FOMO is characterized by a desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing and is more common among the younger generation.
By Mohammad Tawheed
DECONSTRUCTING a prevalent habit of Kashmiris—perhaps, for the first time—experts have concluded that the valley’s excessive news consumption is majorly fuelled by the fear of missing out or FOMO.
“This [FOMO] is more common among the younger generation,” Dr. Syed Karrar, a psychiatrist at IMHANS, Srinagar, told Kashmir Observer.
“They refresh their social media feeds nonstop to keep their minds occupied with updates on almost everything.”
Attributed to a number of negative psychological and behavioural symptoms, FOMO is the feeling of apprehension that one is either not in the know or missing out on information, events, experiences.
It’s characterized by a desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing.
“It [FOMO] has increased in recent times due to advancements in technology,” continued Dr. Karrar. “In fact, psychological dependence on social media can lead to FOMO which in turn can affect normal life and activities.”
The habit of consuming news, he said, has seen a rise in the valley with the onset of high-speed internet and social media feeds.
But there’s a downside to this behaviour, the psychiatrist warned, “as most of the times we consume news that creates the feelings of sadness, fear and anxiety in us. We unnecessarily get hooked to events which are not related to us.”
However, the impulse to consume “negative” news can be difficult to resist, he said. “Humans are evolutionarily wired to look out for the danger and thus when we’re constantly aware of the dangers and negative happenings around us, we feel prepared.”
But at the same time, said Wasim Kakroo, the unregulated consumption of “negative” news makes the precarious mental health situation in Kashmir even worse.
Kashmir is already grappling with myriad mental health issues. A 2015 MSF study found that 45% of Kashmir’s adult population was suffering from some form of mental distress.
According to the study, there’s a high prevalence of depression (41%), post-traumatic stress disorder (19%) and anxiety (26%) in the valley.
“People who’re prone to develop anxiety or those already suffering from depression or generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) tend to consume news more excessively because their anxiety wants them to be sure about their security and health,” said Kakroo, the founder and Consultant Clinical Psychologist at Centre for Mental Health Services, Rambagh Srinagar.
“These people are especially addicted to the negative or bad news which in turn exacerbates their underlying mental health condition.”
The level of anxiety in a person, he said, is directly proportional to the type and amount of news that person consumes.
“People often passively consume whatever has come up on the screen without gauging its ill-effects,” Kakroo said.
“There’s a general lack of awareness about mental health issues in Kashmiri society. Most of the clients who visit our centre usually have severe anxiety disorders which cannot be only treated by psychotherapies but require medications as well. And there’re still many people who give pseudo-cultural or pseudo-religious explanations for anxiety-related disorders and as a result such disorders remain unattended.”
Kashmir’s FOMO obsession makes a normal and mentally-fit person a news addict who tends to develop certain characteristics of anxiety disorders, said Nadia Ishfaq Nahvi, a clinical psychologist working at Kashmir Lifeline and Health Centre in Srinagar.
“To deal with such disorders, the person requires an immediate consultation with a clinical psychologist,” Nahvi said. “If ignored, those distressed signs may develop into a neurotic or even a psychotic disorder.”
But since one cannot do away with internet or digital gadgets, Dr. Karrar said, there’s a need for adopting a balanced approach.
“People should be local in their consumption of the news,” he said. “There’s absolutely no need to know everything. There’s a need to go primal and as most of the things in news are unrelated and hyped, people should only focus on things important for them.”
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