For the last few years, the term FOMO has been brandished about on practically every online platform. In fact, the word was added to the Oxford Dictionary as far back as 2013. Here’s how it’s defined:
“Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media.”
While it’s not the most recent phenomenon, FOMO, or the Fear of Missing Out, seems as pervasive as when it was first “discovered.” And, no, the gum-chewing teenybopper is not its only casualty. FOMO is just as real among parents.
According to a 2016 Pew survey, three fourths of online parents use Facebook, with 61 percent of us logging on several times a day. We seem to be addicted to being in the know. We get online to check on what everyone else is doing on a wonderful summer afternoon. It takes about 10 seconds to feel worse about ourselves and our lives.
A friend fits into her high school jeans two weeks after her third baby. Another acquaintance bought their dream house. A bunch of people are at a party that you weren’t invited to. Your distant cousin got the white-cabinet, subway-tile-backsplash kitchen remodel that you’ve had to put on hold for the better part of your adult life.
After spending gobs of time on our devices, we come up for air because the whole thing is exhausting. It sucks up our time, it depletes us physically, and it results in a downward spiral of emotions. Studies say that people “feel depressed after spending a great deal of time on Facebook because they feel badly when comparing themselves to others.”
So, what can we do to FOMO-proof our parenting so we’re not unwittingly passing on the same darned, nagging “there’s something better out there” feeling to our kids?
1 | Acknowledge it
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, the first thing to do is admit your FOMO. Examine how you spend your time. If your social media scrolling is eating into your productivity, maybe it’s time to say, “I have a problem.”
2 | Practice being present
Easier said than done, I know. How often have I pretended to listen to Ninjago stories courtesy of my seven-year-old while checking my phone? How often have I been too preoccupied with Facebook to laugh along with my nine-year-old’s oh-so-original knock-knock jokes or appreciate his latest Lego creation? Honestly, way more times than I care to admit.
We need to create device-free zones in our homes so we can be fully present. We need to set time limits on screens, not just for the kids, but also most definitely for mom and dad. We need to send our kids the message that people – the real life ones rather than e-versions – come first.
3 | Keep your word
Show your kids that you honor previous commitments, even if it means passing up something more fun that came up at the last minute. Respect people enough to RSVP on time. Don’t send a text canceling a plan simply because it’s an easy way out.
4 | Use your mind sieve
It’s like an Instagram filter, except it’s for your brain. Just because a friend posts pictures of her gondola ride in Venice, doesn’t mean her life is perfect. Remind youself that Facebook is a carefully curated set of images and ideas.
Maybe it was a 110-degree summer day that made the canals rather smelly. Maybe there was an argument about whether to shell out 100 euros for a boat ride. Maybe the gondolier couldn’t even hold a tune. You’ll never know because no one will spill the beans. So, always carry a salt shaker and add a generous sprinkle while browsing.
5 | Weigh what you post
You’ve been at the receiving end of an irresponsible post and, chances are, you’ve felt kind of lousy after reading it. So, think twice before you post pictures of teams where someone’s kid didn’t make the cut, birthday parties where some of the eight-year-olds were not invited, or the I’m-so-popular-and-loving-life pics that you know are only cherry pickings from your real life.
Here’s a simple idea: You can have a good time without sharing it with the world.
We need to teach our kids the value of being in the now, rather than being in the know. We need to model gratitude and teach them to live in the moment. We need to show them that we love the bright sparkle in their eyes more than the harsh glare of screens.