This modern society that is so heavily dependent on the Internet has developed in us a very unusual sense of urgency to stay connected with friends and to be constantly updated on what is going on in their lives. Unless you are one of the few who manage to keep to themselves, you probably check various social networks for updates throughout the day. Not once, not twice, but tens or hundreds of times.
What is worse is that this addiction to being updated on what is going on does not apply only to close friends. Mere acquaintances from years ago are on our Facebook news feed, and we follow anyone whom we even slightly care about on Twitter.
And when we do have to spend a few days without accessing our social networks (oh, the horror!), it is indeed an anxious experience that warrants a lot of patience and personal resolve. Towards the end, we somehow manage to admit that it has been stress relieving to disconnect. However, as soon as we go back to the real world, we manically start reconnecting with our friends and getting up to date all over again.
Fear of Missing Out
This syndrome has been associated with fear of missing out (FOMO), or anxiety from the lingering thought that we can miss out on exciting news, events, and discussions when we are not in touch. This often comes with obsession about our real-time social standing and image as well.
Unfortunately, this is very prevalent in today’s society where social networks are as convenient as a tap of a key, a press of a button, or a touch of a screen. It is interesting that this has been a rather unchartered area in psychology until lately. While the relationship between social networks and FOMO might be one of the chicken and the egg where in most cases we can’t say which started the other, we are inclined to think that they go hand in hand.
Do You Have FOMO? Take the online quiz at RateMyFOMO.com to find out if you do.
What Can We Do About It?
FOMO is not just about anxiety. Our daily productivity is affected, and the hours we spend on social networks add up.
Here are some things you can do without quitting cold turkey:
- Subscribe only to people and products that you really care about. Review your subscriptions — you’ll be surprised that only a small percentage are ones you really do want to follow. Reduce the noise and be left with updates that you absolutely find relevant.
- Only post updates that your subscribers might want to know. Be selective in what you broadcast. Less highlights from you might mean that will not need to check back for favorites and comments as often as you do.
- Schedule guilt-free social network browsing. Assign specific times of the day for using social networks. Set a time frame, and don’t go beyond what you have allocated.
- Indulge in a more constructive hobby. Transfer some of your time and energy from online social networking to something more productive and enjoyable. Chances are that your fulfillment from this will trump participating in a lot of what goes on in social networks.
No one is stuck in this predicament, really. Get yourself out by acknowledging your habit, taking control, and adjusting it to a level that is more acceptable to you.