Fear of missing out
Fear of missing out or FoMO is "a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent". This social angst is characterized by "a desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing". FoMO is also defined as a fear of regret, which may lead to a compulsive concern that one might miss an opportunity for social interaction, a novel experience, profitable investment or other satisfying event. In other words, FoMO perpetuates the fear of having made the wrong decision on how to spend time, as "you can imagine how things could be different".
Self-determination theory (SDT) asserts that the feeling of relatedness or connectedness with others is a legitimate psychological need that influences people's psychological health. In this theoretical framework, FoMO can be understood as a self-regulatory state arising from situational or long-term perception that one's needs are not being met. A study by Andrew Przybylski found that FoMO was most common in those expressing unsatisfied psychological needs such as wanting to be loved and respected.
With the development of technology, people's social and communicative experiences have been expanded from face-to-face to online. On one hand, modern technologies (e.g., mobile phones, smartphones) and social networking services (e.g., Facebook, Twitter) provide a unique opportunity for people to be socially engaged with a reduced "cost of admission". On the other hand, mediated communication perpetuates an increased reliance on the Internet. A psychological dependence to being online could result in anxiety when one feels disconnected, thereby leading to a fear of missing out or even pathological Internet use. As a consequence, FoMO is perceived to have negative influences on people's psychological health and well-being, because it could contribute to people's negative mood and depressed feelings. FoMO has also been associated with experiencing more negative alcohol-related consequences and consuming a higher quantity of alcoholic drinks.
Fear of missing out (FoMO) refers to the apprehension that one is not in-the-know or one is out of touch with some social events, experiences, and interactions. People who grapple with FoMO might not know exactly what they are missing, but can still hold a fear that others are having a much better time or having a much more rewarding experience on the spur of the moment. FoMO could result from a variety of social activities in which one is absent, such as a conversation, a TV show, a wedding, a party, or a delicious restaurant in town.
FoMO could simply exist as a pervasive mental state, but it can also lead to different physical reactions (e.g., sweating) and real-world behaviors. According to a survey conducted in the U.S. and U.K., the majority of adult Millennials (current age between 18 and 34) expressed that they want to say yes to everything due to the fear of missing out; over half of the respondents said that they barely invest sufficient energy or time in delving into topics or new interests. Moreover, FoMO serves as a motive for an escalating usage of social media, which could distract people from learning in the classroom and operating motor vehicles. Furthermore, unhealthy digital habits, such as constantly checking on emails and social media updates, could be developed and thus lead to insufficient engagement in the present social interactions.
Besides its impact on real-world social activities, FoMO could also influence the formation of long-term goals and people's self-perceptions. Around half of the respondents stated that they are overwhelmed by the amount of information which allows them to stay up to date and it is almost impossible to not miss out on something. Through the process of relative deprivation, FoMO is also found conducive to people's dissatisfaction of their experiences and a feeling of having less. Moreover, FoMO also plays a negative role in people's overall psychological well-being. FoMO is believed to trigger negative social and emotional experiences, such as boredom and loneliness, through social media usage. Consistent with earlier research, an empirical research on FoMO in 2013 found that FoMO has a negative effect on people's overall mood and life satisfaction.
In terms of the cognitive effects, FoMO could further instill a belief that an interruption is more like a "connection". FoMO may drive someone to constantly look for a better or more interesting connection with others, abandoning current connections to do so, without realizing that what they move to is not necessarily better, just different. Moreover, the importance attributed to the potential possibility of social interaction or continuously staying abreast of current events is so intense that personal safety may be ignored. For instance, it is common to find people texting while driving.
Causes and correlates
From the theoretical lens of psychological needs, FoMO could be attributed to situational or long-term deficits in psychological needs satisfaction. The prevalence of contributes to an increasing transparency of other people's social life and an escalating amount of real-time information. According to uses and gratifications theory, people actively choose and use social media to fulfill their specific needs, such as their needs for information or staying connected with others through socializing. For people who grapple with FoMO, social media involvement could be attractive, because it serves as a convenient tool to be socially connected with a relatively low cost. However, social media could not completely substitute face-to-face communication. Therefore, people with FoMO end up with a higher level of loneliness and isolation, which leads to more FoMO.
Self-determination theory contends that an individual's psychological satisfaction in their competence, autonomy, and relatedness consist three basic psychological needs for human beings. People with lower levels of basic psychological satisfaction reported higher level of FoMO; in other words, a significant correlation was identified between basic psychological satisfaction and FoMO. In addition, nearly four in ten young people reported that they experience FoMO sometimes or often. FoMO was found to be negatively correlated with age and men are more likely than women to report FoMO.
In the media
The Curse of the Blitz
“The Curse of the Blitz” is well known by fans of the American TV series How I Met Your Mother. Within the context of the episode, the curse often causes a character to miss out on fun and amazing events, in particular by prompting the character to leave just before the event occurs. The curse could foster a strong anxiety of FoMO, which makes the character continuously try to make sure that he or she does not miss out on anything. In one scene, the curse caused Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) to miss out on amazing events including a coin toss that defied the laws of physics.
It is not uncommon for advertising and marketing campaigns to employ the appeal of FoMO in an era of new technology. Brands and companies often inform their customers of "can't miss out" experiences or deals; for instance, the AT&T "Don't be left behind" campaign, Duracell Powermat "Stay in charge" campaign, Heineken "Sunrise" campaign, etc. The Heineken "Sunrise" campaign, in particular, aimed to encourage responsible drinking by portraying excessive drinking as a way to miss out on the best parts of a party, eschewing the more common warning that such drinking is a risk to personal health. However, there is also a tendency for brands to counter FoMO in their advertisements and campaigns, such as Nescafé's "Wake up to life" campaign. One very common FoMO marketing technique is to include a countdown timer as a way to explicitly show customers how long they have until they miss out on the sale.
FoMO is also perceived to foster higher TV ratings. Real-time updates about one's status and major social events allowed a more engaged media consumption experiences and a faster information dissemination. Real-time tweets about the Super Bowl are considered to be correlated with higher TV ratings because of the appeal of FoMO and the prevalence of social media usage.
- Hyperbolic discounting
- Missed connections
- Murray's system of needs
- Opportunity cost
- Status anxiety
- Relative deprivation
- Self-determination theory
- Social media
- Loss aversion
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