The teenage brain works differently to adults. Studies have shown that being ostracised from the group will impact on them more. This higher value of peer acceptance has been found to impact their decision making, ability to control their impulses and their mood.
It is therefore no surprise that many teenagers have a fear of missing out (FOMO). If FOMO is a term unfamiliar to you, it is nicely described here by Urban Dictionary. For an extreme version, this funny video below gives a good example of FOMO:
FOMO has some interesting consequences. Trying to do too much at once can result in people doing very little of anything (see our blog on procrastination for more information). It can also increase stress and anxiety. At a time when teenagers are facing life altering decisions and exams (GCSEs and A-levels), FOMO can be a serious issue.
Many students we speak to during our workshops sadly believe that this diagram is true:
So how can we help students deal with FOMO? We think the following tips offer a good starting point:
Accept that you can’t do it all – you can’t be in two places at once. Economists use the phrase ‘Opportunity Cost’. For each decision you make, it means there is something else that you can not do. Helping teenagers understand this will help them.
Asking WIN questions (Whats Important Now?) is a good way to help people prioritise. If you can’t do everything all at once, it’s good to start on the things that are most important to you.
Be where your feet are – focus on the present moment. This is a challenge for a generation where mobile phones (and therefore instant messaging) has always been part of their lives. Research suggests that being on your phone too much can negatively impact on your sleep, mood and memory.
not just what you can write about online. People often give an overly positive and unrealistic representation of their lives online. Don’t try and compete with these shadows – it’s impossible to catch them.
If you are experiencing an event and already planning on how to work it in to your Facebook status than there is a chance you are missing out on the moment. Taking yourself offline every now and again is probably quite a healthy strategy, especially as FOMO is linked to the amount of time spent on social media.
Do one thing at a time – it’s hard to multi-task, so fully focus on one thing. Multi-tasking is a bit of myth. Instead, people often switch between tasks. This can take up time and energy. If accuracy is important (say during revision), better to fully focus on one thing, finish it and then do another.
Enjoy the journey – embrace the process, as well as the outcome. Outcomes can sometimes be anti-climatic. However, working hard and dedicating yourself to your goals rarely is.
Life is short and time is precious. If you only focus on the end product and not the process that got you there, you may miss opportunities to learn, improve and enjoy yourself.