#FOMO is so 2013

In Lifestyle, Social Media by Andrew Selepak

FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out, was added to the Oxford Dictionary back in 2013. For those who don’t know, the acronym refers to our anxiety that something, somewhere may be going on that we are not part of and it drives us to check our email and social media accounts constantly to see what friends, family, coworkers, people we met that one time at a party, or even Kim Kardashian are doing, and along with it an unnatural desire to know when she has broken the Internet again.

Many have developed a need to be connected at all times. We even download news and sports apps so that if we aren’t checking our social media, we will get push notifications with breaking news stories so we know what is going on before the person next to us in line at Starbucks.

This addiction and our concern over not knowing what others are doing made its way into a July 2013  article in Mashable which reported on a study conducted by MyLife.com showing 56% of social media users were afflicted with FOMO.

An October 2015 story in the Huffington Post discussed how FOMO has led to a new technology addiction impacting our social and professional lives as our heads now are seemingly always tilted down to stare at our phones. The article highlights how the addiction is rooted in our inability to multitask as we are turning our attention away from the people in our presence to instead look at the online presence of others on social media.

I however find myself standing out from the technology addicts constantly accessing Snapchat or Instagram to see what others are doing. In truth, I am not overly concerned that I might be missing out on what otehrs are doing. Instead, I am concerned that others may be missing out on what I am doing.

As it turns out, I suffer from FOOMO – Fear Of Others Missing Out. FOOMO, pronounced foo-moe like a combination of the 1990s grunge band and a fast casual burrito restaurant, is characterized by a need to document even the smallest of events on social media and share them with your FOMO friends.

FOOMO is a technology addiction in reverse with a hint of narcissism and a sometimes false projection of a life more interesting than what it is. So instead of constantly checking my phone to see what others are doing, I instead am checking my phone to see if others are checking what I am doing even if all I am doing is eating and if they have viewed my snap or liked my photo.

So while FOMO has been recognized since 2013 by the Oxford Dictionary and documented in multiple media outlets, my FOOMO can be documented back to at least 2012 when in my very first Instagram post, I made it known to the world that I was eating a burrito, although not from the fast casual restaurant from which FOOMO takes its name. Sadly few others were concerned they were missing out on my lunch.

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Kudos by-the-way to Instagram for switching from showing how many weeks ago a photo was posted to instead giving the exact date. So now I and everyone else knows that on May 19, 2012, I posted my first photo on Instagram, where I was, and what I was doing.

But my desire to post the photo wasn’t so that I could look back years later to see what I was eating in the world’s most incomplete diet diary. Instead, I wanted others to know what I was eating. And this trend continues on a Snapchat where I don’t have to worry about picking just one photo, a filter, or finding the best angle, because instead, I can take multiple photos or videos, and then add text, or a filter, or even a selfie lens.

So on March 14, 2016, in the lead up to St. Patrick’s Day, I snapped a photo of my meal.

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Clearly food plays an important role in my social media sharing. But this sharing is based on the same need – to let others know what they are missing out on or in this case, my breakfast of Sausage hash with Natural Dubliner Cheese and a Guinness.

Thankfully the FOMO of others works well with my FOOMO as I continues to share the everyday moments of my life with others who have an unrelenting need to know what others, myself included, are doing every moment of their lives.

While my posts may not “Break the Internet,” they keep others coming back for fear they may miss out on my latest meal or not get to see me battle Darth Vader in Las Vegas.

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So while I’m not concerned with having FOMO, I do worry about FOOMO and that others won’t otherwise know what I was doing if I didn’t share the daily moments on my life on social media, no matter how mundane or unappetizing because someday maybe I too can break the Internet just with my dinner and not from posing like Kim Kardashian.

Note: while this article is intended to be humorous, but as of March of 2015, Urban Dictionary didn’t have a definition of FOOMO which leads me to believe it is needed. I would create one, but I don’t feel like I am really missing out on making one. But maybe you are, because, well #FOOMO.

About the Author

Andrew Selepak

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Dr. Selepak is a professor in the department of telecommunication at the University of Florida, and director of the graduate program in Social Media.