Friday, November 7, 2014

Why the Fear of Missing Out is an American Concept

We use these services to keep up with everything, and not miss out on anything. It's an American thing.

new study from The Institute of Information Systems at Berlin’s Humboldt University suggests that 1/3 of Facebook users have a negative emotional response to the site. The reason for this: the fear of missing out (FOMO). FOMO is a negative emotional response to the use of social networking sites (SNSs). The "fear of missing out" is an American problem because Americans don't like falling behind; they are very competitive. 

To elucidate, FOMO is when a person compares themselves to other people via social media and they become sad, lonely, or envious, and consequently they become afraid to fall behind socially. According to the study titled Envy on Facebook: A Hidden Threat to Users’ Life Satisfaction?, this happens because SNS users tend to "overestimate someone's positive experiences" and "underestimate their negative ones". Basically, they're saying that you would imagine people to be a lot more appealing (based on their shared data) than they actually are. (Let us also consider the fact that most people don't share their failures as much as their successes). The reason they would seem more appealing is that you would see all of the person's advantages and would almost completely disregard their disadvantages. This might make you envious and want to keep up with all of the experiences they share on the site, and that can make you afraid of falling behind. 

If there's one thing we know about Americans, its that we just don't like falling behind. Think "Arms Race", or "Space Race", even things like Olympic Medal Count. Or, more fittingly for American high school students, think college. American students are very competitive when it comes to college. No student wants to fall behind in the "college race". The reason for this is that college in general is often seen [by students] as a determining factor in your future social status and wealth in American Society.  

Consequently, if someone else is going to a better college than you, you might feel as though you have fallen behind. And you don't want to be behind, you want to go to that school, you aspire to get that job, to make that much money, and live in that much prosperity. It's the current capitalist, idyllic, American Dream, we strive for it, and we can become envious of others if they seem closer to it than us. Americans just don't like falling behind, and unfortunately that makes the fear of missing out a uniquely American concept. 

Being productive
How can we change our interaction with social media to yield a more positive result? 

1 comment:

  1. David, Fine job blogging this semester. You have a god number of posts, a Protean voice, and a wide range of topics. This post starts with a box of recognizable SNS icons, and you clearly draw the connection between FOMO and the American value of competition. It'd be nice to analyze the data or the language from the study as a means of examining sources critically. Likewise your final claim in bold. "Better" college by what standard(s). It might be nice here -- or in a follow-up post -- to think about how colleges market themselves in a way that best exploits the FOMO-dimension of adolescent psychology -- or worse: parental psychology!