FOMO: Is it Any Different Than Envy?
Since the beginning of life, it has been human nature for individuals to feel discontent or dissatisfied because of somebody else’s belongings or success. A term that can be connected to this feeling in every human’s life which has recently been studied in the past decade is the fear of missing out, or FOMO. FOMO can be described as a form of anxiety that is caused when an individual feels as if they are missing out on something exciting, particularly “reflecting sensitivity to the social cues”. Many people feel the pressure to keep up with societal norms and if someone is feeling behind, the natural outcome always forms anxiety. However, although FOMO has been directly correlated to social media, there is a common misconception that it is its own phenomenon, but it is no different from a person feeling envy. I want to simply prove that FOMO is a natural, inevitable occurrence in everyone’s life and can be correlated with almost any scenario in life.
I want to research and prove how a false narrative is being created that it is a new concept caused particularly by social media. Although social media has become so popular and accessible to young teenagers, the idea of FOMO cannot be freshly defined and correlated to social media usage. Let’s take the app Instagram for example. Somebody could be scrolling through Instagram and see an ad of a multi million dollar vacation home and feel as if they are missing out on something they cannot have. However, society cannot blame this on Instagram. Twenty years ago, a person may pick up a magazine and see a similar ad and feel the same way. The purpose of advertisements is to provide a gaudy outlook to make someone feel envious towards the particular product. This feeling of missing out is a part of everyone’s human life and is something that can occur without you even identifying it. Some examples of how simple FOMO can occur is driving by a nice house that somebody may wish they could have, an individual missing a class or school day and worrying about what material they have missed, and many more.
I reviewed an article published by Jon Elhai that includes a tested hypothesis on depression symptoms in individuals with severe FOMO conditions that pertain directly to social media. This study taken of college students found that depression severity could not be connected to extreme FOMO conditions. It is too premature to make conclusions on a teenage mental health crisis because of the fear of missing out and social media. The studies that are conducted include too small amounts of individuals in these surveys to be applied to a world scale. The new phenomenon that is FOMO must be compared to broad occurrences in life. It is simple to hypothesize that a teenager may feel depressed when they see somebody post themselves on an island, but it is not reasonable to look at it as something different than someone feeling envious towards something not seen on social media. Another reason why social media FOMO is not the only contributor to anxiety is because studies conducted on adolescents have not taken sex into account. This study displays results with sex differences, where men ended up scoring higher on the depression scale while women scored higher on the FOMO severity scale.
Although social media has been the rage for the past decade, FOMO has been being studied heavily since the 2000’s being attributed to many normal life scenarios which is explained in Alexa Holte’s article The State Fear of Missing Out Inventory: Development and Validation. The article recognizes that there is a gap in the FOMO studies because it has only been studied as a dispositional trait. A study was conducted with 388 adults voluntarily responding to a survey where 34 similar situations to FOMO were given out. For example, one of the choices was “I cannot help but to think that I am absent from a rewarding experience.” However, there was also an option that was counterintuitive to the study: “It does not bother me if my friends are having fun without me.” The point of including this response choice is to illustrate that social media does not have to do with someone feeling anxiety because someone has something they do not, yet it is based on one’s own overall satisfaction of their own life. If someone is dissatisfied with their own life, it is easy to reason that they will feel envy from what others have more frequently.
When correlating FOMO to social media use, people worry about adolescent’s health and performance because most things nowadays are found through a screen on apps like Instagram, Tiktok, Snapchat, and Youtube. A common theme that this is correspondent with is with friends. Simply scrolling through an app like Snapchat and seeing your friends doing something without you instantly causes a feeling of FOMO. This person feels anxiety because others are having a fun experience while they sit isolated with their phone. It is proven that social media users experience this effect much more compared to those that do not. The fear of missing out on fun experiences with others also contributes to mood swings and other small factors that all contribute to mental health. Although this effect has been examined and existed for several decades, it has increased rapidly with the popularity of today’s internet. Instinctively, everyone wants to do everything they possibly can in order to have fun, but this also comes from the fact that that person wants to make it look like their life is great. If they were to miss anything, it could form anxiety which damages their happiness. In a poll conducted in a study by Benjamin Riordan, 198 students were surveyed the question “what does fomo mean to you?” and 75% of the people surveyed correlated it to social media. However, something to note about these polls is that the majority of people voluntarily responding to these polls are young adolescents, and adults and elderly are not being taken into account.
Christopher J. Budnick, Yildirim, C., Wolniewicz, C. A., Scott, H., Roberts, J. A., Ragsdale, J. M., House, R. J., Elhai, J. D., Berenbaum, H., Alt, D., Ajzen, I., Allen, T. D., Ashton, M. C., Bakker, A. B., Barber, L. K., … Gibbons, F. S. (2019, October 10). The fear of missing out at work: Examining costs and benefits to employee health and motivation. Computers in Human Behavior. Retrieved April 11, 2023, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563219303735
Yen, J. Y., Weiss, N. H., Rebold, M. J., Przybylski, A. K., Peck, J., Manos, R. C., Lu, X., Lovibond, P. F., Lepp, A., Lee, Y.-K., Kim, J., Harwood, J., … Gross, J. J. (2016, June 2). Fear of missing out, need for touch, anxiety and depression are related to problematic smartphone use. Computers in Human Behavior. Retrieved April 11, 2023, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563216304125
Elhai, J. (n.d.). Anxiety and stress severity are related to greater fear of missing out … Retrieved April 12, 2023, from https://static1.squarespace.com/static/56916e4805f8e207077fb3ed/t/6159ff9040f0171b2946a75e/1633288081649/ElhaiYangMontag2021+PSYCH.pdf
I love you, tlap, but you’ve ignored perhaps a dozen requests for specific guidance on what sort of Feedback would help you most, so I will be brief and try to answer yours and other several similar blind requests from your cohort. Following significant revisions, I invite you again to return your post to Feedback Please along with a specific request. Let’s get started:
P1. Mostly incomprehensible. No reader will be able to say with confidence whether you think kids are killing themselves over social media (why, you don’t say) or whether you’d like to refute that claim based on too little evidence. Is either a fair summary of your position?
P2. Mostly unintelligible. No reader will be able to say with confidence whether you think FOMO means, whether you think it’s important, whether you think it’s primarily caused by social media, or whether you simply want to complain that your attempt at research didn’t turn up the definitive sources you were seeking.
P3. Entirely unintelligible. No reader will be able to say whether social media contribute to FOMO at all, whether FOMO produces depression, what the heck either one has to do with quality of life, of whether FOMO contributes to the gender differential for depression/FOMO.
P4. Bordering on ludicrous. Did you really identify “Types of FOMO” as “alcohol use, information, workplace, state, and trait”? How could alcohol use be a type of fear-of-losing-out? What was the outcome of the workplace study? Fear Of Missing Out on WHAT affected workplace performance? Affected it HOW?
P5. Mostly confusing and certainly inconclusive. I’d like to credit you for making robust claims, but you’ll have to explain to me what this means: “It is widely acknowledged that adults and elderly are not nearly as active on social media than adolescents, which further illustrates the idea that the fear of missing out is evident in simple life scenarios.” Fear of missing out is evident in simple life scenarios?
On final reflection, I’ve decided that your actual thesis is that FOMO is just life. We want to have fun and regret when we don’t; seeing or hearing or knowing or even imagining that someone else might be having fun while we’re not can make us feel neglected, unloved, left out.
Honestly, tlap, I don’t know if you’re being sloppy, you’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t have time, or you’re a naturally ungifted writer. This essay does not help me decide, but it’s inadequate to the job of convincing a reader of anything Definitional or Categorical. Please respond and let me know why I’m wrong about this.
Good evening Professor, thank you for the feedback. I reflected on our meeting last week and published a new draft and would like a regrade if possible. Thank you
P2. You say
Yeah, it’s a part of everyone’s life, but you slide past the claim that advertisers trigger it deliberately. It’s certainly easier to succumb to when the devices we hold in our hand take the place of magazine images we might never have seen before social
P3. It’s a siamese twin. Break out the gender differentiation to a paragraph of its own.
This is a good first draft, tlap. I wish we’d had weeks to thrash it out. Your change of focus is smart and shows promise, but you’re weaving many threads through here now that don’t quite create a pattern. If you have time to revise again, make your changes global and organizational. Pull like-minded notions from where they’re hiding into their own paragraphs.
Like most good first drafts, yours contains Definitional/Categorical/Causal/Rebuttal claims all the way through. Recognize where those shifts are as a way to better organize.
I VERY MUCH appreciate that you rose to the challenge of my very blunt criticism, tlap. You could easily have retreated.