Last year I attended a course named “cyberpsychology” and was surprised by many facts I have not known before, although I had unknowingly experienced them myself. Something that I could not express accurately while the theories that I learned helped me give meaning to my emotion, which helped me to get to know myself better. Therefore I would like to share a theory of cyberpsychology-FOMO, fear of missing out.

What is FOMO?

First of all, the concepts of cyberpsychology need to be clarified: It is “the study of the human mind and behavior and how the culture of technology, specifically, virtual reality, and social media affect them.” 

Do you have the situation that you checked the updates and posts of friends frequently on social media like you were addicted to it? Even more so when you missed some social events and activities, you would feel lost or left out. Then you may experience “FOMO, fear of missing out”. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, FOMO is “Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media.

Are you suffering from FOMO?

In fact, I used to experience this feeling but found it is hard to realize that I was anxious. When frequently taking out the mobile, browsing updates on social medias, am I just bored and killing time or suffering from FOMO? A method of judgment is to repeatedly confirm the meaning of doing so until I figure it out. Ask yourself if you can stay away from social medias for one day? Three days? Or simply do an experiment and let yourself not watch the phone. If you feel obviously empty or even anxious, or feel that you have missed the opportunity to earn one million, then there is a high probability that you suffer from FOMO. 

What causes FOMO?

However, what causes FOMO? According to Andrew K., FOMO could be attributed to situational or long-term deficits in psychological needs satisfaction. According to uses and gratifications theory, people use social media to obtain information and connect to others so that social media use increased. Furthermore, FOMO is characterized by the desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing. So as long as people cannot keep in touch with others or get information constantly, this demand will not be satisfied, then anxiety will form.

I realize that keeping on being focused on the friends’ updates does not make me feel satisfied or meaningful afterwards. It will not only take my attention, which prevents me feeling other good things in my life but also let me easily be swallowed up by negative emotions after comparing the “real self” with the “virtual other” – although I know that people are selective in presenting themselves on social media. So how can we get rid of FOMO?

How can we get rid of FOMO?

From my point of view, it is important for us to have our own real life. In other words, we should pay more attention to what really exist than something virtual.

Since we often use social media to connect with others, try to create connection to others offline, which may help you to reduce reliance on the network.  

What is more, be brave to make decisions and take responsibility of it. This is according to Dan Ariely, who says, we become afraid that we’ve made the wrong decision about how to spend our time, which also causes FOMO. It is true that searching information through social media is an advisable choice to help us make optimum decision. But it does not mean that we always need to or have ability to get all related information showed online. Therefore, to avoid the fear of making ‘wrong’ decisions, we should have a mentality that is “not afraid of making mistakes”. In my opinion, making mistakes can correct some details we do not realize and help us to go better and further, other than failure. At least for me, right now is the golden age of making mistakes.  

Last but not least, young adults’ mental health status need to be valued, and understanding the relevant content of psychology is a way. Before I knew this theory, I only had such emotions and I did not know that this was actually an expression of anxiety. I think it is more complicated to understand a certain emotion if you do not know an expression for it. So when my unspeakable feelings are defined by the language, it is a shock to me as I have a strong resonance. But After that I am able to search the causes, influences, and especially solutions to my mental problems. Through this process it allows me to learn how to use language to express some abstract things and let me have a better understanding of myself, which is the magic weapon to discover and solve psychological problems.

Illustrations by Unna Takalo

Sources

Blascovich, Jim; Bailenson, Jeremy. Infinite reality: avatars, eternal life, new worlds, and the dawn of the virtual revolution (1st ed.). New York: William Morrow. ISBN 978-0061809507.
Anderson, Hephzibah (16 April 2011). “Never heard of Fomo? You’re so missing out”. The Guardian. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
Przybylski, Andrew K.; Murayama, Kou; DeHaan, Cody R.; Gladwell, Valerie (July 2013). “Motivational, emotional, and behavioral correlates of fear of missing out”. Computers in Human Behavior. 29 (4): 1841–1848. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2013.02.014.
Amichai-Hamburger, Y. & Ben-Artzi, E. (2003), “Loneliness and internet use”, Computers in Human Behavior, 19 (1): 71–80, doi:10.1016/S0747-5632(02)00014-6
Park, N.; Kee, K. F. & Valenzuela, S. (2009), “Being immersed in social networking environment:Facebook groups, uses and gratifications, and social outcomes”, CyberPsychology & Behavior, 12 (6): 729–733, doi:10.1089/cpb.2009.0003, hdl:2152/41155, PMID 19619037
“Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)” (PDF). J. Walter Thompson. March 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 26, 2015.
Wortham, J. (April 10, 2011). “Feel like a wall flower? Maybe it’s your Facebook wall”. The New York Times.