FOMO, MOMO and other problems of our time

FOMO, MOMO and other problems of our time

‘If you aren't online, you don't exist!’ – this slogan is known not only to all teenagers, but also adults. We are surrounded by a virtual world, in which we increasingly show our lives to other users. We are also watching what is happening with our friends or the so-called ‘celebrities’. Along with the development of social media, new social phenomena have appeared.

Do you suffer from FOJI (Fear of Joining In)? This is the fear of joining the course of events, especially on social networks. It is an anxiety that the comments, posts or photos you upload will not meet with the interest of other users. Are you afraid that they won't be interesting enough, nobody will like or comment on them?

Or maybe you are obsessively checking posts, reacting to every phone sound, constantly publishing something on social media, non-stop reading news headlines, involuntarily reach for the phone at any free time, staying online 24/7? If so, you have fallen into the trap of the mechanism known as FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). The fear that something bypasses us is a genuine form of social fear. Its foundations are considered to include low self-esteem, feeling constant pressure from peers, the need for acceptance or belonging to a group. This phenomenon may also apply to interpersonal relationships in the “offline” world, but it is the development of new media that has already caused, according to some studies, more than half of young Poles to suffer from FOMO.

In 2019, to examine the scale of the problem, Polish Internet users were asked about their habits and how do they use the network. As many as two-thirds of the respondents diagnosed with FOMO symptoms said they stayed online longer than they intended. To have even more time to spend it online, they neglect home and school duties or their productivity at work decreases. Number of families complain that household members spend more and more time online and talk to each other less and less.

Social media are an inseparable part of lives of those affected by FOMO. Those people quite often put it above their personal hygiene, health, social situation, living conditions and even their safety. More than half of surveyed Internet users admit to using social media within 15 minutes after waking up or before falling asleep, during meals or meetings with friends. Every third respondent suffering from FOMO checked what is new in the network in the cinema or theater, during a business meeting, and even when crossing the street, driving a car or during a service in a church.

Related to these situations is a phenomenon called phubbing (name created by combining two words: phone and snubbing), which involves focusing on the smartphone at the expense of interpersonal communication. It is nothing but pulling out the phone and ignoring everything and everyone around you. The desire to check the latest news on your smartphone becomes more important than offline communication, good manners and road safety.

FOMO is inseparably associated with nomophobia, which is the fear of unavailability of the smartphone. This phenomenon affects us when we are extremely afraid of damage or loss of our smartphone, loss of range, end of data limit, or our phone’s low battery. Symptoms of nomophobia include auditory hallucinations - it may seem to us that the phone is ringing or making notification sounds when nothing like this actually happens.

Many people suffering from FOMO are also affected by MOMO (Mystery of Missing Out). It is a kind of paranoia about things that are taking place without their participation. Such people feel anxious when their friends do not post anything new on social media. They assume that everyone is having a great time, doing such interesting things that they are too busy to even think about documenting the experience. Some people are even afraid that others do not want to show them what they are doing because they simply do not like them.

FOMO, MOMO and other related phenomena can cause problems with interpersonal relationships in the real world. When uncontrolled, they leads to depression, and also contribute to more frequent drugs use among certain age groups.

‘Log out’ to reality. Find the golden mean and follow some rules of "digital hygiene". Try not to use social media before bedtime or during a meal. Check the time you spend online and think how much you can miss by it. Establish new and maintain the old relationships in the real world, and focus your attention on the person you are talking to during meetings.

Or maybe you will take the challenge to become completely JOMO? Joy of Missing Out is deriving the pleasure from being outside the virtual world. You don't have to compare yourself to images created by others on social media. Instead of checking what is happening online, read a book, go to the theater, cinema, fitness club, go rollerblading or meet friends and mute your phone. The choice is yours.


Sources: FOMO 2019. Polacy a lęk przed odłączeniem – raport z badań, edited by A. Jupowicz-Ginalska, Warsaw 2019