Americans are spending increasingly more time online on social networks and among those networks, Facebook is the most popular. This is especially true in the millennial age group, those born between 1980 and the early 2000s. Although one might expect that spending time on social networking would enhance human connection and communication, research actually suggests quite the opposite. Primarily as a result of the widespread use of social networking, the acronym, FOMO, has been added to the Oxford dictionary. FOMO, or fear of missing out, typically arises from posts seen on social media networks. It is defined as anxiety that an interesting or exciting event might currently be happening elsewhere and that the person with FOMO might be missing out on that possibly exciting occurrence. To avoid these feelings, people with FOMO are constantly connecting to social media and checking posts from their various acquaintances. As they view the activities described in other posts, these people feel unworthy, and unfulfilled. They have the fear that other people are having a better time than they are and that they are missing out.
These dissatisfied people with FOMO can also have physical complaints including headache, chest pain, and impaired thinking. The more that they feel like they are left out, the greater the impulse to check social media and it becomes a vicious, time consuming cycle. The higher the FOMO score as measured by a questionnaire (https://psychcentral.com/quizzes/fomo-quiz.htm), the lower are the individual’s feeling of autonomy, connectivity, and competence. The greater the use of smartphones and social media, the lower the length and quality of sleep. When separated from their phones in experimental studies, the participants exhibited classical symptoms of addiction withdrawal including rapid heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and anxiety.
With increasing public awareness of these challenges, online apps have been developed to control social media time. Mindfulness training and cognitive behavior therapy, psychological tools, have been successfully employed to limit social media exposure. The attempt is to limit social media contact to one or two specific time windows each day. With this becoming a more common problem, approaches to its control will undoubtedly be aimed at preventing it in the first place through psychological, electronic, or pharmacological means.