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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Heake

No More FOMO: Balancing Mental Health and Social Media

FOMO, or the Fear of Missing Out, is a pervasive feeling that we're not in the loop, that we're being left behind, or that we're missing out on something important happening elsewhere.


In today's hyper-connected world, social media platforms often serve as the primary culprits, continuously feeding us with images and stories of other people's seemingly perfect lives. We scroll through our feeds, watching friends and acquaintances enjoying exotic vacations, attending glamorous events, or celebrating personal achievements, and it's all too easy to feel like we're missing out on the excitement.

This fear of missing out can seep into our lives in subtle ways. We might find ourselves compulsively checking our phones for updates, even in the middle of the night or during important events. We might overcommit to social engagements or constantly compare our lives to the curated highlights of others. The impact of FOMO can be far-reaching, affecting not only our mental wellbeing but also our relationships and even our physical health. The persistent feeling that we're not doing enough, or that our lives don't measure up, can lead to anxiety, depression, and a general sense of dissatisfaction.


Consider the experience of scrolling through Instagram and stumbling upon a picture of an old friend at a gathering you weren't invited to. A twinge of FOMO sets in, and suddenly, you're questioning the strength of your friendships, wondering if you've been left out intentionally, or ruminating on what you might have done to deserve exclusion. This seemingly innocuous encounter with FOMO has the power to send us spiraling into negative thought patterns and self-doubt. By recognizing and addressing the ways FOMO infiltrates our lives, we can take steps to reclaim our peace of mind and foster a healthier relationship with the digital world.


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So what can you do about it??


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1. Be selective with your social media consumption:


Instead of mindlessly scrolling through social media feeds and falling victim to FOMO, be intentional about the content you consume. Unfollow or mute accounts that trigger feelings of inadequacy, envy, or FOMO, and curate your feed to include content that uplifts, inspires, and educates you. This might mean following accounts that post motivational quotes, nature photography, or informative articles related to your hobbies and interests. By being more intentional with your online experience, you'll create a healthier, more balanced digital environment.


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Be intentional about the

content you consume.


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2. Set boundaries and establish tech-free zones:


Create specific times and spaces in your daily routine where you disconnect from technology altogether. This can include having designated no-screen times, such as during meals, before bedtime, or during family bonding activities. By implementing tech-free zones in your home, like the bedroom or dining room, you encourage more face-to-face interaction and foster a deeper sense of connection with your loved ones. These boundaries will help you prioritize real-life experiences over the virtual world and reduce FOMO. One of the sneaky ways technology can take hold of us is by infiltrating activities that have been traditionally tech free (dinner, etc.). It isn't always easy to put your phone down or away, but if you know it is impacting you negatively, it might be time to do the hard thing!


3. Practice mindfulness and gratitude:


Mindfulness exercises, such as meditation, deep breathing, or journaling, can help you stay grounded in the present moment and cultivate a greater appreciation for the here and now. By focusing on the positive aspects of your life and acknowledging what you're grateful for, you can combat feelings of FOMO and foster a more content mindset. Consider starting a gratitude journal or incorporating a daily mindfulness practice into your routine to help shift your focus away from what you may be missing out on and towards the many blessings you already have. You can even take your favorite hobbies or activities you're already doing and add a layer of mindfulness to them but taking time to notice your physical experiences. Be present with your body. Be present with the world around you.


4. Engage in meaningful offline activities:


Find hobbies and pursuits that bring you joy and fulfillment outside of the digital realm. This can include spending time in nature, engaging in creative pursuits like painting or writing, or participating in group activities such as sports or volunteer work. By nurturing your passions and investing your time and energy in meaningful offline experiences, you'll be less likely to feel the pull of FOMO and more inclined to appreciate the richness of your own life.


5. Foster authentic connections with others:


Instead of relying solely on social media for social interaction, make an effort to connect with friends and loved ones in more authentic ways. Schedule regular phone calls or video chats, arrange in-person meetups, or send handwritten letters to those you care about. By nurturing deeper, more genuine connections, you'll likely feel more satisfied and less prone to experiencing FOMO. Remember, quality time spent with the people who matter most can provide a lasting sense of fulfillment that no amount of online scrolling can replicate. Social media offers a different kind of connection, but digital connection is to in person connection what a healthy meal is to highly processed food. It is convenient, sure, but it isn't really giving you everything you need.


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In conclusion, while FOMO is a natural part of living in a digitally connected world, it's crucial to recognize and manage its impact on our mental health and well-being. By implementing these practical strategies, you can start to take control of your FOMO and live a more balanced, fulfilling life.


If you found this article helpful and would like to stay informed on the intersection of mental health and technology, be sure to subscribe to our blog for regular updates and insights. Together, we can navigate the digital age and cultivate a healthier, happier relationship with technology.


Warmly, Matthew


Therapist, father, and tech analyst writing about the intersection of technology and mental health, parenting, evolutionary psychology, and more. mftheake@gmail.com

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