I had always thought the “fear of missing out” was that juvenile feeling I got when I was 3 years old and forced to take a nap while my brother, four years my senior, got to play all afternoon. I thought of it as a silly bout of envy that I soon grew out of... until college. My sophomore year, I got my first smart phone. And with it, I excitedly downloaded Instagram.
At first, I used the app to post carefully lit selfies and blurry photos of my cat. I only followed people I actually knew and all of those people posted things of a similar nature. It was a way of keeping in touch, sort of a little window into all of my friends’ lives.
But as soon as everyone started parting ways after college, this light-hearted way of keeping in touch turned into more of a subconscious competition of who can have more fun.
I found myself wasting hours a week scrolling through feeds on various social media sites, and not once did it make me feel good. Most of the time, it resulted in me asking myself why my life was so boring compared to everyone else’s.
I was consciously aware that these people’s lives weren’t actually perfect, but somehow doubt always fought its way in. I was constantly comparing my life to theirs and with every flick of my finger, I’d scroll myself deeper into a toxic state of self-loathing. “Why don’t I have that much fun?” I was swallowed by the all-consuming feeling that I was missing out.
I moved across the country after college. I can preach all day and night about the importance of finding yourself and personal growth and independence, but it’s hard. It’s difficult to see the world spinning on without me. I hit a point that I had to stop with social media altogether. Not because I didn’t want to see my old friends having fun. I love them, of course I want them to be having a good time. But sometimes, seeing through a window just large enough to see the good parts of their lives can feel like pure isolation.
It can be tough to focus on our own accomplishments (and even the small stuff) when we constantly have this seemingly unattainable bliss thrown at us. When we spend all our time wishing we were in a different situation, it seems impossible to be happy with what we have. Sometimes you just need to step back from following others' lives on social media to focus on living a life of your own.
[Photo by Julie Bloom.]