Looking back on spring break, students who didn't travel for trips home, adventures with friends or solo excursions said they felt a disconnect as social media posts from their peers' break activities began to appear.
“There’s a stigma about spring break,” said Alexys Smith, a sophomore communication major. “I had some friends that weren’t going to do anything and they were like freaking out. Like, ‘But I have to do something. Its spring break; I have to do something.’ I didn’t realize there was such a stereotype about spring break—like you have to do something or you're looked at as a weird kid.”
It's not just spring break that spurs these social comparisons. A study from the Economics and Econometrics Research Institute (EERI) tested the hypothesis that the use of social networking sites (SNS) increases social comparisons and invokes dissatisfaction.
“Online social networks not only offer more frequent opportunities for comparison, but they also offer more opportunities for upward comparisons, i.e. towards those who look better off," the researchers found. "This is due, in particular, to the prevalently positive nature of information that people choose to display on Facebook.”
When spring break arrives at Westminster College, some students find themselves in remote places of the world on beaches, deserts and mountains rather than resting and recuperating.
“I think especially on campus, it’s a big push to go do something outdoors, like go to like national parks and camping and stuff," said Natalie Bina, a 20-year-old neuroscience major. “So people that don’t go and do stuff, it feels like they’re looked down on a little bit.”
Students reported having spring break FOMO, an acronym for the "fear of missing out." FOMO is described as the anxious feeling that can arise when one feels there is something more exciting happening elsewhere and he or she is not there.
"I threw my back out this past week and there have been several events I've seen on social media that other friends went to and I missed out," said Erica Croucher, a photography and art double major. "When I see other people out and about doing lots of
things and then I have something keeping me from enjoying what they're enjoying, there's a little bit of envy."
Croucher said she thinks FOMO is a part of humanity—individuals want to be part of a community and can feel depressed when uninvolved with community events.
"I feel like that’s the big reason I'll post—is to show that I actually am doing something besides just homework or sleeping," Bina said. "I feel like a lot of people are trying to promote themselves too and make themselves look like they have a lot cooler lives than they really do. They post things that probably weren’t as fun as they make it seem."
The EERI researchers referenced a study by JWTIntelligence that found 36 percent of millennials acknowledged they experience FOMO sometimes or often. Additionally, 46 percent of millennials reported that any fear they have of missing out is amplified by their social media use.
Smith said she notices she will get jealous at times when scrolling through her news feed and said she sometimes wishes she was part of what other things people are doing—even if she is doing something active or with friends.