Social media users get this more as it lets us see exactly what we're missing out on. Many people share on social media channels to brag and make others feel envious so while you're sitting at home they can be taunting you from a great event or somewhere you think you would rather be.
While some people are able to recognise they can't be at all the places they would like to be and can then happily live vicariously through others sharing instant news about what's happening there on Twitter, Facebook or Foursquare, some find this only increases their feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. We are so connected with one another that we can’t just be alone anymore.
But was that event really so splendiferous if most of the participants were on their smartphones and not enjoying the moment? Those attending also had FOMO issues and their need to share with strangers was stronger than their need to interact with real people all around them.
Many say they can't switch off because emails are always coming in and most of us can relate to the burgeoning Inbox. There is a feeling of accomplishment when clearing emails but at least an hour of the working day is lost in trying to fight this losing battle. With smartphones many never stop checking for the latest message and Graham Jones, internet psychologist, explains it's hard to switch off as we subconsciously like receiving lots of emails and messages.
A test found signs of depression were experienced by a group when email spam filters caught more of their junk mail as each email feels like a reward. While a face-to-face meeting can bring our brains one bit of stimulus, emails can give us so much more and therefore offer us more reinforcement. Do you boast about how many emails are in your Inbox? Many do and possibly unknowingly make those with fewer emails feel they are less important.
Of course, FOMO is hardly new. Newspaper society pages and even holiday postcards have let us know what we're missing out on for a long time. It bears similarities to the "grass is always greener" – that what someone else is doing must be better than what you are left to do – and "keeping up with the Joneses" by trying to never miss out on the latest news.
Following someone's life on social media isn't a full picture and, thankfully, many still hold back some of their day so we are just seeing the edited highlights. Many read posts from their long-lost friends on Facebook and see a lifestyle they wish they had – maybe all your school friends are now married with children and you're feeling eternally single after another breakup.
While Facebook can be positive and keep friends and family all across the world connected it can also regularly make us feel that we’ve made the wrong decision about how to spend our time.
I heard a boss say he would send messages to his staff at evenings or weekends and would actually expect to receive a message, and he used it as a way to check his employees' commitment. He even emailed a certain employee at 2am on a weekend as he knew he'd get a response back – and he did.
As is always the way with new technology, younger people are actually evolving to be able to multitask much more efficiently. Multitasking is a worthwhile skill, and the greater stimulation is good for our minds but our email needs better management. Stop copying people in to cover your back and to make sure everyone knows. Keep emails short – three sentences is recommended – and make it clear if a response is actually needed.
How does FOMO affect you? Do you ever truly stop work and does keeping up with 'friends' on social media often feel like an extension of the working day?
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