In today’s digital age we often take a look at our Facebook feed and instantly close it with a burning sensation of envy when we see our friends or family’s picture-perfect lives. Social media is a deceiving platform, and makes us expats often wonder if it is, in fact, true that the grass is greener on the other side. Many expats have a thing called ‘fear of missing out’ or FOMO. This feeling comes and goes, as we all wish we could be home to witness every important event that our loved ones are enjoying back home.
For the past seven months, I have found myself constantly scrolling through all of my social media feeds trying to keep up with what’s happening back home. Weddings, parties, graduations, get togethers, even the birth of my niece and the launch of my friend’s own theatre play have gone by while I was having my own adventures abroad.
Knowing that I was missing out on so many things prompts me to ask the same question over and over: why did I move? Especially during the holiday season, when the sole purpose is to spend family time bonding and creating great memories, I question my brave and bold decision of moving abroad and leaving everything behind.
From fomo to anxiety
Think about it; everything positive in our lives is published out there on our social media for everyone to see. Seldom will people post about their difficulties, struggles or failures. Just like you are posting photos of your family’s life abroad, your friends and family back home are also moving on with their lives.
We already know that social media has a negative impact on relationships, productivity and self-perception. The mixture of these powerful networking tools and the fear of missing out, however, can also take a toll on our mental health. We’ve constantly repeated that expats are more vulnerable to mental health disorders – the lack of a friendly support system being the main cause. Now fomo can also cause a decline in our mood leaving us never feeling satisfied about our life.
What starts off as the pure fear of missing out on important events turns into an excessive amount of worrying, an anxiety disorder that will not allow you to appreciate your own life and opportunities.
While perhaps quitting social media might be drastic – after all, that’s the easiest way for expats to keep in touch with everyone back home – taking a social media detox could be a way to battle fomo. There is nothing wrong with being homesick or wishing you had been at your friend’s wedding or your cousin’s graduation; however, letting it turn into an obsessive, chronic disorder is. Especially when you have your whole family with you abroad and your problem can become their burden too.
Be intelligent when it comes to the way you use and see social media. The grass will be greener where you water it, and that should be where you are living with your family. Cleanse yourself from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and urge your children to do the same, as well. Most importantly, remember that what appears to be true on social media is, more often than not, a hyperrealistic truth of your friends’ and family’s lives.
Don’t forget that everyone back home probably envies and admires you. They wish they had the guts to leave everything behind and start over somewhere else, they wish they could give their children the same international and global skills you are raising yours with, and they certainly wish they could travel the way you do. A little amount of fomo is normal; don’t let it dictate your life abroad.
[Image: Official GDC]