FOMO is an acronym for Fear Of Missing Out, which is a feeling of envy or anxiety over missing out or being out of touch with events, experiences, or interactions. Those experiencing FOMO don’t know what they’re missing most of the time, but they worry others are having fun without them. This feeling of missing out on something has been around for centuries but wasn’t formally identified until 1996 by a marketing strategist. It didn’t become well known until a 2004 Harvard Business School magazine published an article about FOMO. It stems from self-determination theory, which is the motivation behind decision-making without external influences. It’s caused by situational or long-term deficits in psychological needs of satisfaction, similar to the concept of Keeping Up with the Joneses. With people’s lives being widely documented and shared online, this phenomenon has been amplified. Social media is a feeding ground for FOMO since users only share highlights or positive experiences.
Effects of FOMO
FOMO creates a psychological dependence on social media sites and an increase of site usage. Users will obsessively refresh their newsfeed to attempt to catch up on a missed event and will start to feel overwhelmed with the compulsion to constantly check their social media to avoid experiencing FOMO. Psychological health and well being are negatively impacted by FOMO, as well as long-term goals, perceptions, mood, life satisfaction, self-esteem, and mindfulness. FOMO can also cause significant stress, which is the host of a multitude of physical health problems.
Some ways individuals can combat the feeling of FOMO is to focus on what you have rather than what you lack or miss, keep a journal to document experiences offline, seek out real connections to help combat the feelings of loneliness that FOMO brings, and focus on gratitude to change your mindset.