It is worth noting that being on Facebook, Instagram and the like constantly has the potential to create mental illness.
The Fear of Missing Out or FOMO that these social media websites create means many of us are actually and literally addicted to them. And of course that is what they want… eyeballs on ads and billions of us constantly tuning in to see what we’ve missed or be seen to be on. And the more I think about it, the more ridiculous it becomes.
For many of our young ones, who are hooked on social media sites, FOMO is an addiction. Just like someone hooked on nicotine, who cannot go an hour without a cigarette or a vape or an alcoholic who needs a vodka every hour, so too we are creating a nation full of Facebook or Instagram junkies. How many times do people you know change their profile picture? I see Gen Z-ers change it frequently with that pout and an out with my “besties” post. It’s all designed to show the world that their lives are great and filled with notable events and experiences that we should all be envious of.
Now multiply that by millions and you start to see how addictive these platforms are. The thirst for “likes” and supportive comments drives many of us to stay tuned and keep updating our streams. But, where does this lead?
Only last week, the ex-president of Facebook and Silicon Valley bad boy, Sean Parker, stated that Facebook “literally changes your relationship with society” and “probably interferes with productivity in the weirdest ways”. The killer line for me, which reinforces what I am suggesting in creating a world of social content junkies with FOMO is “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains”.
Facebook’s main goal is to get and keep people’s attention, Parker said. This is actually frightening and supports my theory on what effects the likes of Facebook will have on many over the next decade in terms of their addiction to it and mental health. But, it gets a lot worse according to Parker. “The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them… was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’” Oh dear, the FOMO is only going to get a lot worse if that is the mantra.
You see, as human beings with lots of chemicals flowing through our brains, we are sensitive to how these chemicals or neurotransmitters ebb and flow. Whether it be dopamine or serotonin, we produce these at our synapses and they affect mood and human behaviour. Social platform creators and managers know this. Indeed Parker commented that attention was ruled by “ a little dopamine hit every once in a while”, in the form of a like or a comment, which would generate more content. This is called a social validation feedback loop and it can become addictive. Scary if you are already addicted or see that your children are indeed developing this addiction. So, is there an antidote?
Yes! Instead of the FOMO, we flip it on its head and create JOMO or the Joy of Missing Out. I check my Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts several times a the day. But, if I can flip my thinking and simply do away with each of them, then FOMO can be transformed into JOMO. Not having to worry about what’s happening on my Facebook stream takes the chore away from my brain and reduces my chances of addiction or short-term worry about not checking it or posting. Even as I write this I can feel the joy of not bothering rising to the surface. But, I wonder can it be done? Can I go cold turkey and simply switch them off by deleting the accounts? Is the nirvana of JOMO enough to trump FOMO?
Well, let me do a bit more research and I’ll get back to you. Maybe that will give you time to analyse your own behaviours and that of your kids and assess what damage is being done.
Jim Duffy is co-founder of Moonshot Academy and author of Create Special