Is the impulse to want to be online persistently an illness?
The discussions and research conducted over years have shown that FOMO is in fact not a mental illness, but rather a compulsive behavior. The actions taken due to this behavior are becoming problematic for many adults and adolescents. Sharon Begley from statnews.com states, “Just as someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) compulsively and repeatedly washes her hands, for instance, to alleviate the anxiety that comes from believing she is covered with germs, so mentally healthy people who behave compulsively are also driven by anxiety. (Checking one’s phone repeatedly is not considered a disorder, however, because the behavior is grounded in reality, not a delusion, and it usually doesn’t get in the way of living a normal life.)” In addition to this, there is a high number of users that do admit they have a problem with this compulsive behavior. According to Kelley Wallace from CNN, 52% of teens & 27% of parents say that they are addicted and spend too much time on their phones. Although phone addiction is not an illness or disease, it is having a considerably negative impact toward users mental health that must be addressed.
How can FOMO affect your mental health?
The fear of missing out may lead to dissatisfaction and anxiety of oneself to social media users. According to Texas A&M university, studies show that FOMO is linked to feeling dissatisfaction and only focusing on the better. Meaning you are losing your true self, to the thought of being as good or better as someone else you see. In fact, social media may lead to anxiety about being better than someone or something you see. Diana Graber, co-founder of Cyberwise.org States, “"It's almost like a little competition for the number of likes," Graber said. "I think that's anxiety-ridden, because you get likes based on how many friends you have, and you have to keep posting things to get more friends and it's like a vicious circle." Altogether, the fear of missing out contributes greatly to the feelings of not being good enough, and always wanting something more, or better. Teens may even loose sleep to these factors due to the anxiety it brings and it's hours of usage brought.
How can FOMO affect sleep?
Recent studies have shown there are many dangers FOMO may pose for the ability to fall asleep, and stay asleep. In fact, a study recently done by tech times on 900 children ages 12-15 revealed that one in five are almost always waking up at night just to check social media. This has decreased their amount of sleep, and has made them three times as likely to be persistently tired while in school, according to Livia Rusu from tech times. Not only is social media decreasing the hours of sleep we get, but also is reducing the quality of our sleep. Melatonin, a sleep hormone in your body is released around 9pm every night. But, the amount of this hormone is diminishing at night while we lie awake on our phones. The backlight on your phone tricks the brain into thinking it is still day time which is the cause of the decrease in melatonin levels at night, according to psychologist Bradley Busch, in an article by the guardian. It may seem as if our cellular devices are harmless tools to use at anytime of the day, little do we know there are underlying effects that are important to consider for our health. These effects are also harming one of the most important part of our bodies, the brain.
Is social media affecting our brain?
Social media is in fact impacting the way our brains’ react to different occurrences. One of the parts of our brain that is specifically being impacted is the plasticity; the way the brain changes or grows due to different experiences. According to Susie East from CNN, “For example, one study showed that the white matter in an adults' brains changed as they learned how to juggle over a period of several months. ‘They found that if you scan [the brains of] adults before they learn how to juggle, and then three months later, you can see changes in the brain structure,’ says Dumontheil. Time spent on social media could, therefore, also cause the brain to change and grow. ‘We might be a bit less good at reading subtle expressions on faces that are moving, but we might be much quicker at monitoring what's going on in a whole group of our friends,’" says Dumontheil. Furthermore, not only are internet users’ brains adapting to understanding happenings online rather than face-to-face interactions, but also may be morphing having the brain of an addict. Jacqueline Howard- Senior science editor from the Huffington post states, “MRI research has shown that the brains of Internet users who have trouble controlling their craving to be constantly plugged-in exhibit changes similar to those seen in people addicted to drugs and alcohol. A 2011 study showed that unplugging from technology for one day gave some users physical and mental withdrawal symptoms, The Telegraph reported.” Though these effects are not visual, social media is having a huge impact on the makeup of our brains’ and the way we go about things. This may lead to the drastic shift of our society’s interactions and mental health with addiction.
Is social media having an affect on our social skills?
Social media is indeed impacting our ability to communicate with others face to face. A recent study conducted by New York Behavioral Health used a group of kids at a camp with no access to any devices, and a group which of whom stayed at home with total access to technology. After 5 days the results showed that children in the camp improved much more in reading facial emotions, while the group who stayed at home stayed exactly the same. These results revealed that technology, even though it is used for being socially active with others, may reduce the ability to understand non verbal cues presented by human emotions. In addition, not only is social media decreasing our ability to pick up on nonverbal communication, but is decreasing the time even being spent speaking to others. According to Commonsensemedia.org, “ A third of teens (34 percent) agree either strongly or somewhat that using social media takes away from time they could be spending with people face-to-face, and 44 percent agree at least “somewhat” that using social media often distracts them from the people they’re with when they get together in person.” Though social media is meant to connect society, it is actually pulling us apart, resulting in society’s decrease in social abilities.