Let’s Introduce FOMO

You can barely open your eyes, yet immediately you reach for your smartphone and start surfing the gigantic world of the internet to figure out what happened while you were ‘gone’. Your country has a new government? There has been massive flooding? Scientists have discovered a further impact that dairy products have on your health? Or, perhaps none of this has happened at all? Was it just your fear? Seemingly it was your Fear of Missing out (FOMO).

What Is FOMO and How Does It Affect Us? Experts Opinion

FOMO is described as the continuous feeling that others might be having meaningful and rewarding experiences from which one is absent. This is manifested by an excessive desire to stay connected in real time to what others are doing.

It is noteworthy that this social anxiety can affect to some extent each of us emotionally, financially, and in some evidently more extreme cases. It can even cause a bad lifestyle such as:

  • lack of sleep,
  • lack of social activity,
  • and lack of time to oneself.

Usually FOMO is intensified or triggered by seeing events and posts on various social media.

For this article psychologists explain FOMO impact on mental health, as well as experts of marketing field speak from the angle of “How it can certainly impact people’s consumption behaviors”.

Thus, giving a different approach to this matter. While all of us probably have experienced this feeling, it is of a tremendous importance to try understand the ways we can “embrace” it; And not allow it make us feel anger, envy or left out.

Let us continue the journey started with the previous article “From Fear to Joy of Missing Out. Perhaps It’s Time for JOMO”, emphasizing once again the substantial and large significance of this issue on our well-being, contentment and happiness.

For some ‘trends’, FOMO could certainly impact on people’s consumption behaviors

According to Luke Butcher, Associate Lecturer in Marketing, Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia, FOMO is a human trait that all people can or do feel with different intensities at different times.

Luke Butcher / Photo: Curtin University

In his article, published in 2015, he acknowledges that individuals use social media purposefully for reasons such as presenting themselves in ways that increase social capital. And that those who show higher traits of FOMO have an “unsound”/unhealthy relationship with social media.

Definitely tech developers (i.e. Apple, Samsung, etc.) are introducing features in phones particularly that monitor screen time, alert users when they have exceeded maximum time limits etc. that I think will help people better regulate their Social Media use. This will hopefully lead to less-damaging effects of Social Media, and people experiencing more in the ‘real world’.” Butcher explains in his discussion for Youth Time.

Further, he explores for our readers an interesting perspective with regard to how FOMO affects people financially, e.g. by triggering unreasonable spending.

I think it certainly could [affect us financially] at times. Perhaps spending on experiences and services particularly. Whether this is a bad thing is disputable, though. For some ‘trends’, FOMO could certainly have an impact on people’s consumption behaviours – a desire to have what everyone else has and to be a part of the zeitgeist.” he states, while adding that FOMO has always been there.

We are social animals, and no doubt from an evolution perspective there are fitness gains in being a part of the group – food, safety, mating opportunities etc. However, the global connectivity of the internet has no doubt exacerbated it, making it easier to see what others are doing…”

More broadly speaking, Butcher describes the symptoms that people subject to strong FOMO tend to manifest.

“I would imagine anxiety and depression (probably quite mild), maybe damage to one’s self-esteem, insecurity etc. from feeling that they are not experiencing what others are or live an inferior life. Potential dependence / mild addiction issues could present as well. I would imagine in most cases these wouldn’t happen with great severity though. To avoid, I would suggest maintaining healthy relationships offline, pursuing passions etc.”

FOMO is most likely to affect people with a lower sense of self-esteem

“The FOMO Health Factor” is an article published in 2016 by the psychologist Romeo Vitelli, where he points out that the linkage between FOMO and physical symptoms, depression, and mindful attention require further research.

Vitelli claims not to be aware of recent changes that may have occurred during these three full years.

Romeo Vitelli / Photo: From the Archive of Romeo Vitelli

There are always new fads, though they often take the form of older fads or memes.  Advertising campaigns certainly rely on FOMO, and we are seeing more YouTube self-promoters playing on FOMO to make their videos as viral as possible.” he says in an exclusive interview for Youth Time magazine.Furthermore, he is of the opinion that FOMO has always been with us though social media use has allowed far more people to become aware of it.

Online fads or memes can spring up overnight, and new posts can go viral though most subside without any real impact on society as a whole. Advertisers have certainly used FOMO to sell new products for a long time and will likely continue to do so.”

He acknowledges that while FOMO is not necessarily unhealthy so long as it is not taken too far, it is important to recognize the need to step back from these trends and identify what is really important in one’s life.

People experiencing symptoms such as depression or anxiety may need counseling, but this is something that it often part of much broader mental health issues that might be made worse by feelings of FOMO.”

Vitelli directs our attention to a circle of broad consequences that can originally stem from FOMO, stating that as in all things, it is important to find a proper balance in life.

FOMO is more likely to affect people with a lower sense of self-esteem or who feel that they are not doing as well as other people in their lives or who they may identify with in the popular media. This may lead to increased depression or dissatisfaction with their lives, or a need to emulate the people they may know in person or online who seem to be doing so much better than they are. This could include a need to follow online fads, even to the extent of interfering with their regular lives. Though this is usually harmless, it can also lead to pathological behavior such as celebrity stalking or copycat suicides following the well-publicized death of a media idol.

Virtual relations might not be enough to be fulfilled emotionally

Genta Jahiu, Teaching Assistant in Psychology at the University of Prishtina “Hasan Prishtina”, shares with Youth Time readers her perspective on humans as social beings who desire and long for group interaction and how exclusion may have damaging psychological impacts.

Genta Jahiu / Photo: Anita Jahiu

We have an internal need for social acceptance which can stimulate or increase FOMO. For instance, we often see teens and adults texting while driving, because the possibility of a social connection is ironically more important than their own lives. This is a very real feeling that is starting to spread throughout our social relationships”, states Jahiu.

Knowing that several indicators show us that the way people use social media affects their mental health, she explores the correlation between social media usage and its role in the moods and feelings of people, in their depression and self-esteem as well.

Fear of missing out, peer pressure and constantly comparing to others are common on most forms of social media and are key factors which can contribute to feelings of low self-esteem, increased anxiety and depression. […] Unstable self-esteem causes vulnerable feelings of self-worthiness, and this leads to depressive symptoms. As much as there is online communication with other people, since human beings also need physical interaction, these artificial and superficial relations might not be enough to be fulfilled and satisfied emotionally and psychologically”, she adds.

In response to Youth Time’s question regarding FOMO’s impact in our real (offline) life behavior, Jahiu considers the crucial importance of the ability to understand the consequences of blurring the thin line between online and offline personalities.

As the use of social media increases, face-to-face interactions are decreasing. As a result, we witness an increased dependence on social media to meet the need to belong and fit in. People are preferring social networks and are becoming increasingly dependent on them for the simple fact that they offer an unlimited opportunity to express whatever and whenever they want”.

She concludes that our attitude towards social media is pivotal to ensuring that our mental health is benefiting from it rather than being damaged.

For more on this topic read HERE the Youth interview with Neerja Birla who discusses FOMO symptoms, its impact on our mental and physical health, relationships and motivation, ways to overcome it, and much more.

Title Photo: Shutterstock, edit: Martina Advaney

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