Are you thinking about what you might be missing out on while you’re reading this post? If so, you may be suffering from the psychological affliction called FOMO, which stands for Fear of Missing Out.
Social media, which has enabled us to know things that we have no need or real desire to know … about every member of our entire social media network… at the exact minute it happens, 24/7 … is fueling this phenomenon at a frenetic pace.
A New York Times article found that we are virtually enabling this to happen by creating a ‘collective compulsion to document our lives and share them online combined with the instant gratification that comes from seeing something you are doing or experiencing get near-immediate approval from your online peers.”
One recent study revealed that 56% of adult social media users suffer from FOMO. Another revealed that many social media users would rather have a root canal, spend a night in jail, or sit in traffic for four hours while listening to polka music than to give up their social media profile.
What’s more, a study conducted by British psychologist Andrew Przbylski looked at the connections between FOMO and social media and found that people who felt lower levels of autonomy, competence, and connectedness had more severe FOMO and used social media more.
Many believe this is hindering our ability to stay in the present and live fully in the now. And it’s just getting started.
Don’t get me wrong, there are numerous positives of social media. I myself like to know what’s going on in pop culture and social media is great for that. I also like to share sayings and quotes and share an occasional photo. I also truly appreciate social media for helping me stay in touch with those I might not otherwise be able to stay in touch with. And it’s good for business and for writers. I get all that.
Yet each time I open Facebook, I have to weigh the odds of reading a post that makes me uneasy at the potential FOMOphobia it may be fueling against the odds of reading a funny or thought-provoking quote or article posted by a friend. Or of seeing a sweet post of a moment from a friend’s life. Or of connecting with a family member. These are the aspects of social media that I love.
Often at social events I’m fascinated by the fact that when someone’s smartphone camera comes out and the word Facebook is mentioned, it’s like a drop of blood has hit the water and suddenly everyone around me has their smart phone out in a frenzy to capture a photo to post on social media to document their attendance. At what point are we so worried about posting about all the great things that are happening to us that we actually are starting to become absent from our present lives?
Fortunately most of the time, the funny and semi-personal connecting moments through social media outweigh the occasional quasi-narcissistic outbursts that I can only assume fuel the FOMOphobia epidemic. Some days it’s a toss up.
But don’t you just have to wonder what will happen if the pace of technology which is bringing us closer and closer to knowing way too much about each other’s activities at all times one day matches the pace of the rapidly spreading FOMOphobia epidemic? Will the intersection of these trajectories cause us to combust? Or to just reboot with the concept of living in the moment a thing of the past?
‘Ignorance is bliss’ never made more sense.