Erick Rommel

People are bizarre creatures. We live solitary lives but crave socialization. We believe we are unique, yet desire universal approval. We value independence, yet want to be part of a group. With all of that disparity, it’s no wonder we often think we’re crazy.

Some of us do well dealing with these extremes. We balance our desire to be unique and independent with our need for acceptance and socialization. Others become trapped trying to reach the impossible goal of having it all. Some want to be self-sufficient, but most feel an obligation to be the life of the party every minute of every day.

For some reason, the number of people who feel at home in and out of their skin appears to be on the decline. Someone even created an acronym to define this fear. They call it “FOMO,” and it stands for “fear of missing out.”

In a way, it’s understandable. In the life of today’s teenagers, the world has significantly shifted. Because the shift was so extreme and rapid, parents are often ill-equipped to guide their children, despite their best efforts.

When today’s older teens were born, there were no smartphones and few cellphones. When a teen (or an adult for that matter) went out, they were out of contact. Today, it’s different. Two people can continually text or FaceTime from almost any two spots on the planet.

That makes it very hard to get away. There is much available to help us vicariously experience someone else’s life. No wonder some people feel they should do more.

Take a moment and look at your Facebook or Twitter account. Look at what the people you follow are doing. I bet a lot of them are doing things you wish you could do. I bet you wish you could change places with some of them right now.

I’ll let you in on a little secret that we all know, but never discuss. That old phrase about the grass being greener holds true. All of those people you follow who are doing exciting things also are looking at Facebook and Twitter and wishing they could insert themselves into other people’s lives. Sometimes, that life may even be yours.

When you look at other people’s activities, it’s easy to merge each event together. You may see that one friend went to an amusement park, another went to a museum and another went to the beach. You may imagine yourself doing all three. But it’s not possible. And, if you try, you’ll always be disappointed in what little you achieve.

Finding balance between those extremes I mentioned earlier is one way to find greater happiness and peace. We all want to socialize. We all want approval. We all want to be part of a group. But we also need time alone. We need time to experience the joys we uniquely enjoy. We need time to travel our own path, regardless of the herd’s direction. We need time to be ourselves, no matter how we define it.

The first step is to stop thinking of social media as a collection of many activities done by one person. Facebook and Twitter aren’t doing anything. Your friends are doing those things.

If you like your friends’ activities, make them your inspiration. You can’t do them all. However, with planning, you can do more than you imagine.