Health and Science

The Science Behind FOMO


FOMO (n., informal): Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website (Oxford Dictionaries)

FOMO, a word only recently created, is the abbreviation for the phrase “Fear of Missing Out.” This FOMO is a kind of social need to continually stay updated on the world on fear that some important new events or moments might be easily missed if not always checked on. The term has grown so popular that it is now widely recognized and defined by sources such as the Oxford English Dictionary, scientific journals, as well as Google and Wikipedia.

FOMO often is characterized by a pressing urge to always be checking up on new updates, made all the easier by the increasing types of social media. Examples such as Snapchat, Twitter, and even texting, all have been strongly linked to behaviors observed by those with FOMO.

Some psychologists claim that FOMO is the expression of regret, which until now could never be verified. Until the advent of social media, making a choice to spend time one way could possibly lead one to miss out on new experiences, opportunities, or relationships. Yet, there was no real way for anyone to know for sure because people were limited to speculation, and the hope that they had not made the wrong choice.

Now, with the development of social media, it is so much easier for people to quickly find out whether or not they made the right choices to go somewhere and do something. With only a few taps, people are able to see what they might have experienced if they had decided on another option. This need to reassure themselves, constantly, that they have made the right choices is what leads to FOMO. This is one of the reasons that people are starting to throw around terms like “internet addiction.” There is a growing sentiment that new conditions such as FOMO are developing due to the increasing influence of social media.

Currently, Internet addiction may or may not be a real phenomenon. However, FOMO most definitely has been recognized as a genuine need to be online. In more extreme cases, it can cause serious anxiety when the subject becomes disconnected, but the effects of FOMO can also be felt when people feel the urge to check these sites constantly because they are bored.

Of course, not everyone who checks these sites, and not even everyone who has some level of FOMO, necessarily has a problem. There is a natural tendency of people to want to stay connected to others, so the concept of FOMO is not a strange one.

Even with increasing use of social media sites by all age groups, only in extreme cases of FOMO, where people genuinely fail to function in society without being connected to the internet, does intervention become necessary.

With proper training and help, even the most FOMO-prone can easily be readjusted emotionally to no longer worry that they are always missing out on the most rewarding life experiences just by doing their own thing. Once they realize that their own experiences can become more rewarding when they no longer worry about what they have missed, the problem of FOMO can solve itself.