“Why wasn’t I invited to your brother’s birthday party?” asked 13 year old Sophie. Princess, my 14 year old daughter, replied, “Because you’re not my brother’s friend.” “But why is Debbie invited then?” returned Sophie. “Because her brother is my brother’s friend and their whole family is invited,” stated Princess.
Later as Princess was retelling me, I was slightly shocked. When I was growing up, we never would have asked this question of why we weren’t invited. Even now, I would never ask anyone that and if my children asked others why they weren’t invited, I would definitely not be happy and would be having a serious talk with my child. Princess ended up educating me by saying, “But I expect that of Sophie as she has FoMO”.
Fear of missing out or FoMO, according to Wikipedia is “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent. This social anxiety is characterized by ‘a desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing’.” A simpler way of putting it is anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere. This is often aroused by posts seen on social media.
FoMO is also a compulsive desire to experience something or be somewhere, motivated not by what you gain but rather by the fear of what you will probably lose. The idea of loss is usually imagined. There are many people worrying that other people are doing more interesting things and having more fun than you. It often originates in personal unhappiness and dissatisfaction in yourself and your life. It is an irrational belief that everyone else is having more fun than you at all times and that there is a perfect place, event and person.
Is that an accurate representation of reality – NO. Unfortunately, many parents have modelled this belief with the amount of time spent on social media which tends to publicise the fun things that everyone else is doing and lets you know which parties and events you were excluded from.
Last year we were driving to a home schooling camp down the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. As we drove near Aireys Inlet and Fairhaven, Princess commented how there was a ‘Pole House’ near there, a house on a pole coming out of the ocean. Her friend, who was in the car too, had also seen amazing photos on the internet of this house above the ocean and they were both commenting on how fabulous that would be. I suggested we stop and try to get a photo of it. We googled the exact address and made a detour. After exclaiming about the wonders of it, and Princess contorting herself on the ground so as to try to capture similar views on her camera, we then drove a different track and saw that it didn’t actually extend over the sea. It depended on which view you had of the actual house and that with photos and the internet you can make things, people, events, objects appear totally different than what they are in reality.
Teenagers especially, but everyone, needs a regular reality check on who they are, how important they are, and the fact that you don’t have to be everywhere and liked or wanted by and truly yourself.
There are several groups now that talk about JOMO – the joy of missing out. These folk intentionally decide to miss out on certain gatherings and events in order to give themselves more margin in their life.
I would like to raise the issue that I feel most of us as parents are perpetuating FoMO and setting a bad example with our own use of social media. What happens in your family? Does anyone exhibit any behaviours of FoMO? What are some strategies you have used to manage FoMO? I have listed below 8 suggestions to ponder in making changes within your family to help combat any FoMO.
Actions to change this fear of missing out:
- Look at yourself as a parent. What are you modelling?
- Do you have FoMO yourself?
- How much time do you spend on Facebook / social media?
- Do you check your social media account in your first 60 minutes of waking?
- How do you talk about wanting to be included in every event?
- Can you go 24 hours without touching your phone and computer?
- Identify any FoMO in your children
- What do you hear your children say?
- How much time are your children spending on social media?
- Look at how your children talk about themselves and look at their self-esteem.
- Limit choices for your children.
- Ask the parents of your children’s friends what they have noticed about your child and social media and friendships.
- Social media guidelines
- Keep phones/internet devices out of bedrooms.
- Have a ban on phones/internet over meal times. Instead discuss things as a family.
- Chat about what your children and their friends are posting on social media, especially in regard to parties and events.
- Be a friend to your children on their social media accounts.
- Chat about how a phone is a responsibility not a right.
- Have a regular sabbath from your phone / social media eg one day per week, leave it plugged in and untouched.
- Practice gratitude
- The more you focus on what you are thankful for, the less you tend to focus on what you don’t have. Have a time each day where you all express three things you are grateful for that particular day.
- Have an activity in your family where you all ‘look beyond yourselves’ and help others.
- Turn inward and have a regular time where you reflect on yourself and your attributes.
- Reduce distractions
- Turn off notifications on your phone/computer/internet.
- Prevent a stress response of not having vital information all the time. Have regular ‘no internet/phone/social media’ ban.
- Enjoy the present
- On certain outings, ban any photos and just enjoy being there.
- Keep a check on your children or yourself wishing you were somewhere else or wondering how an event is going that they are not part of.
- Kill the fantasies
- Chat with your kids about fantasies and reality in friendships, internet, etc.
- Chat about when you make one choice, you are giving up another choice eg when you choice to do a certain activity, you are choosing to spend your time there and you can’t do another activity at the same time.
- Occasionally decide as a family not to participate in an activity or refuse an invitation and choose to stay home and enjoy an activity as a family.
- Model healthy activity and friendship choices to your children.
- Chat with your children about the internet and false claims.
- Is it an accurate representation of reality?
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