Fear of Missing Out is the fear that people feel faced with the thought that they might miss out on a social occasion, new experience, profitable investment or other satisfying event. This fear of possible regret leads to a desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing, to feel that you are always in-the-know or “in touch”. This psychological principle is most notably evident in the way in which certain people become addicted to social media and their mobile phones, constantly checking them in order to see what others are doing and to be sure they are not missing out on something.
Psychologists explain the Fear of Missing Out by the social disadvantage we feel we have if we’re excluded from something. We always fear that others are having much more rewarding life experiences than us and feel compelled to constantly check whether “the grass is greener” and feel it necessary to try and “keep up with the Joneses”.
FOMO has several consequences on individuals’ behaviour: it can lead to saying yes to everything in order not to miss out on anything or, on the contrary, to having a hard time making any plans or decisions because we’re always worried something better might come along. In both cases, it can trigger negative emotions such as boredom, loneliness and frustration as it leads us to only see things in terms of “missed opportunities” rather than making the most of those things we do experience.
In the commercial world, FOMO can certainly be a factor in motivating consumers to buy. Brands are employing FOMO in advertising and marketing campaigns to make consumers specifically feel that they will be missing out on something if they don’t own their product. Momentary marketing, for example, uses transient social media platforms to target FOMO with flash sales and ephemeral content that offers short-term deals, which further incites customers to remain “on the pulse” and to make quicker purchases.