How Fear of Missing Out is Making Teens Anxious and Depressed

female using her laptop

It has been proven repeatedly: the excessive use of social media is bad for mental health. Teens, in particular, are vulnerable to the negative effects of social media use.

Social Media Use Among Americans

In the United States, about 77% of Americans have a profile in at least one social media platform. According to Pew Research, YouTube and Facebook are the two most popular social media platforms among adults, with Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Twitter, and WhatsApp trailing behind.

Meanwhile, 95% of teens have access to a smartphone, and roughly 63% said they use a social media platform every day. Nearly half of them admitted that they are almost always online.

The amount of time people spend on social media is on the rise, too. On average, people spend 3 hours a day on social media and messaging platforms.

Inaccurate Presentation of Life

YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms are not inherently bad. If used correctly, these sites and apps can be used as learning tools and can help connect like-minded people no matter they are in the world. Teens are using social media to discuss important issues that affect them and their peers.

However, social media also exposes teens to an inaccurate depiction of life. Influencers, who have millions of fans online, look like they are living perfect lives. Teens may not be aware that influencers hire professional photographers and production companies to make their social media flawless. Photos are often highly edited, and videos only show good experiences.

All of these are done to support the illusion of a perfect life.

Teens who do not have access to expensive clothes, the latest devices, invitation to events, and other luxuries compare themselves to what they see online. As a result, their confidence takes a hit.

FOMO Is Born

FOMO, the fear of missing out, is the term used to describe the anxiety that comes from the idea that other people are living better lives than they are. It can happen to anyone, but young people are the most affected.

While browsing Instagram and seeing a social media influencer travel to Paris or model a designer bag, one may feel FOMO. It may also happen after seeing a colleague buy a new phone or drive a new car.

FOMO has been studied since the 90s, but with social media becoming integral in everybody’s lives, it has become more prevalent than ever. Because users see only the highlights of someone else’s life, their idea of “normal” becomes badly altered.

A Slippery Slope

FOMO, however, does not stop users from browsing social media platforms. Experts warned that FOMO is driving social media addiction because, instead of logging out, users continue looking for content that may upset them.

When a person is addicted to social media, they devote hours of their every day online, preventing them from attending to their responsibilities. Some symptoms of social media addiction include the inability to concentrate, inability to ignore notifications, and the constant urge to log into social media.

FOMO and Depression


FOMO is also leading to an increase in depression among teens.

One study linked social media use and depression. According to the researchers, people who use social media less often are also less depressed. There is a causal link between decreased social media use and better mental health.

The participants of the study did not have to delete their social media to feel better. They experience improvements in their mental health by simply reducing the amount of time they spend online.

Overcoming FOMO

Although social media use alone does not cause FOMO, people, especially teenagers, will benefit from logging out from time to time. Social media has become so integral to everyone’s lives; avoiding it completely is close to impossible. Spending less time on social media will help improve mental health.

Experts also recommend practicing gratitude. The activity involves pointing out the good things that one has and imagining what life would be like without them. For example, a house over your head, food to eat in every meal, and the love of family and friends are things to be grateful for. There is a growing body of research that proves that practicing gratitude works.

FOMO is becoming more common as people spend more time and energy on social media platforms. It is causing people, especially teens, to experience anxiety and depression due to the things they see. However, anyone can easily overcome it through the practice of gratitude and by going offline from time to time.

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