Have you ever scrolled through Facebook or Instagram posts and felt an uneasy twinge in the pit of your stomach when you notice what your friends or family are doing without you? There’s a word for that — FOMO — but what does FOMO stand for?
On the surface, it means a fear of missing out. But it can be much deeper than that in our social media-driven society.
More Than an Acronym
FOMO first earned a spot in the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013, where it was defined as “Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media.”
The idea behind FOMO is nothing new. It’s a variation of what used to be known as “keeping up with the Joneses.” After all, it’s human nature to feel left out, disappointed, or even insecure if we feel like we’ve missed out on a chance to participate in an amazing opportunity or event. FOMO is also associated with a feeling of longing for what could have been.
You can definitely experience FOMO without using social media. For instance, you may regret turning down an invitation to go out with colleagues after work. However, platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat enable us to constantly and instantly compare ourselves to others and have been associated with an increased likelihood of triggering FOMO.
This is why it can impact children — who are on social media so often — more than adults.
FOMO and Children
When it comes to children, child and adolescent psychologist Dr. Jonathan Rosen tells Parentology it’s important to remind kids that posts are just snapshots. “Posts are meant to evoke emotions,” he says, “But it’s important to remember that a post does not tell the whole story and there’s a lot going on behind the scenes. Forgetting this can be what leads to distress for our children.”
If left undetected or untreated, FOMO can lead to serious problems including anxiety and depression.
“Feeling left out is a normal part of childhood and it’s part of the growing pains,” explains Rosen. “Every child is different, but some red flags that your child is reaching unhealthy levels of unhappiness are: a loss of interest in activities that the child typically enjoys, withdrawal, complaints of headaches or bellyaches, significant changes in appetite, and changes in sleep patterns.”
If you think your child may be suffering from FOMO and you notice your child is acting out of the norm, it’s important to reach out to your pediatrician or a child psychologist.