I recall suffering from FOMO in my early teenage years, before the social media takeover. A vague memory comes to me of wistfully wondering what else was out there. That there must be more for me than a little life in the Norfolk countryside. How entitled, right? But I think we’re worse now.
Social media can be a wonderful thing, and I’ve often defended it. Particularly Instagram, may I add, which doesn’t itself show off luxuries beyond our grasp, but does allow other people to. The impersonal catching up, lurking amongst other story-viewers, means that we’re constantly and silently subject to the best parts of other people’s lives. I remind myself often that neither a gallery of squared images or 280 characters reflect reality, that social media can produce a rose-tinted perspective. FOMO sometimes reaches me regardless, and there are a few things worth keeping in mind when it does.
NO-ONE POSTS WHAT THEY DON’T HAVE
The paddling of the social media swan is hidden underwater. Their elegance is broadcast but all of the work behind the scenes is not: Early starts, late finishes, frantic emails, rejection, strained personal relationships. Similarly, we don’t see alternate realities, the holidays that could have happened had money not been spent elsewhere. Perhaps more sensibly invested.
My FOMO arises from watching those who travel constantly, or who own beautiful houses. It’s a constant contradiction between wanting to live and experience more of the world through travel, and wanting to settle down and invest in a home. That’s the thing, our social media feeds are filled with people who all spend their time and money in very different ways.
YOU CAN’T HAVE IT ALL
We’re restricted by our salaries and commitments, and we all only have 24 hours in a day. There’s a problem with the popular hustle, #girlboss mindset of today. It’s like an online cousin of the American Dream, an empty promise that if you work hard enough, you can have it all.
But you can’t. No-one can ever have it all, and neither are we entitled to it. Reminding myself of this often forms my escape from the FOMO holes I bury myself in.
Before the end of last year, I felt a huge pressure to catch up. Convinced that I was falling behind because my 2019 Goodreads challenge hadn’t been high enough. Because other people were working hard on more brand campaigns (why hadn’t I been chosen). Because others were finding the time to binge watch ‘You’ on Netflix, completing the whole second season in a single day. All of these people had clearly prioritised their time in different ways, yet I felt that I should somehow be on par with them all. An impossible feat.
APPROACH IT LOGICALLY
We’ve all been warned against the danger that is the comparison game. I’ve been convinced for a long time that I hadn’t been playing it, but I’ve realised that it’s more difficult than I thought not to. It’s more subtle than direct comparisons. Hidden not only in impressive achievements but also behind harmless lifestyle tweets about what someone else is watching or reading. It’s not a comparison between two individuals but a comparison between one individual and the rest of the online world. Or, at least, that’s how it’s come to feel to me.
So if FOMO driven by social media is getting to you, then rationalise it. You can’t possibly, as one person, do all of the things that everyone else is doing. We need to celebrate our own accomplishments and be okay with knowing that we make the right choices for us. As someone with very little free time, it’s okay that I don’t read as many books as someone else and that I often choose the mindless task of watching a Netflix film with my boyfriend instead. It’s okay that I’m 24 and don’t own a house yet, because I’ve been to some amazing places instead. I’d like to do more and achieve more, of course, but time and money are considerations and I’ve done well out of mine. I’m sure you have too when you put things into perspective.