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The life of others. What is FOMO, do you have it and should you be afraid of it?

The life of others. What is FOMO, do you have it and should you be afraid of it?

© Екатерина Мотылёва, модель: Мария Магдалена Тункара / @youngmasha

3.5 billion people use social networks - a little more than half the world's population. This is based on the data of the July report of Q3 Global Digital Statshot (for comparison, in 2017 there were a little more than 3 billion users).

Over the 10 years of the existence of social networks, we will count down from the launch of Facebook in 2004, endless discussions about their pros and cons are pretty boring at this point. But it’s obvious that the Internet is not always a safe place. There are enough risks for users: hacking, lack of confidentiality of personal data, spam, collision with haters. Recently, FOMO has also been added to this list, fear of missing out or, in translation, the syndrome of lost profit. The Oxford Dictionary defines FOMO as a state of anxiety because an interesting and exciting event is happening somewhere right now, but you are missing it for one reason or another. The authors of the dictionary clarify that social networks can increase this anxiety.

The grass is greener on the other side

Is FOMO dangerous? Are there any statistics on the spread of this syndrome? No and no. There are no objective statistics, and no unequivocal answer about its consequences. But this does not mean that scientists do not put in work to research the syndrome. Scientific articles about FOMO have been often published in the last two to three years. In 2018, University of Pennsylvania employees published the results of a study conducted among 143 university graduates. During the experiment, they were divided into two groups. The first was asked to use social media in normal mode, the other was to reduce the use of Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat to ten minutes a day. Three weeks later the study was concluded. Subjects who limited their stay in social networks noted that they had a reduced number of depressive episodes, and a feeling of loneliness and anxiety disappeared.

In the same year, a study was published by Belgian scientists who concentrated on the study of FOMO syndrome in adolescents. They came to the conclusion that young people with a pronounced FOMO use a larger number of social networks and are more active in their conduct. In the same year, a study was published by Belgian scientists who concentrated on the study of FOMO syndrome in adolescents. They came to the conclusion that young people with a pronounced FOMO use a larger number of social networks and are more active in their conduct. In addition, researchers directly associate FOMO with phubbing, when a person during a friendly or working meeting is constantly distracted by a smartphone and social networks, ignoring their interlocutors.

We emphasize that the listed works are not called FOMO disease, they it's not something that should be medically treated, but should only be investigated . Ivan Lebedev, a specialist in psychological services at ION RANEPA, says that “syndrome” in this case is not a clinical definition: “It’s not included as a clinical disorder in medical diagnostic guides such as the ICD (International Classification of Diseases or DSM - A Guide to Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association - Ed.).”

According to him, FOMO, as a phenomenon, has been known for a long time, the feeling that somewhere something is happening differently and better than where I am has always been part of human nature. It is enough to recall the proverbs "The grass is greener on the other side" or "It's better somewhere else. Social networks help us monitor online events, in stories, live streams, other streaming services. But social networks in itself are not the cause of the syndrome, but rather a catalyst, Lebedev is sure.

Slight panic and feeling of dissatisfaction

To understand in more detail how FOMO is manifested, we interviewed 12 people aged 17 to 30 years who actively use social media. Most of them admitted that they experienced discomfort in situations where they did not have the opportunity to check their feed.

“Usually I get stressed when I am abroad without a stable Internet connection. I feel out of context when I don’t know what is happening right now, not only in the life of friends, but also in the whole city and country. But most of all I suffer from the inability to check telegram, - that's where I usually get my news. ” (Olga, 26 years old, designer).

“I occasionally feel anxiety. Sometimes a slight panic and a feeling of dissatisfaction. " (Timur, 17 years old, 1st year student).

“There was a case when my old friend posted on Instagram that she had a baby, but I did not follow social networks and did not congratulate her, she was actually offended by me. At such moments, I feel guilty that I am not up to date around the clock, but in ordinary life I understand that this is impossible. " (Irina, 30 years old, works in marketing).

Ivan Lebedev says that some people initially have increased anxiety, and social networks can exacerbate it. On the other hand, a person’s desire to receive information is quite natural, the expert emphasizes. “If it’s a habit, and the anxiety arises from the fact that I have not read the news for two days, something must have happened in the world, but I don’t know about it, then this is normal,” the psychologist explains. - “Technology has come into our lives firmly and it's not going anywhere. And any escalation in the spirit of “Internet is evil” or “FOMO is the new plague of the 21st century” should be divided into seven. Scrolling through social media in itself does not carry any mortal danger; this is only a consequence of technological progress. In addition, many people have a need to do something with their hands all the time - twist the handle, a spinner, scroll through their feed, this is a kind of time-killer, ”says Lebedev.

Not a disease, but a symptom

“When I scroll through instagram for a long time, everything is so beautiful, it seems that everyone travels and grows as a person and I don’t. I begin to want to buy something for myself, to diversify my life, to spend money. I don’t think about myself worse from all this, I just notice that when I don’t don't this, I don't wish for any of that." After scrolling through my Facebook feed, I often feel despair. I think about the fate of my homeland, and it seems to me that everything is terribly bad and it will never get better. ” (Vera, 24 years old, architect).

“Usually I start scrolling aimlessly when I get angry or nervous and want to take something in my hands, while turning off the brain. And when I finish that I get even more angry because nothing has changed - I just killed a little time. ” (Anastasia, 30 years old, journalist).

Speaking about FOMO, Lebedev mentions gambling addiction, this year it was included in the list of ICD as a clinical condition. This event became the reason for serious debate in the scientific community, as not everyone agrees to consider this a disease. In particular, opponents of this decision believe that the inclusion of gambling addiction in the ICD may complicate the diagnosis of other disorders. “This phenomenon is rather a symptom of depressive, general anxiety, disorders associated with impaired socialization. The story is the same with FOMO,”says the psychologist.

According to him, the syndrome may indicate some kind of deep-seated feelings. “When a person has anxiety only about scrolling through social networks, but otherwise he’s happy and content - this is some kind of utopian picture. If my overall state is not very good, then I will be tied to social networks. In fact, it may not be social networks, but, for example, a television, anything that gives information. Therefore, FOMO is a byproduct of some disorders or a not very stable condition, ”explains Lebedev.

What to do if you have FOMO?

Our survey participants told what information hygiene rules, including for the prevention of FOMO, they are trying to comply with and how they do it.

“I try not to check social media and messengers after 22-23 hours, and not to respond to work messages there. But I still watch the news before going to bed on telegram, that's actually where I spend 90% of the time on social media. On Instagram, I have a limit of 15 minutes of visits per day, but I almost always extend this time for myself. ” (Karina, 27, digital director).

“I switch my phone to night mode from midnight till morning (but if I accidentally notice a message from one of my friends on the screen, I can continue correspondence on the social network). I never keep open the tabs of social networks on the computer (with the exception of a working chat on VKontakte). At meetings with friends, I put the phone on the table with the screen down so as not to be distracted by pop-up notifications. I do not check social networks during live communication with other people. "I used to flip through a tape in the subway, but now I have replaced it with reading electronic books in English - there are much more benefits." (Irina, 30 years old, marketer).

“I try to follow what interests me. Sometimes I practice self-restraint, like to remove the application for a day, set a timer for the duration of use of the gadget, etc. (Michael, 28 years old, IT specialist).

Limiting your stay on social media to reduce anxiety is an effective practice, says Ivan Lebedev: “When people come to me with complaints of anxiety related to use of social media, I strongly suggest they avoid it altogether until their state is stable enough.”

At our request, Ivan Lebedev made a list of five simple rules that will be useful not only to those who feverishly check their feed every two minutes, but also to everyone who uses social networks.

1. Do not dismiss your own life. Think about what is happening to you. Ask yourself this question: “What am I missing in my life?” It is important to understand what lies behind the alarm that you are missing out on something important.
2. Talk with loved ones. Tell your family how your day went, say what you feel. Evening conversation at dinner allows you to rethink some things.
3. Try keeping a diary. If there is no possibility or desire to speak about everything with loved ones, then write down your thoughts. Try to record one or several events that brought you joy, pleasure in a day.
4. Set limits. Do not surf the Internet before going to bed or while eating. The best thing is to set aside a specific time for viewing feeds. Allow yourself a special time for this, for example, on the way to work or from work.
5. Learn to be bored. The ability to fill your time with something is extremely important, especially for adolescents. Often social networks are a substitute activity, because they are always at hand. Getting rid of this habit is not easy. Try to sit down and think about what to do instead of social networks. Boredom is useful, as it sometimes helps to understand what is really hidden behind your feelings and actions.

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