FOMO and the impact of social media on mental health

Today’s pace of life and social pressures are extreme, there is no getting away from it.

We put ourselves under so much pressure to be more, have more, not miss out, we even have a term for this; FOMO (fear of missing out).

Social media feeds this, It’s like a feeding frenzy!

People post things on Facebook and other platforms, to give the representation of the lives they want you to see, it’s not real. Yet we see it as others having perfect lives and something we don’t. We think we should and therefore we are a failure if we don’t. Why do we put ourselves under so much pressure?

I know I have been guilty of this over the years. I saw my friends having a good time, posting their nights out and holidays on Social Media and I thought they were all happy and I wasn’t. That somehow, I wasn’t good enough because I wasn’t out and wasn’t posting an exciting lifestyle.

I was at home supporting my husband, not going out and I thought everyone around me had this perfect life. It made me bloody miserable! Yet there isn’t anything more valuable and worthwhile than supporting the person you love.

The last year or so and especially since the launch of The RockPool I have heard irrefutable evidence that the lives we think we see on social media are a glimpse, a mask to hide what is true.

I can honestly say 99% of the people I have spoken too since launching The RockPool have a story to tell. Everyone has been touched by Mental Illness, some more than others. What we think we see, just isn’t real.

It is so evident to me that we place value on all the wrong things.

I was watching the television the other day and an advert for a body moisturiser came on. It suggested that by using this moisturiser your friends couldn’t tell the difference between a suntan from a holiday and the moisturiser.

I stepped away and realised that this advert did several things. It suggested that our friends would be envious of our tan. Why would we want our friends to be envious of us?

It suggested that we would emulate success because we have a tan so must have been away on an expensive holiday.

By having the tan and looking like we have been away we would somehow be better people, worth more? Our worth was all about how we are perceived.

Why does our appearance and our perceived financial worth matter? Why do we place value on temporary and material things?

All these pressures to look good, to have more, to be more and yet at the very basic fundamental level we haven’t changed. We still love the same way, we still hurt the same way we still eat and breathe as we did hundreds of years ago.

I was in the Philippines several years ago, diving with my husband and I remember seeing a family living in a simple hut on the shoreline.

The hut was small, wooden and right on the beach. The kids were playing in the sand at the water’s edge and their mother was preparing fish.

I caught myself for a moment, envious of their simplicity.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t for a moment think they had it easy, I would imagine it was bloody hard, BUT there was no social pressure on things which don’t matter.

There was no pressure to strive for things which we will never feel real satisfaction for because we will be too busy looking for the next thing, we ‘should’ have.

The RockPool is about Mental Health and try as I might, I can’t separate the increase in people suffering from Mental Health illnesses and the increased pressure we place ourselves under.

This FOMO is horrendous! It’s even used as a strong and successful marketing approach for many companies. What an awful thing to prey on someone’s fear and what an awful thing that not having the latest ‘something’ means we think we have missed out, that we don’t have value.

Social Media is the tipping point for so many people. Seeing one more post could tip them over the edge. When already in a fragile state seeing the perceived perfect lives of others could just be too much.

Tipping points have always existed, it’s just today they are more prevalent via Social Media.

I will always remember the time when my mum picked me up from school when I was 9. Another school mum opened her car door into my mum’s car and dented it, only slightly. My mum was fine about it; the other school mum felt awful and yet seemed okay.

That night the school mum, very sadly took her own life. The car door seemed to be her tipping point.

My point here is that people only show you what they want you to see, that poor school mum wore a complete disguise at the school gate. Social media makes that easier and the lie even bigger!

How many tipping points do we see every day, every hour on social media? We don’t know what is going on in peoples lives and I really think it’s time we thought a bit more about what we value.

There is no value in having the best clothes, we just need clothes. Success doesn’t make us a better person or a more valuable one. Our worth is in how we treat ourselves and others, how we love ourselves and others.

We can’t hope to support those we love if we don’t value ourselves and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to do that with the social pressures around us.

A friend of mine has recently switched off all his social media accounts and has walked away from the social media platforms. He did it for the sake of his mental health. For some it comes back to the FOMO, what happens if I miss something or an invite? At the end of the day, if they are a true friend, who value you for the right reasons they will pick up a phone.  

It’s time to remove these pressures to see things for the what they are and come back to what is real.

I do see the irony in this post, I am talking about the impact of Social Media on peoples Mental Health and using Social Media to do it!

It does have its place, it is in-valuable for providing support to those who need it. It brings people together like never before. It’s free and accessible. It’s powerful.

What I am hoping for is that we harness that power for good, that we use it to change and improve lives, to bring people together and to share our truth.

I know this is a bit off script as an article/blog from me, but I felt compelled to write it. There is so much we can do through the power of Social Media and the internet to help people, to support people.

At the end of the day we all need to feel connected to be able to do the things we need to do, to find the strength to care for those we love. Using Social Media in a positive way can go a very long way to doing that.

If we use it negatively and value the wrong things, we’ve missed the point of this gift we have, and we don’t create that positive community.

My ask; please tell your truth and think about what you post means for others.

Thank you.

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