10 Ways Teens and College Students Can Cope With FOMO 

Your teen is scrolling through social media and sees that their friend has posted a picture at a birthday party or at a dinner that they didn’t get invited to. Understandably, they feel upset, lonely, isolated and wonder why they weren’t invited.

Another word for this phenomenon is FOMO or ‘fear of missing out,’ which was added to the Oxford Dictionary in 2013. FOMO is defined as anxiety that an exciting event is happening elsewhere and you are missing it and social media can make FOMO even more acute.

FOMO can make you feel like your peers are all leading more interesting or enjoyable lives. It’s common among college students especially when they don’t have plans but see all of their friends posting about the cool things they are doing.

sad young woman
How college students can learn to avoid feelings of FOMO. (Twenty20 @Leo)

How can teens cope with feelings of FOMO?

1. Take a break from all technology 

Turn your phone and computer off and do something entirely different; read a book, journal, go for a run or do anything that will keep you from ruminating over what your peers are doing. Put your devices somewhere where they are not easily accessible during this much-needed technology detox.

2. Stop using the phone near bedtime or after going to bed 

Checking the phone or social media when you can’t fall asleep or when you wake up in the middle of the night is a guaranteed way of making FOMO worse. In the middle of the night night when you are alone with their thoughts, your mind can wander to what you could be doing or what you missed out on that day. Social media only amplifies these thoughts. A great tip is to put the phone across the room so that it is not reachable during the night. 

3. Set time limits for social media apps 

Another great way to deal with FOMO is to restrict time on social media. For example, they can limit all social media apps that they find themselves spending too much time on to 30 minutes a day or do different time limits depending on the app. To do this on an iPhone, go to settings, screen time and then app limits. 

4. Practice gratitude 

FOMO can make you feel deeply unhappy. Practicing gratitude daily can positively impact happiness. One way to practice gratitude is to write down things you are grateful for each day. I do this every morning right when I wake up, but some people prefer to write down things they are grateful for at the end of the day, just before they go to sleep.

5. Remember that social media isn’t real life

Although this is easier said than done, it is important to keep in mind that social media is far from the truth. Think of social media more like a highlight reel rather than the reality of someone else’s day-to-day life. It’s easy to get caught up in it and feel like influencers or people at their school are living the perfect life. Just remember that everyone has problems and issues, but those are usually not posted. 

6. Keep in mind that you might not actually be missing out  

Sometimes people overcompensate by posting on social media to make themselves feel like their life is better than it actually is. In many cases, the people with the most exciting social media posts might actually be the most unhappy in real life. I’ve had it happen before where someone posted a picture at an event and the photo made it look like it was the most amazing thing ever. A few days later, I asked that person about their post and they admitted that the event actually wasn’t very fun, and I didn’t miss much. 

7. Practice meditation or mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness are ways to clear one’s mind and reduce anxiety or stress. This should help with getting any negative thoughts out of one’s head. Even just ten minutes of meditation a day can make a huge difference in lowering stress or anxiety levels. 

8. Be present and live in the moment

Another important thing to increase happiness and decrease FOMO is to live in the moment. Rather than always trying to get that perfect picture for social media, focus on the quality time spent with other people. Avoid checking social media when out in public or with friends. Once I stopped looking at my phone when I hung out with others, I noticed a huge change in my happiness and I felt a deeper connection with whoever I was hanging out with. 

9. Get outside

Spending time outdoors allows them to connect with nature and the environment rather than thinking about what other people may be doing. Go for a walk around the neighborhood or campus or go to a local park and enjoy the quietness of nature.

10. Learn to enjoy alone time 

Once they enjoy their own company, they’ll forget about what they could have been doing and instead feel content doing things alone. To enjoy alone time, start trying out new things, such as gardening, hiking, drawing a picture, or learning a new recipe. Or, try going somewhere alone, such as a new coffee shop, the public library, a park, or a museum! 

More Great Reading:

Letter to My Freshman Self: Nine Regrets I Have From College

About Madeleine Korn

Madeleine Korn is a recent graduate from the University of California, Santa Barbara. In the 2019 to 2020 school year, she was the advertising director for The Bottom Line newspaper at UC Santa Barbara. Prior to that, she was an intern for United Airlines in both 2018 and 2019, where she was involved in projects to improve the customer experience. She loves writing and creating videos and really enjoys working for Grown and Flown!

Read more posts by Madeleine

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