Teen ‘like’ and ‘FOMO’ anxiety
By Simon |
(CNN)Ask any teen whether he or she suffers from social media anxiety, and the answer will probably be no.
That’s what happened when six teens and adolescents — five from New York and one from Los Angeles — got together for a unique weeklong workshop at the offices of SheKnows.com, a leading women’s lifestyle media platform.
The teens didn’t think that Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, their go-to social networks, added much extra anxiety to their lives. But then the conversation turned to the importance of likes and the fear of missing out, also known by the acronym FOMO.
Sadie, a 10th-grader in Brooklyn, New York, said she’d never heard the acronym before but is definitely familiar with the feeling.
“You see on, I guess you could say, Facebook or even Snapchat … you see your friends hanging out with other people, and you’re like ‘Oh, I’m alone right now,’ ” she said. “And even if there’s no way you could get to them even if you wanted to, it still just makes you feel bad or lonely or sad.”
Olivia, 12, said she sometimes feels that way, too. “If there’s an event that maybe I’m not at or my friends are hanging out with each other … sometimes I kind of feel, I guess, kind of left out.”
The quest for the ‘100 club’
The teens and tweens also agreed there is a constant — and at times anxiety-inducing — fixation with likes.
“People will be like, ‘Oh, are you in the 100 club?’ ” Sadie said of getting 100 or more likes for a post.
The 15-year-old told the story of a friend who changed her profile picture and didn’t get the 200 likes she normally gets on the first night whenever she makes such a change.
“She was freaking out,” she said.
The more likes, the greater the social standing you appear to have, the girls said.
“People feel that when they get a lot of likes. It means that they’re pretty and popular, and that makes them feel better,” Sadie said.
Said Olivia, “I really do notice that a lot of people who get tons of likes and have tons of followers on Instagram and Facebook do tend to think that they are really popular and that everyone knows who they are, when … all their followers haven’t even met them before.”
Reese, an 11th-grader in Los Angeles who participated in the Hatch pilot program, said she didn’t really give much thought to the notion that digital media can impact people emotionally until there was a discussion about its psychological effect.
“And I found out that I am kind of neurotic about some things,” she said. “For example, when I text someone and I think that I might have made them upset because they didn’t reply right away, I automatically assume that they got mad at me.”
To prevent that from happening, she admits closing nearly all texts with a smiley, exclamation point or LOL.
Sadie, who also participated in the Hatch pilot, says she now looks at Snapchat and Facebook a bit differently.
“I know (they) can also have a negative psychological effect that I feel like didn’t occur to me as much,” she said.
Starting conversations early
The takeaway from the workshop, said Skey, was that there is a “huge opportunity” to talk with teens about social media. “A lot of them say that educators are not talking to them about media and social media unless they’re telling them not to do something.”
Talking about social media early and often is key, says Graber, who did a demonstration this month for principals and other educators from across the state of California on how she teaches digital literacy and citizenship to teens.
“I always say to parents: It’s not one conversation. It’s a thousand small conversations, and it is really starting young,” she said. Take an interest in what your children are doing online and have them show you why they like it, she said.
“And then you are in the circle,” she added. “It’s pretty easy to get there but you have to start when they are young.”
Graber, who starts teaching students in the sixth grade, said it often takes her students until the eighth grade to figure out all the social media angst “ain’t worth it.”
“It’s a huge trajectory to get there … when they start saying, ‘Gosh, that’s a waste of my time.’ ”
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