…Actually, you probably should be afraid.
Guess what? It’s the weekend again and you have nothing to do! So, you decide to scroll through social media only to see that yet again your bff Bridget is having the time of her life. But think about it, is she really?
It seems like every time we check social media our friends are having great new experiences leaving us in the dust. But, are these lives we see presented on Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat these people’s daily reality, or do we all have FOMO for no reason?
There is no denying that we spend a lot of time one social media. In fact, a recent news report found that teens spend around nine hours a day on social media. We constantly check our news feeds for updates on our friends lives and as a result it feels as though the people around us are constantly up to something new while our lives don’t quite match up. But how many posts on our news feeds contain new developments in their lives and how many posts are of things that happened to them some time ago? It seems like a trivial question but the difference is important to understand because it affects how we feel about these posts. Whether we become sad at the fact that we aren’t up to as much as our friends or we are aware of this and remain unaffected and positive about our lives.
I personally believe that most older people remain unaffected because they understand this fact but, things become more dangerous when it comes to the younger generation.
In an article on internet usage James Sayer of Common Sense Media points out that, “kids live in this massive 24/7 digital media technology world, and it’s shaping every aspect of their life. They spend far more time with media technology than any other thing in their life. This is the dominant intermediary in their life.” Meaning that teens’ perceptions of the world are being shaped by social media. If they constantly see people up to new things without any context they my perceive their own lives as uneventful and get lower self esteem as a result. Without any contextualization of the internet teens are primed to misunderstand the internet and how people use it. But, if they realized that most posts capture only the highlights of people’s’ lives and leave out the mundanity then they’d be better equipped to handle the FOMO.
So how can we help ensure that the new generation doesn’t have a skewed perception of the world or themselves? The answer could be as simple as limiting their online usage but in an age where a majority of people expect to have internet access it is a difficult task to accomplish. The internet is also a large part of integrating into modern society as this paper by Angela Barnes and Christine Laird on social media’s effect on youth says, “Not only is it an important part of socialization within peer groups but now it is used to market and motivate people to become a part of a larger community.” Teens also use the internet for schoolwork, news, and entertainment. So, the answer to the problem lies not only in contextualizing what these kids see online but also in teaching kids to use the more productive side of the internet instead of spending all their time on social media. The wealth of the world’s knowledge is available online and because of it people can learn how to do almost anything if they are willing to put in the time. So maybe encouraging “intelligent use” of the internet can solve this issue of perception distortion. At the very least we as a society should focus on making sure that children on the internet are given proper context of the things they are looking at online.
Featured photo by Montecruz
In-text Image by Kristina Alexanderson