We live in an incredibly connected world. At any given moment we can check our Twitter, or Facebook, or Instagram to see what celebrities, brands, and friends are doing. We are constantly checking and re-checking streams, trends, updates, and posts to make sure that we’re not missing out on something better than what we’re doing. This gnawing sense of anxiety and self-doubt that is perpetrated by new technology is a phenomenon called Fear Of Missing Out or FOMO.
Interning Abroad and FOMO:
One of the biggest fears that students and young professionals have about going abroad is missing their life back at home. Feelings of homesickness and culture shock can affect new and experienced travelers in different ways and the use of social media is a double-edged sword in the international education sector.
On one side, it is a great way to for students to connect and share about their experiences abroad with their friends and family. For example, at Global Experiences we use social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to connect interns with each other prior to their internship abroad. We also find it to be helpful as another way for our participants to contact us, or for our team to share information and reminders about events and news within their host city.
On the other side, when students continually see the images and posts of their friends and family back home it can increase the feelings of anxiety and worsen the affects of culture shock, such as negatively comparing a student’s home country to their host country. Students may become less social and incapable of fully appreciating the new and cultural experiences happening around them.
How to Avoid FOMO:
The question is: how can international education providers communicate with students and engage with them on a social level without causing FOMO? Unfortunately, there isn’t a cure-all to avoiding FOMO because each individual is different, however, there are simple things we can do to avoid that nerve-wracking feeling of being left out.
1. FOMO is Usually Fake
Remind students (and yourself) that those images and posts that are causing anxiety are just the things that your friends want you to see. Of course they posted the pictures from a party, but you’re not seeing images of your friends sitting in class or watching TV. Those moments, be it they were created by a friend, a company, or marketing expert, are artificial and fleeting. You are living abroad - if anything they are missing out on not being abroad. What you are doing is incredible and an experience of a lifetime!
2. Create Your own Experiences
Just as our students and participants are comparing their lives to what they’re seeing online, their friends are doing the same thing at home.. Tell your students that if they’re jealous of missing out on a graduation party, can you imagine how jealous they will be of your pictures next to the Coliseum? Sometimes we can forget how amazing travel can be.
3. Focus on Your own Adventures
The best way to avoid feeling left out: Disconnect. Sometimes we all need a reminder to disconnect from technology every now and then. As a society, we feel a need to be connected all the time, but taking a break from the constant stream of information is definitely worthwhile. Remind your students (and staff, and yourself) to appreciate the now and try not to worry about what anyone else is doing because today can be pretty great.