Sunday, August 11, 2013

FOMO Anyone?

fear of missing out FOMO Social Media
FOMO - Fear of missing out


Have you heard about FOMO ?— “fear of missing out”? Most common among the under-30 crowd, it happens when someone feels anxious about not attending social events, like that amazing party everyone else enjoyed last weekend. The social media world that named FOMO has also made it an epidemic. It's hard not to develop this 21st-century form of anxiety when one glance at your smartphone reveals a thousand awesome things your friends—and enemies—are doing. People have always been worried about their social standing, but the explosion of social media has made FOMO a bigger issue, for everyone from middle schoolers newly toting smartphones to adults. We all know that social media can be an addiction, a slippery slope consumed by a syndrome commonly referred to as Fear of Missing out (FOMO). If you indulge in a few days away from your Inbox or Twitter stream, the emails start to pile up and key news is missed. As technology enables us to stay more connected than ever, the addiction continues to grow. In fact, a new survey conducted by MyLife.com revealed 56% of people are afraid of missing out on events, news and important status updates if they are away from social networks.

Teens and adults text while driving, because the possibility of a social connection is more important than their own lives (and the lives of others). They interrupt one call to take another, even when they don’t know who’s on the other line (but to be honest, we've been doing this for years before caller ID). They check their Twitter stream while on a date, because something more interesting or entertaining just might be happening. It’s not “interruption,” its connection. But wait a minute… it’s not really “connection” either. It’s the potential for simply a different connection. It may be better, it may be worse — we just don’t know until we check. We are so connected with one another through our Twitter streams and Foursquare check-ins, through our Facebook and LinkedIn updates, that we can’t just be alone anymore. The fear of missing out (FOMO) — on something more fun, on a social date that might just happen on the spur of the moment — is so intense, even when we’ve decided to disconnect, we still connect just once more, just to make sure.

Connected to this fear of missing out on something better that’s going on without you are these fake personas we promote on websites like Facebook. I say “fake” because we often present only the best side of our lives on social networking sites. After all, who wants to be “friends” with someone who’s always posting depressing status updates and who seems to be doing nothing interesting in their lives? So they are indeed fake, because instead of us being completely real, many (most?) of us censor what we post to our social media profile these days. The people on Facebook are often simply their idealized selves — with a bit of misery thrown in from time to time to “keep it real.”

FOMO is often associated with a perceived low social rank, which can cause feelings of anxiety and inferiority. When someone misses a party, vacation or other social event, he or she can feel a little less cool than those who showed up and snapped photos. In some cases, people are even afraid to miss out on bad stuff. FOMO is most common in people ages 18 to 33 — in one survey, two-thirds of people in this age group said they experience these fears. The survey also suggests FOMO is more common among guys than ladies, though it’s unclear why. Research suggests FOMO can take a negative toll on psychological health. Constant fear of missing events can cause anxiety and depression, especially for young people.
You may argue that FOMO is healthy motivation. But the first of FOMO's four words—fear—is the opposite of healthy. Fear can get us moving, but never happily. Living with constant or recurring fear, from post-traumatic stress to paranoia to FOMO, doesn't improve life quality; it just makes us haunted and tense, many teens stay up all night waiting for the next status update. They interrupt a face-to-face conversation to make sure whatever’s going on elsewhere isn’t better. Fear of missing out (FOMO) is a very real feeling that’s starting to permeate through our social relationships. The question is — will we ever settle for what we have, rather than cling to the fear that we may be missing out on something better? Social media like Facebook and Twitter are making this increasingly more difficult.


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