How to stop social media FOMO from ruining your budget

By: Octavia Ramirez on October 12, 2017
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Social media, in all its constantly evolving forms, is an incredible tool that’s changed the way we live our lives, connect with people, and conduct business. But it’s not without its vices. The “fear of missing out”, commonly known as FOMO, is one of the many negative psychological effects often associated with social media, which in its ugliest form, can do a number on your bank account.

Here’s a look at the financial implications of social media-induced FOMO, and some boundaries you can establish to avoid it from burning a hole in your wallet.

The problem: Social media is a highlight reel

A study out of the University of Missouri found that Facebook use can lead to symptoms of depression if the site triggers feelings of envy, or FOMO, among its users. In order to tackle this serious, negative psychological effect, it’s critical to understand that most people use social media as proverbial highlight reels.

Research suggests that the majority of social media users tend to edit and post only their most attractive pictures in an effort to idealize themselves. Most people deliberately don’t post anything negative about their life.

With the average Canadian Millennial spending nearly 34 hours online, the allure of all the shiny new product launches, drone travel footage, and the endless assortment of pricey, avocado-laden brunches is sure to create FOMO in the even most strong-willed among us.

But remember, what you’re seeing online is only a tiny sliver of someone’s actual life.

The solution: Establish social media boundaries

Protecting your psychological well-being online begins with establishing healthy boundaries and habits, especially as they relate to social media. Here are a few tips that will help reduce the negative feelings associated with FOMO.

Disconnect from social media - Turn off your cell phone, mobile devices, and even your computer for blocks of time during the day. For most people, this will likely be in the evenings. The less you see, the less FOMO you’ll feel. Ignorance is bliss, after all.

Avoid following bloggers - Social media influencers, or brands, are constantly promoting products, vacations and events that can tempt you to purchase things you can’t afford or don’t need. Instead, only follow close friends and family with whom you have an actual, “real life” relationship; use social media as a tool to stay connected with those people, and not people promoting a staged, sponsored lifestyle.

Change your posting habits - Are you yourself posting about expensive purchases, elaborate events, or luxury vacations? Be mindful of the type of content you’re posting, as it might lead you down the path of competing with, or feeling like you have to “one up” your peers. That can add up real quick.

Also establish financial boundaries

Maintaining the perception of an “Insta-worthy”, expensive lifestyle is clearly not financially sustainable. Here are some practical ways to set financial boundaries in order to avoiding overspending or going into debt as a result of FOMO.

  • Pay with cash - According to research from University of Toronto professor Avni Shah, you feel psychological “pain” when you pay with cash, as opposed to when you use plastic debit or credit cards. In fact, additional studies find that people spend approximately 12-18% more when they use credit cards as opposed to cold, hard cash. With cash being the most “transparent” form of money, having to physically part with your hard-earned cash will make you think twice before you buy that latest iPhone.
  • Set clear financial goals - By establishing short and long-term financial goals, you’re prioritizing your money for what’s most important to YOU, not what social media trends dictate. Love traveling? Set aside a fixed amount of savings with every paycheque to go towards a great trip. Want to retire a millionaire? Determine an investment strategy that will get you there. Goals with distinct timelines, whether weekly, monthly, or even annually, will establish guardrails for your money, give you something to work towards, and something to look forward to.
  • Get creative! - Find alternative, inexpensive ways to do what your social media friends are doing. Want avocado toast? Home-made’s better! Friends constantly going to the movies? Get cozy at home with Netflix and your favourite snacks. You can have just as much fun for a fraction of the cost if you think outside the box and get creative with what you already have.

As social media increasingly evades our lives, it’s critical to create and maintain boundaries to ensure a mentally and financially healthy perspective. Don’t let FOMO damage your self-worth, or your net worth.