Trend Alert: The Return of FOMO

Trend Alert introduces you to the latest trends that are impacting the daily lives of 16-24s.

This summer has marked the return of social events for young people, as restrictions are loosened and vaccinations become available to adults of all ages. However, parties, meals out, holidays, and live events aren’t the only things returning… the fear of missing out has also made a resurgence. A recent New York Magazine cover story declared “the return of FOMO,” which led social analytics company Pulsar to investigate the theory. Indeed, they found a dramatic increase in mentions of the acronym over the past few weeks.

The mental health impact of the pandemic on Gen Z is clear: 84% of 16-24s in the UK and 74% in the US told us they’d struggled with feelings of stress, anxiety or depression during this time. However, as we transition into the post-pandemic era, the re-emergence of the term “FOMO” is a sign that it won’t be an immediate fix, and young people will continue to need support as they adjust to yet another “new normal” and come to terms with what, for many, has been a deeply traumatic experience.

Although the pandemic brought on mental health struggles for many people, some who suffered with social anxiety pre-COVID found that the removal of the pressure that they associated with social situations actually improved their wellbeing. People who experienced that relief are now likely to be feeling more stress about the prospect of being in large groups again, and worrying about the lows they will feel if they decline to take part in social events, or aren’t invited in the first place.

In our latest Youth Trends survey, we learned that 38% of US 16-24s define themselves as introverts (compared to 20% as extroverts and 42% ambiverts) and 81% would describe their generation as “anxious” – in fact this was the second most popular descriptor, only after “creative.” With this in mind, and knowing that many young people have had little contact with people outside their family in over a year, it’s important to offer them support as they approach events such as the return to in-person teaching, meeting classmates for the first time outside of Zoom, and the parties that come hand-in-hand with the summer break and start of a new academic year.

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