Drugs Health Pharma

Opinion: FoMo’s ‘compulsive connectivity’ may cause anxiety

FoMo has been conceptualised as a negative emotion due to unmet relatedness needs. It may be episodic as in a single conversation or a long-term disposition. Too much exposure to others’ activities results in a feeling of self-doubt and inadequacy — a feeling of “whether I am enough.”

By Aparna S

April 14, 2024: Social media have remodelled communication in good and bad ways. Those who have been increasingly lonely, find a solution by logging on to their social media accounts and finding solace in virtual friendships. 

While it is not a supplement to healthy human interaction, it has some benefits such as passing on information, pursuing lost interest and making friends regardless of time and place. This trend has particularly gone on the rise during and post-Covid.

Social media interactions are all about developing relationships and remaining connected. However, such novel communication methods have seeded a few negative consequences.

Since virtual communication modalities operate differently from traditional ones, it has resulted in an altered perception of social interaction. As the pattern of communication is entirely different from what they are used to, people are both excited and scared at the same time about their online behaviour.

One negative sequel of social networking is FoMo; that is the fear of missing out. The term was coined by Patrick J McGinnis in 2004 in The Harbus, the magazine of Harvard Business School. 

Fear of missing out refers to the apprehension and anxiety one feels about being absent from rewarding experiences that others are having. This results in a desire to stay online continuously and get to know what others are up to. Not being able to do so leads to social inferiority, loneliness and rage. 

To avoid these negative experiences, people tend to stay online as much as possible, leading to social media addiction. 

FoMo and the theory of social relatedness

Social relatedness refers to the need to belong and form strong, long-lasting relationships. This theory proposes that social relatedness drives motivation and positive mental health.

FoMo has been conceptualised as a negative emotion due to unmet relatedness needs. It may be episodic as in a single conversation or a long-term disposition. Too much exposure to others’ activity results in a feeling of self-doubt and inadequacy — a feeling of “whether I am enough.” This leads to continuous uncertainty, whether they are where they should be in life.

FoMo has two stages — the perception of missing out first, and then the compensatory behaviour of compulsive social connectivity. This “compulsive connectivity” causes a problematic attachment to social media and is associated with a range of symptoms like lack of sleep, reduced competency, anxiety and poor emotional control.

Social media platforms provide a compensatory medium for people with poor interaction skills, possibly due to any mental health issue like social anxiety.

The catch is that their unmet social needs are taken care of, without having face to face. This makes communication possible for those with deficits with less effort and instantaneously. Having said that, this is a type of compensatory behaviour and is never as good as healthy social interactions. Such “social compensation” will reinforce avoidance of face-to-face interaction and aggravate social anxiety.

‘Need for self-validation’

Problematic social networking behaviour is associated with FoMo since it allows easy access at will and a constant need for self-validation and rewarding appraisals of distorted social self. FoMo-associated social media addiction is characterised by frequent checking and refreshing notifications. The anxiety levels heighten if one is not able to be online and stay “connected.”

Social media is a platform where “edited lives“ are on display creating a distorted perception of “missing out on the good times”.Posts depicting others’ popularity and “edited happiness” may lead to feelings of loneliness and inadequacy, leading to a vicious cycle of compulsive “staying online”.The constant “upward comparisons” will adversely affect one’s self-esteem and are associated with depression and anxiety symptoms.

Also, the problematic internet use associated with FoMo results in people ignoring peer relationships and heightened sense of self-isolation, and a significant giver risk of suicidality.

Cyclical behaviour

A constant need for approval causes one with FoMo to engage in high-risk activities such as drug abuse, and gambling; as they feel an intense need to “fit in”. FoMo also affects the socialisation pattern in the wrong way.

Social networking sites offer communication with fewer nonverbal cues to avoid meaningful and pragmatic interactions. Individuals with FoMo engage in social media to avoid loneliness but it exacerbates them. 

To alleviate these negative emotions, they again resort to the internet, which continues cyclically. Besides its social and psychological consequences, FoMo adversely affects one’s productivity and overall quality of life. It also impacts a healthy sleep rhythm and results in various patterns of insomnia.

“Joy of missing out” or JoMo is a form of staying happily disconnected, to deal with unhealthy social media behaviour. Instead of easy compensatory social behaviour, one should be able to have healthy human interactions, which would foster creativity and positive mental health.


1 Comment

  • Krishnan April 14, 2024

    Very insightful write up!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *