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on Leading the Next Generation


What to Do When Facebook Fosters FOMO

A few months ago, I blogged about research that revealed how Facebook caused depression in users. Those who logged on often felt good about themselves as they entered the site, but became jealous of all the great vacation pics, hookups and new jobs friends were experiencing. It’s enough to make you want to log off.


The University of Michigan just released a report on their own study. They showed that Facebook, while it has many positive qualities, can reduce young adults’ sense of well-being (self-esteem) and satisfaction with life. The more they browsed, the worse they felt. More time on-line just makes it worse.

In case you didn’t know, Facebook has over a billion users and half of them log on daily. (If it were a country, FB would be the third largest country in the world). On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for the basic human need of social connection. Sadly, it may undermine it as well. Researchers say it absolutely sparks FOMO: “Fear Of Missing Out.”

FOMO is one of the most significant emotions kids feel today. Consider their world. They’re growing up in a time when they can see or know everything about what’s happening to anyone else they choose, in real time. What’s more, FB members usually post the best photos from their vacation, their date, or their game. Of course they may feel jealous, inferior, anxious, depressed and fearful of missing out.

Five Suggestions for Students:

  1. Don’t get on FB when you’re lonely. It’s like going grocery shopping when you’re hungry. It’s just not smart. On-line connections distort things.
  2. Seek direct, personal connections. The research showed that people did not feel worse about themselves (no effect) when they directly met people.
  3. Never allow on-line connections to replace real ones with people. I believe Facebook has its place, but is no substitute for face-to-face friendships.
  4. Use solitude for other things. Often people can enjoy isolation or solitude for reading, exercising, journaling, planning, etc.) Capitalize on what you can.
  5. Remember it’s all about perception. A number of recent studies indicate that people’s perceptions of social isolation (i.e. how lonely they feel) are a more powerful determinant of well-being than objective social isolation.”

One psychologist said, “As a society as a whole we haven’t really learned the rules that make us work well with Facebook,” adding some people became unable to control their experience with it.

Let me know your thoughts. How would you respond to this research?



  1. Chris on August 26, 2013 at 8:42 am

    Love this! As a youth pastor, I am seeing this…and not just in students but adults as well! Thanks so much for doing this, I will be sharing and using this with my students!

    • Tim Elmore on August 26, 2013 at 1:37 pm

      That is great, Chris. Thank you so much for leading this next generation and helping them become leaders as well.

  2. Savannah Sparrow on August 26, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    I have noticed this in myself, as an adult. Not only FOMO, but I feel let down if my posts don’t get a lot of likes or comments. I also compare myself with how many likes other people get on their posts.

    • Tim Elmore on August 26, 2013 at 1:41 pm

      Savannah, thanks so much for sharing. I think not only Generation iY can be affected by this, but adults can be affected also. With technology today, it is easier to compare ourselves to others. Many of the suggestions above are applicable to adults.

  3. David Lawrence on April 15, 2014 at 11:03 pm

    Yes!! I’m glad someone is finally saying it! Thanks Tim! For young leaders who have Type A personalities or even have a high driven personality (yes, i’m talking about myself…lol) already struggle with comparison and can easily move over into an unhealthy competition even without social media. Then, you add social media to everything… I have found to be a very healthy practice to take multiple breaks from social media throughout the year, sometimes a week or more at a time. When you start letting Facebook or any other social media medium shape your self-worth, instead of Christ… it becomes a very lonely and depressing path. Let God’s newsfeed ( aka “the Bible”) trump your Facebook newsfeed and you’ll live happier! 🙂

  4. Sophia on April 16, 2014 at 2:12 am

    Facebook is often a breeding ground for narcissism, I’m afraid…. Have become more and more critical of it and am considering leaving (if it wasn’t for the fact that I receive much great information from organizations,l foundations etc…

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What to Do When Facebook Fosters FOMO