Social media has, in many ways, authored a new world. Our ways of connecting with one another are evolving faster than ever. Social movements, dating, advertisement — it can all be done online now. That shift does not come without challenges, however. So, how are our brains faring with the transition?
Sometimes not so well, it turns out. Over the past three decades the advent of social media has birthed a whole host of terms meant to describe the new feelings networking apps drum up: some good, and some not so much.
FoMO is among the most widely recognized of those terms. What is FoMO, how about FoBO and MoMO? Here’s our complete guide to the sea of acronyms.
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What is FoMO?
FoMO is an acronym used to refer to the fear of missing out.
Coined in 2004, and rising to popularity in the subsequent decade, the term describes a specific anxiety which arises when a person perceives themselves to be missing out on some important social interaction and then springs into motion to try to make it right. This can mean checking up on what others are doing constantly, or compulsively reaching out to maintain connection.
In one 2013 study, a group of psychologists defined FoMO simply as “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent.”
It is often connected with the rise of social media, thought to be a side-effect of knowing so much about each other’s daily lives. The reasoning goes: If we didn’t have to see what we were missing out on via Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, etc; would we fear it so much?
Alternatively, social media can be used as a de facto salve for those who intensely fear missing out, as they might feel it is a low-risk way to connect with others and to keep tabs on their activities.
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Is FoMO a form of anxiety?
FoMO is a complex feeling phenomenon that can be linked to several mental health outcomes.
In a 2021 study published by The World Journal of Clinical Cases, authors Mayank Gupta and Aditya Sharma write that FoMO can be associated with a range of negative life experiences and feelings, including:
- lack of sleep,
- reduced life competency,
- emotional tension,
- negative effects on physical well-being,
- lack of emotional control
Anxiousness is certainly part and parcel of the FoMO phenomenon. Congnitive behaviors connected to FoMO include compulsive refreshing of social media sites and notifications, heightening anxiety as an individual awaits the “reward” of a message or update.
The need to stay constantly engaged, and constantly up to date, coupled with the often-filtered nature of social media can foster a negative self-comparison with the sort of distorted reality that exists online.
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What triggers FoMO?
One 2013 study muses that FoMO could be the result of an individual’s core psychological needs not being met. In particular, relatedness: a closeness to others.
That lack of connection might drive a person to engage with social media more, creating a vicious cycle of FoMO. It goes something like this: a person feels disconnected, they log on to Instagram to feel more in tune with others but then see their peers in a seemingly hyper-connected state, sparking more loneliness.
The bottom line is human connection is good. We need one another for our mental well-being. While social media can seem like an easy shortcut to community, it is a double-edged sword. It can provide a wonderful means of connectedness but is not to be used in lieu of all other human relation. The online illusion of other people’s perceived popularity and busy social calendar can be dangerous when it comes to FoMO, sometimes further isolating us, and prompting negative self-comparison.
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What is MoMO vs FoMO?
While FoMO is the fear of missing out, MoMO is the mystery of missing out.
FoMO refers to something tangible — seeing a post on social media and wishing you were there. MoMO on the other hand is about the imagined — suspecting that a social event is happening, and you weren’t invited but having no proof.
It usually arises when an individual notices peers are not posting on social media as they typically would, sparking a sort of paranoia that the radio silence is a sign of some hidden social scene.
“It’s the unique type of anxiety that prompts us to worry that everyone is hanging out without us — and not telling us about it while they’re doing it,” Lucia Peters writes for Bustle.
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What is FoMO and FoBO?
One more acronym for you. FoBO, the fear of better options, is FoMO’s close relative.
In fact, the two terms are attributed to the same man, venture capitalist Patrick Mcginnis. FoBO is characterized by indecision in both consequential scenarios (whether to move cross-country) and less important ones (what to order at dinner.)
That indecision is linked to a fear that there is a better option, and that the choice you ultimately make will be the wrong one. Those with FoMO are more likely to refrain from commitment or commit and then cancel, Coco Khan writes for The Guardian.
While FoMO is more universally experienced, FoBO is more linked to privilege and wealth, Mcginnis told the Guardian. “To have FoBO you must have options. So the richer you are, the more powerful you are, the more options you have. That’s when you start to feel it,” he noted.
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