Combating FOMO

T V SARNGA DHARAN NAMBIAR –
Those pings, snaps, messages, tweets, posts and other social media feeds… If you can’t resist their lure, be warned: you’ve already gained entry into the growing panic club of beings suffering from FOMO, which is nothing but the Fear Of Missing Out. You’re a victim of FOMO if you are concerned that others may be having more fun and enjoyable experiences than what you’re having, which in turn creates in you a deep desire to continually be in the loop and connected to others to see what they are doing.
FOMO, as it were, is exacerbated by social media, which constantly remind us that our friends and acquaintances are possibly freaking out somewhere, leaving us with no choice but to avoid missing out.
Psychologists point out that fears over missing out may be a type of cognitive distortion, causing irrational thoughts bordering on depression — such as a firm belief that not being invited to a party means friends no longer love you. They add that in the case of people prone to such negative thoughts, digital technology may aggravate their fears about “not being in the circle”.
At the same time, no one recommends unplugging all the gadgets as a solution either. Cognitive behavioural therapy or talk therapy might be helpful in combating FOMO, experts feel.
We have startling statistics to drive home the gravity of this relatively new psychological trap. More than 56 per cent of social media users report a distinct sense of FOMO related to the content of their feeds on Twitter and Facebook. Also, an equal per cent of adults “feel overwhelmed” by the amount of information they need to digest to stay up to speed. What’s more, 47 per cent of teens get uneasy when they learn through social media that their friends are doing things that they’re not.
A notable observation by Shea Bennett makes us wiser: “Technology, which was supposed to make us freer and allow us to do more things, might actually be getting in the way.”
It’s found that the average user spends almost a combined seven hours each day on social media platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr and Twitter and email, mostly driven by FOMO.
Tech entrepreneur Mark Cuban’s comment about Facebook — that it essentially functions as a “time suck” designed to make sure we spend considerable time on it doing almost nothing, making us feel superficially engaged — may be applied to social media in general, even as they allow us to network and connect with others as social beings.
Interestingly, FOMO extends even to the world of stock markets. Investors’ fear of missing out on gains is creating an overload of buyers, as noted by Mad Money host Jima Cramer.
But the disturbing question worth pondering is, if everyone is a social media addict, then can it be called an addiction at all? Social media and electronic devices are an integral element of living, serving as the best means of communication. If so, can FOMO in any ways denigrate social media?
Meanwhile, a clever concoction of FOMO, social media, and reach out strategies has opened up a world of opportunities for marketing pros, who are now empowered more than ever to influence what people do and purchase. This could count among the few positive manipulations of FOMO.
FOMO only recently came to be recognised as a social phenomenon worth our attention, and while it’s more obvious today because of our chronic use of social media, the underlying psychology can be perceived to be timeless.
What all this means to the Sultanate is worth a look.
Recent statistics show that social media penetration in Oman has gone up to a significant 43 per cent. Quite notably, Omani Twitter users generate as many as 600,000 tweets a day, according to Arab social media report, which also says Oman has the highest percentage of Twitter access through mobile devices in the Arab world. Residents of Oman access Twitter on their mobile phones 90 per cent of the time.
Surely, the Sultanate seems to be a fertile ground for FOMO to catch up. However, we have no clues whatsoever on the nature and scope of FOMO among Oman’s young generation. Certainly, studies could reveal shocking facts.
So what’s the cure for FOMO? Booking an appointment with a behavioural therapist would be taking things too far. And, unplugging digital devices is not practical. To be frank, the best solution is to ensure that you don’t miss out on anything; somehow.
Another, less popular, option is to keep calm, take time to appreciate nature and its heavenly beauty, converse with your inner being and relax, even as your devices get crammed with pings, tweets and feeds.