Is your smartphone the last thing you check at night and the first thing you look at in the morning? Do you spent hours scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and other social media sites? Does the thought of going away for the weekend without your laptop make you anxious?
If your answer to any of the above questions was yes, you are probably suffering from FOMO, or the Fear Of Missing Out. Don't worry, you're not alone. A recent study showed that 56% of adult social media users suffer from FOMO. In fact, I'm even experiencing FOMO right now - this handy quiz told me so. But what exactly is FOMO, and why does it occur?
FOMO: Addiction to Technology
FOMO is essentially the addiction to technology, and it happens because of the current levels of social media in our lives. The thought of missing an important status update, tweet, or blog post from our friends makes many of us anxious. For some, social media is as addictive as cigarettes - the study mentioned above found that 26% of those surveyed would trade smoking for access to social media. People are also using social media more frequently: 51% of participants reported logging on more often than they did 2 years ago, 27% confessed to checking social media right when they wake up, and 42% said they use multiple accounts.
What Causes FOMO?
A study conducted by British psychologist Andrew Przybylski has taken an extensive look at the connections between FOMO and social media. Przybylski's study surveyed participants to learn about their psychological levels of FOMO as well as their levels of social media use, satisfaction in life, and levels of autonomy and connectedness. He found that individuals who felt lower levels of autonomy, competence, and connectedness had more severe FOMO and also used social media more.
While it has not been determined whether social media causes FOMO or FOMO causes high social media use, Przybylski believes that a lack of autonomy, competence, and connectedness induces FOMO, which then leads to increased social media use. Others view the connection as cyclical - social media causes FOMO by providing a constant reminder of what is going on without you, creating anxiety when you don't know those details. The anxiety can only be cured by checking social media.
What Should We Do About It?
Many believe that the rise in FOMO is hindering our ability to forge strong social connections in the future. This could cause FOMO sufferers to never be happy with the connections they have, and to always be afraid of missing potentially "better" connections. Sherry Turkle, a professor at MIT and scholar of technology studies, argues that our relationship with technology is still immature. Whatever the cause, it seems as if the only current cure for FOMO is to keep checking social media or discard the system altogether.
Do you suffer from FOMO?