FOMO: Don’t Let It Sting You

Is your Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) flaring up? Are you anxious because all your friends are hanging out and you are at home scarfing down the last spoonful of Ben & Jerry’s? Or perhaps you have FOMO because you haven’t tweeted in three hours or haven’t posted on Facebook in two days.

While not an actual condition, FOMO is a byproduct of the Social Media Age and anyone who spends anytime on social media has encountered FOMO at least once. It’s certainly not healthy, and for communicators who believe social media is a tactic not a platform, then your FOMO level is probably pretty high.  Spending too much time on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc, means you’re spending less time interacting face to face with your colleagues, talking to your customers; less time reading, thinking, strategizing, measuring. “Too much time” is a relative term, and for some brands and people, posting every hour or so is acceptable.

But you know intrinsically when it’s getting out of hand, so recognize FOMO and manage it. You are not missing anything. You will not get fired and you will not lose friends. You will not miss a big news item and you will not lose a sale.  Absence does make the heart grow fonder, so instead of fearing you’re missing out, try fearing that you’re too deep in social media.  Combat FOMO in small steps: consider NOT sharing a link to a news story you didn’t read; consider NOT posting a photo of the enchilada that’s shaped like the state of Florida; consider leaving your device in your pocket or purse when interacting with another human.

It’s easier said than done. And app developers who understand the human psyche are coming up with creative ways to deal with people’s FOMO. Take, for example, a new app called CouchCachet which allows you to check in via Foursquare to bars, parties, restaurants, hangouts, etc, even though you are not actually there. On its home page, the app is described as “a social application that will lie and say you are already doing those things while you sit at home in your pajamas.”

In  a profile of CouchCachet in the New York Times, the app co-founder Harlie Levine explains: “It will live the lifestyle that you need to project to others. You can finally be who you want people to think you are. They don’t know you’re sitting at home, getting caught up on ‘Downton Abbey’.” Conceding that the app can mean no one’s really out partying but rather they’re pretending to be doing so and using CouchCachet to enable this, Brian Fountain, the co-founder of CouchCachet noted: “This is robots talking to robots. This is the future.”

I truly hope this is not the future. It’s up to us humans to stop the madness.

– Diane Schwartz