Do you have disturbed sleep patterns, fatigue or inexplicable stress? It is only human to feel anyone of two or three of these at some point of life. Social acceptance and the assurance of being loved and wanted is what makes us human but when it dominates all other thoughts and needs, it becomes a matter of concern.
I have come to realize that with the insurgence of social media, this need is being translated into an obsession. This is the OCD of this era and if not addressed on time, it can take a toll on your health, wealth, relationships, focus and of course mental peace.
Now the million-dollar question is how to keep away this bug which seduces to satiate our dopamine cravings in the form of ‘likes’ and comments on our posts. Don’t we need to understand this pseudo-popularity can have horrifying repercussions?
First, let’s address the real culprit responsible for this devil called FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). In my opinion, it is indisputably the social media, especially Facebook and Instagram. We accredit it for being free but it costs us our time, peace of mind and of course relationships.
Remember, everyone posts their “highlight reels”- the best moments of their lives, their vacations, parties and the pictures in which they look perfect and it doesn’t take any expert to know that their perfect looks are a result of ‘editing, filters and photoshop’. But we immediately feel deprived, unhappy and ugly! Unconsciously we compare our plain lives to their glossy ones. I have firsthand experience of this one couple traveling with us. We were in the most beautiful, romantic island. This couple would hardly ever look at each other, communicate or get even a wee bit romantic but their pictures on social media could turn the country green with envy. I swear by the mystic blue sea surrounding us, they smiled, looked at each other and held each other only for the pictures! The sinners did give sleepless nights to many an innocent soul who saw, liked and commented on their posts.
If someone posts a picture of a party, you start to feel lonely, left out, not loved and either get depressed or desperate to find means to climb the social ladder. You want to be in the party not because it shall give you happiness but to arouse envy or awe.
These are micro moments which can have macro implications. In the long run this can result in full blown mental issues. Social media has admitted way too much access into people’s lives hence creating comparative restlessness. Pictures are no longer clicked to create memories or for the albums but to put on display for people who really don’t care.
I long for the days when we would write and receive letters, treasure them and read them over and over again. The sepia tinted pictures and the dog-eared letters are invaluable. As we turn the pages of our old albums, we are overwhelmed with emotions and we relive every moment of days bygone. A hand written letter is a piece of yourself and it carries the fragrance of your soul.
Once a friend who has the most amazing sense of humor said he would personally thank the creators of these apps for two reasons. One being that even if it was for putting it up on the social media, his wife had started to cook fancy food and had started to plate them exotically for the admiring comments she receives. Second, he said when he saw posts of other people’s children partying and drinking all night and dressing in quaint clothes, he felt good about his own offsprings.! This of course is just in jest!
During the lockdown, we witnessed posts of people clicking and posting pictures of distributing food and other amenities to the less fortunate. If a few likes could inspire philanthropy, it’s great! I know of this gentleman who was so paranoid during the first wave that his wife had complained he hadn’t removed his mask even to kiss and here he was un-masked, distributing fruits while taking pictures to post on Facebook. This is obsessive insanity!
Another problem is that if someone misses to ‘like’ or ‘comment’ on your post, you immediately decide that person is jealous of you or doesn’t love you. We determine the love, admiration, appreciation the world has for us based on these. Research and survey claim that the rising number of people with mental stress and anxiety and even random cases of suicides are a result of this. If we do not take a wakeup call now, way too many could be sucked into this swamp called FOMO.
Let me share a few tips on how to keep this monster at bay:
• Limit your social media intake! Just unplug! Begin with making a digital diet plan, wherein you spend say only 20 minutes twice a day on Facebook and Insta, 15 minutes twice a day on checking important messages or mails, and a fixed time to watch YouTube. It worked for me. In my 15-day sabbatical, I have had more time and less distractions resulting in a more organized home, better food and a happier husband!
• Enjoy the event you are invited for wholeheartedly instead of brooding over the one you are not!
• Value the people in your life. More than often, we come across people who take the people in their lives for granted and are desperate to become a part of “another group”. Not only do they lose out on real friends but end up making fools of themselves.
• Start enjoying your own company! When you start meeting yourself more often, you will realize how foolish you have been neglecting the most special person in your life – Yourself!
• In the desperation to be accepted, we unconsciously ape others in the way they talk, walk, dress, eat. Losing exclusivity for inclusiveness is a huge price to pay.
• Last but not the least, if it’s taking a toll on you, see a therapist. Envy, regret, losing self-esteem, jealousy are all natural, but not when it overtakes everything else. Get help if you need it, nothing to be ashamed about.