The fear of missing out — or FOMO — caused by social media use is leading to depression and anxiety, according to a new report.
The fifth annual National Stress and Wellbeing in Australia Survey, conducted by the Australian Psychology Society, has found that Australians are in a worse state than we were when the survey began, with increased levels of stress, depression and anxiety.
It appears that social media is at least partly to blame for this, with one in two teenagers feeling that they are “missing out” on the seemingly perfect lives their peers appear to be living through social media.
Teens also believe they are having less “rewarding” experiences than their friends, according to the survey results. They worry that their friends are having fun without them and feel anxious if they don’t know what their friends are doing.
This was the first year the study explored the impact of social media on stress and wellbeing.
Unsurprisingly, the survey found that social media dominated the lives of teenagers, with 53 per cent of Australian teens reporting that they use social networking sites for at least 15 minutes before bed every night.
The FOMO phenomenon isn’t restricted to teenagers, though, as adults also expressed a strong fear of missing out. The survey found that those aged 18-35 reported the highest feelings of being left out amongst all adults.
“FOMO is a real thing,” Flinders University senior social work lecturer Dr Mubarak Rahamathulla told the ABC. “My research and research all over the world is repeatedly indicating that it is a fact.
“There is a very strong positive correlation between the hours spent on digital technology and higher stress and depression.”
Psychologist Adam Ferrier told the ABC that social media “makes it harder for people to feel happy and have gratitude for their own lives and that’s quite a debilitating and serious thing.
“We’ve got an omnipresent force here that’s making people feel less satisfied and less happy with their own lives.”
Just last week, Queensland model Essena O’Neill made headlines by changing her Instagram account name to ‘Social Media Is Not Real Life’ and writing about the insincerity of the highly edited images presented by people who use these platforms.
“Social media, especially how I used it, isn’t real,” the Coolum woman wrote. “It’s contrived images and edited clips ranked against each other. It’s a system based on social approval, likes, validation in views, success in followers. It’s perfectly orchestrated self-absorbed judgement.”
If social media is getting you down and you need to talk, you can call the beyondblue Support Service 24/7 on 1300 224 636. You can also visit beyondblue.org.au to chat online (3PM-midnight AEST) or via email.