Why is Teen FOMO So Powerful?
The desire not to be left out is universal. No one wants to miss out on something interesting or important. This desire, which is especially strong during adolescence, stems from a God-given yearning to participate in meaningful experiences and be in meaningful community. While it’s a natural human tendency to fear being excluded, it’s unhealthy when we let this fear control our lives. It’s become such a powerful phenomenon that it’s been given its own term – FOMO, or the “fear of missing out.”
Why is it so powerful?
FOMO has such a hold on us because of two underlying principles. First, it’s built on exclusivity (i.e. that there is an exclusive group of people that will enrich our lives in all the right ways if we can be part of it). Second, FOMO is based on the idea that there is always something – an activity, a gathering, an event, etc. – going on that we don’t want to miss.
Combining the two is deadly. It keeps us constantly wondering “what if?” and never able to be fully present or involved in what’s happening. It’s also a huge driver in smartphone addiction. When the number of posts and videos are virtually infinite, it’s easy to see how this would be paralyzing.
Why does Gen Z experience FOMO so intensely?
Social media, and how accessible smartphones have made it, is probably the most significant reason why Gen Z has such a problem with FOMO. Huffington Post reports:
Nearly 90% of members of Gen Z use Snapchat on a regular basis, and a majority check Snapchat over 10 times a day, according to one study. Why are Gen Zers checking Snapchat so obsessively? It’s because they don’t want to miss out on what their friends are sharing.
In fact, keeping up with everything on social media is getting so burdensome to the members of Gen Z that many of them are getting off social media because of negative impact it’s having on their lives.
How does it affect us long term?
It seems that when young people let FOMO control them, they tend to be more reckless on social media. As you might expect, the more people put themselves out there on social media, the more opportunity they give to others who might want to bully or manipulate them. The more they post and look at posts on social media, the more likely it is that doing so will interfere with their real-life relationships.
One study, called “Fear of Missing Out: Prevalence, Dynamics, and Consequences of Experiencing FOMO,” found FOMO to be common among college freshmen and that those who frequently experienced it also dealt with “fatigue, stress, physical symptoms, and decreased sleep.” This article from Science Daily lists anxiety and depression as consequences of FOMO.
Is it a lost cause?
Our teens don’t have to let FOMO control them. With our help, they can learn to rule their fear, rest in God, be proactive stewards of their domains, and really enjoy the experiences they get to have and the people they have the privilege of knowing.