24 April 2024

Illusion vs. truth. How to defend yourself against FOMO? 

FOMO podcast - zdrowie psychiczne pracowników, wellbeing w firmie, opieka psychologiczna

The term FOMO comes from English and stands for "fear of missing out," which can be simplified as the fear of being disconnected, left out, or losing the sense of "being up-to-date." In the mid-90s, the term appeared in a publication by Dr. Dan Herman, a specialist in marketing strategy. He defined FOMO as "the fear of missing out on all available opportunities and the simultaneous loss of expected joy resulting from not taking advantage of those opportunities." Patrick McGinnis, in 2004, described this term as "FOBOptimization" in an article published in the "Harvard Business Review." He used it to describe the phenomenon he observed among students using mobile technologies. Through the acronym FOMO, he described the feeling of unease that arises when someone feels excluded or absent in social situations.

The concept quickly spread through mass media, which pointed out that the FOMO syndrome is exacerbated by the increasing popularity of social media. Journalists began to emphasize that applications used for virtual communication, by constantly bombarding users with information about the activities of friends and celebrities, undermine users' self-esteem and well-being. With the development of the internet and mobile technologies, people around the world are constantly exposed to external stimuli, and consequently, they are susceptible to FOMO.

Statistics speak for themselves. According to the report from the fourth edition of the "FOMO 2022: Poles and the fear of disconnection" study, one in four people aged 35-44, and one in three people aged 15-19, strongly feels the fear of disconnection from the network. Only 6% of them do not experience it. The first step in understanding the phenomenon is to recognize it in ourselves. 

The concept of problematic internet usage in 2023 was formulated by the research team Chatterjee and Rai. When we feel that reaching for our phone stems from our loneliness, disconnection, being out of touch, being out of information, it activates our attachment. The basis of our relationship is maintaining closeness, and when that closeness is absent, we feel anxiety, which affects us differently. When this anxiety intensifies, we may experience FOMO.

So, how do we deal with the overload of stimuli and information we are bombarded with in virtual reality? It is important to realize that social media is an illusion. Authentic feelings lie behind relationships built in the real world. It is here that we experience various emotions, challenges, successes, and failures that shape our true experiences, making it easier to verify reality and confront what is an illusion. It cannot be denied that direct contacts are often more complicated than those presented in social media, but built on trust, understanding, and empathy, they are crucial for our mental well-being.

Although social media can be useful as a communication tool, we should not treat them as a measure of our worth or happiness. It is important to be aware of the illusory nature of the relationships presented there and remember the value of authentic relationships that we build in the real world. They give us a true sense of belonging and mutual understanding.

About the author

Małgorzata Kwiatkowska

Małgorzata Kwiatkowska

Account Manager

Account Manager at ICAS Poland. A graduate in Polish philology from the University of Gdańsk with nearly fifteen years of experience in radio and journalism. She believes in the power of words and in dialogue that leads to understanding of others, as well as oneself. Addressing difficult topics requires courage, confronting one's own weaknesses and uncertainties - but it's worth doing. Expressing what we truly want and actively listening to others, building relationships through the exchange of thoughts, leads to personal growth, and development is one of the keys to fulfillment.