Whether it's Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or even Venmo, it seems like there are more social networks than ever to keep up with your friends — and to keep up with what they're doing when they're not hanging out with you.
"We’re constantly aware of what other people are doing," she says. "I mean, this stuff was not the case a generation ago: On a Friday night, you might have known what a few of your closest friends were up to, but you didn’t have access to dozens of narratives of other people going to cool places, and other people having fun together without you."
And that's not the only aspect of social media that's so FOMO-inducing. Apart from the sheer amount of information you get about what other people are doing without you, even the way that we use social media can be isolating.
"The way that we consume social media, we tend to ruminate so much more easily because we’re scrolling and scrolling, and there’s no end to it," Dr. Bonior says. "It’s not just that we have the information, but we see it over and over again — we’re refreshing, we’re seeing other people commenting. So it reinforces that feeling [of missing out]."
The Instagram adage nowadays is that you're comparing your own real life — with all its imperfections — to a glossy, filtered version of someone else's highlight reel. Maybe your friends just spontaneously decided to hang out that day, and weren't excluding you on purpose. Or maybe that event wasn't as fun as it looked in an edited photo.
But even logically understanding that not everything is as great as it seems in a photo doesn't lessen the blow when you constantly see your friends hanging out with each other at parties you weren't invited to. That would be upsetting for anyone. So how can you tell the difference between social media's smoke and mirrors and whether your friend is actually choosing not to invite you to things anymore?
[Because of social media,] we’re constantly aware of what other people are doing.
Andrea Bonoir, PhD
"You have to look at the pattern," Dr. Bonior says. "If it starts to be a trend where you haven’t seen this person in a month, yet they’ve spent the last three weekends in a row with other friends without you, then maybe there is something to it."
If that's the case, Dr. Bonior recommends taking a moment to ask yourself why it makes you feel bad. Is it that you just wanted to feel included? Or do you wish you also got to try that new restaurant? Or maybe (no shame) you wish you also got that Instagram photo op?
If you really do just miss your friends, it's worth reaching out to connect with them. You don't have to tell them that you were getting serious FOMO from looking at their photos, but you can try something like, "I’ve been missing you lately, I feel like we haven’t been hanging out as much and I’m not sure why."
Other than that, if you just generally feel like your life isn't as exciting as everyone else's, Dr. Bonior says that might be a wake-up call to examine what you feel is missing from your life.
"Think about trying to fill those holes through what your values are, and what you want to do with your life, whether it’s traveling more, dating more, or trying exciting things more often," she says.
"If you are bombarded with feeds of people that make you seem boring in comparison, that’s going to take a toll no matter what," Dr. Bonior says. "You’re not going to get a break unless you set some limits."
You don't have to delete your accounts if you don't want to, but instead of scrolling mindlessly throughout the day, you can set aside time to look through your social media. It also might help to think about how you feel afterwards, what kinds of posts tend to trigger your FOMO, and like Dr. Bonoir says, ask yourself why you're upset and how you can fix it. Because being able to keep up with your friends should be fun, not depressing.