FOMO feat. Social Media x Social Distancing

FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is exacerbated by social media. Not only do you have to imagine the fun other people are having, but you have to see it too. FOMO has always sucked, but you could at least do something about it pre-COVID-19. Now, you really have no choice but to watch it all unfold online while you social distance, unless you want to risk catching or spreading COVID. 

Instagram was filled with posts over Halloweekend: people in their costumes and makeup hanging out with a group of friends, having fun the way Halloween usually calls for. On the one hand, you might judge others for not social distancing. You might even blame those people for being the reason we won’t be getting out of lockdown anytime soon. On the other hand, you would probably take the opportunity to do the same if you could. Whether you’re just being a good citizen, worried for the health of your friends and family, physically far from your friends, or you just can’t coordinate any solid, safe plans, deep down you wish you could be doing what the people you see on social media are doing.

The way I taught myself to endure FOMO is to remind myself how deceiving social media can be. In times of boredom and loneliness, I’ve thought about how social media posts only capture a brief moment in time, and you, as the audience, don’t get the full context. The person who constantly posts pictures with a smiling face and all their friends might actually be spending the majority of their time alone and not doing anything exciting. They are definitely not as busy or as happy as they seem, especially during COVID. Not that you should assume that social media is one big phony performance, or that you should envision people having a horrible time to feel better about yourself. But if you spend most of your time alone and doing mundane things, just know that other people’s lives are just like that too. You just don’t get to see it, because almost no one shares the boring parts of their lives with the world.

To strengthen my point, think about the people who don’t post on social media often. Just because they don’t post anything doesn’t mean they do nothing with their lives. I have had a lot of fun, memorable days since I came to Atlanta in August. The pictures that I did post online were just a small handful of those moments. Then there are the pictures that I took but didn’t post, and the pictures that I could’ve taken but didn’t. Those moments exist, but not on social media. We choose what we want to share with the world, and the world sees what we want it to see. So by this logic, wouldn’t it make sense that the people you see on social media are just posting more of those moments?

All this is to say, don’t worry too much about missing out on these days. Not only are you getting a false or exaggerated representation of what is really going on in others’ lives, but remember you are also forgoing these moments for a good cause. It is valid to fear that you are missing out, but in truth, you aren’t missing out on much.