimental to our mental well-being

Bradley Wint
By - Founder/Executive Editor
Jan 2, 2018 11:50pm AST
Photo: Bradley Wint/Try Modern

Human beings generally see themselves in the best light possible compared to others. This psychological phenomenon is called illusory superiority. This usually helps boost our self-efficacy, which is basically our ability to better perform tasks or function in different situations.

However, the social media “Fear of Missing Out” trend or FOMO seems to be working against our favour, making us feel less superior when compared to others. The FOMO concept recently gained popularity thanks to sites like Facebook and Instagram that encourage us to share our social experiences; and now there’s a study to back this theory.

According to the study conducted by researchers at Cornell University, Sebastian Deri and his colleagues found that people have a generally pessimistic view on their social lives when compared to others, which goes against the whole illusory superiority theory.

Although decades of research show that people tend to see themselves in the best possible light, we present evidence that people have a surprisingly grim outlook on their social lives. In 11 studies (N = 3,293; including 3 preregistered), we find that most people think that others lead richer and more active social lives than they do themselves. We show that this bias holds across multiple populations (college students, MTurk respondents, shoppers at a local mall, and participants from a large, income-stratified online panel), correlates strongly with well-being, and is particularly acute for social activities (e.g., the number of parties one attends or proximity to the “inner circle” of one’s social sphere). We argue that this pessimistic bias stems from the fact that trendsetters and socialites come most easily to mind as a standard of comparison and show that reducing the availability of extremely social people eliminates this bias. We conclude by discussing implications for research on social comparison and self-enhancement.

People generally have a negative outlook on their social lives because they compare the sum of their social activities to snapshots of other people’s social lives. The problem with social media is that people tend to choose their best moments to display on Facebook, Snapchat, or Instagram, and in reality this does not represent anyone as a whole.

Someone could easily take hundreds of photos on a trip and only post two or three, while discarding the rest as being ‘bad’ or not representative of their better times. Meanwhile, those looking on from the other side of the fence could easily assume that that person is having the time of their life, and compare their current social status to this ‘perfect’ snapshot.

Whether it be comparing yourselves to your friends vacationing in Thailand, or going to a Coldplay concert, or looking at celebrity lives on the media, we have to remember that these moments only represent a smaller (to very small) portion of their lives.

As noted in a Bustle article, the same scenario can play off in a group setting as well.

“…even when we ourselves are out being social and composing our own envy-inducing Snapchat Stories, a group setting tends to trigger these same pessimistic biases. Being in a group forces us to consider other people’s inner lives more deeply and thoughtfully than we might if we were alone. In that process of imagining what other people’s inner lives are like, we often tell ourselves a story that they must be great, far better than our own.”

Getting trapped in this constant state of comparison could have a significant impact on our mental well-being, and for some, even on our physical health.

Can we avoid it?

Unless you choose to avoid reading the social columns and going “cold turkey” on your social media accounts, the only real way to minimize this type of behaviour would be to filter out those who live “extremely” social lives. It might mean unfollowing a few friends and celebrities from your social media feeds, or simply limiting the amount of time you spend on social media in general.

There is even a new Facebook feature that allows you to temporarily unfollow someone to hide those one-off bursts of photos after a major event like a wedding, vacation, or new pet or baby.

We can also take solace in the fact that everyone suffers from this same complex to some extent, and we simply need to take a step back when we find ourselves in a very comparative mode.

Have your say

Stay in check with our daily burst of news stories delivered to your inbox.

Read more

Up to 40,000 OnePlus customers have their credit card details exposed in data breach

Privacy/Security - If you’ve recently purchased something via the OnePlus website, you may need to regularly check your credit card statement as…

By - Jan 19, 2018 5:04pm AST

The 9 best vlogging cameras for 2018

Entertainment - Even with the YouTube apocalypse, vlogging is still a huge deal. Last year we talked about some of the top…

By - Jan 19, 2018 1:42am AST

YouTube and Facebook pull Tide Pod Challenge videos because people are stupid

Social Media - It’s a new year and people are already doing dumb things for their 15 minutes of internet fame. Both Facebook…

By - Jan 18, 2018 11:10pm AST

Apple will soon allow you to disable battery management software on older iPhones

Mobile - After a wave of mounting criticism, lawsuits, and PR statements, Tim Cook has announced that users will now have the…

By - Jan 18, 2018 3:21am AST

7 things the media gets wrong about air travel and aviation

Travel - When there is ‘trouble’ in the sky, there tends to be ‘trouble’ with the reporting as well. Many news agencies,…

By - Jan 18, 2018 1:47am AST

Apple issues iOS 11.2.2 to address Spectre vulnerability

Mobile - In the wake of the industry-wide Spectre and Meltdown chip flaws, Apple has issued a security update for iOS 11…

By - Jan 8, 2018 2:55pm AST

Passengers on Hawaiian Airlines flight celebrate New Year’s Day twice due to delay

Travel - Passengers on board a Hawaiian Airlines flight from Auckland, New Zealand to Honolulu, Hawaii were able to celebrate New Year’s…

By - Jan 1, 2018 11:13pm AST

LG shows off world’s first 88-inch 8K OLED display for CES 2018

Technology - LG is stepping up the display game with the unveiling of a world first 88-inch, 8K OLED display. When compared…

By - Jan 1, 2018 10:33pm AST

How to fix Samsung Galaxy Note 8 charging issues

Technology - Some Samsung Galaxy Note 8 customers have run into a peculiar situation where their phones refuse to charge after being…

By - Jan 1, 2018 12:31am AST

Apple apologizes for iPhone slow down; offers battery replacement for $29

Technology - After lots of press blow back, Apple has finally given in to the whole battery fiasco, issuing a letter of…

By - Dec 31, 2017 1:55pm AST