The fear of missing out commonly known as F.O.M.O is installed in every one of us. Like a sophisticated software, our brains process useless information without even notice it. And when something catches our eyes, we feel left out. We deceive ourselves into believing that something more interesting is happening outside our realm. Flashy notifications confirm our here and now is somehow boring, comparing to others.
Viewers slip into a thread of cool pictures, perfect holiday videos and lavish birthday celebrations. 5 minutes of innocent social media wandering could end in 30 minutes of procrastination. Then, we not only feel bad about ourselves but also we haven’t finished our jobs. F.O.M.O harms productivity pushes anxiety levels to the roof and deters our plans for the future. How is that possible?
Tech companies create behavior altering products to keep users hook into their systems. Endless feeds and strategically placed content make consumers stay on their platforms for as long as they can. An important piece of data is gathered and nothing is being given in return. Users become unaware of their behavior mainly because the habit is installed in the consciousness.
When we’re constantly checking our phones, we let F.O.M.O rob our skills. Part of our brain always wants to take us to the screen, we want more and the more we get used to social media masturbation the harder it gets to get back on track. With all these distractions pushing us in different directions, it seems impossible to get into a flow state. The willpower to concentrate goes down. A loop of poor habits, an instant gratification remains installed in our brains. Unfortunately, we pay a high price, our skills.
F.O.M.O weakens our capabilities to concentrate; meaning the need for knowing what others are doing takes the focus away. Yet, attention and focus are the top abilities when learning new things.
Tech should make people’s lives easier. No doubt, many companies use their products in the right way; but when a certain pattern of behavior becomes the norm, it’s clear that certain habits make a huge impact in our society. Sadly, those habits are not the healthier.
When we spend more time consuming than creating we’re harming our future. Besides, this fear of missing out is unreal; the pictures we see on those platforms are constructions. We live in a world of anxiety just because we can’t be like that cool friend who is always traveling. Yet we forget that friend is showing a portion of the reality. What’s more, we get absorbed in a loop of constant media masturbation; comparing ourselves to others, shifting our precious attention from the things that really matter.
This undermines our talents. In order to move forward in life, we need to create, make questions and find the answers. Instead of looking for the real stuff we plug into a world of fast content. Instant gratification makes us forget about what is really important. A study of Computer in Human Behaviour by Andrew K. Przybylski suggests,
“FOMO was negatively associated with both general mood and overall life satisfaction […] the elevation of negative social and emotional states such as boredom and loneliness linked to social media usage.”
Giant companies get these data to sell, yet viewers waste their creative potential. We think we may miss out if we don’t check those platforms, but the other way is true, we miss out in life constantly worrying about what’s going on somewhere else. When it comes to building a body of work we have to be ruthless and shut F.O.M.O for good. How we contribute to the world will pay out in the long run. So instead of scrolling social media content forever, we should focus on our goals. Reminding ourselves that life is bigger than a phone screen.
- Przybylski. Andrew 2013 “Computer in Human Behaviour: Motivational, emotional, and behavioral correlates of fear of missing out” Netherlands: Elsevier
- BBC News report 2017 “FOMO: How the Fear of Missing Out drives social media ‘addiction’