Festival FOMO – The Paradoxical Impact of Social Media on our Fear of Missing Out

A recent survey by the Royal Society For Public Health reported that Instagram was the worst social media platform for mental health. The outcome showed that it ranked highly for anxiety, depression, bullying and FOMO, or the “fear of missing out”. Each of these factors are incredibly heavy subjects and difficult to do justice in one post, so I intend to focus on FOMO, as no time is it more relevant for me than festival season.

Glastonbury seemed both unescapable and unreachable this weekend, with traditional media channels covering it as well as the barrage of social media. This is a prime example of when social media can negatively impact on how connected people feel.

The fear of missing out is prevalent across all platforms of social media platforms, so I’m not trying to pick on Instagram; but the introduction of Instagram Stories and live video mean that you are immediately reminded of what you’re missing out on. Trending topics on other platforms act as an additional reminder to this. For the connected engager, it’s practically impossible to avoid during festival season, short of a total social media blackout. And for many, a social media blackout can bring about a whole range of other negative emotions. I took part in a study of these effects whilst at university. The study was called ‘Unplugged’ and the effects on some participants were akin to those of drug withdrawal.

There has to be a middle ground, right? These features on social media were intended to make us feel more connected, not disengaged. Luckily, there is a flip-side to social media that allows us to embrace FOMO and that’s missing out together. Social media enables us to share our envy and come together in our jealousy, creating our own little FOMO community.

Mike Woods

So when you see celebrities, friends or even just acquaintances enjoying experiences that you’re jealous of, remember that you’re not the only one missing out.


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