How “FOMO” controls our lives

Not being up to date is, so to speak, the quintessence of “FOMO”. As a consequence, you always look at your smartphone.

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We all feel it - the urge of always being available. It just feels good to have the smartphone within reach and with that the possibility to be online at any time. However, that need may take dangerous or even unhealthy forms. Peter Vorderer, professor of media and communication science at the University of Mannheim, calls this phenomenon “PO/PC”. We all try to fight our “FOMO” through “permanently online/permanently connected”. Indeed, something like that actually exists: The “Fear of missing out” is a term which is currently researched highly scientifically. We have the fear of missing something out while we’re not using our smartphones, not answering WhatsApp messages or not giving out likes on Instagram. The fact that we feel this anxiety while having a coffee with friends seems almost paradoxical. But it seems that local “live” experiences become more and more less important, when all hell was let loose on the WhatsApp timeline. 

On top of that

Not being up to date is, so to speak, the quintessence of “FOMO”. As a consequence, you always look at your smartphone - you almost feel unimportant if there is no message flashing on your screen. We’re apparently willing to accept the fact that “FOMO” can also cause people to feel excluded or unappreciated in real face-to-face situations. Scientific studies prove that the mere presence of a smartphone influences the quality of real face-to-face conversations in a negative way. According to the study released in 2013 by Przybylski & Weinstein, the counterpart feels particularly distanced from the interlocutor, when the topic of the conversation is deep or meaningful and a smartphone is present. In addition, empathy decreases. It has long been clear that smartphones can be really dangerous, especially in partnerships. Checking your partner’s phone is, thanks to social networks, not uncommon and puts your trust to the test. Smartphone usage has become an issue often discussed in relationships. 

Impact on life satisfaction 

According to Vorderer, online services like instagram can heavily jeopardize our life satisfaction, because constantly scrolling through your timeline can result in desensitization of sensations: A picture of a friend at the beach here, a selfie of a friend randomly meeting a celebrity there, then people with perfect bodies biting into a burger with relish - and then there’s us, unflattering and in pajamas. Exactly this kind of looking through pictures makes our own life seem highly unspectacular and boring, which can quickly lead to an extremely negative effect on our own life satisfaction. We come to the decision that our daily routine is simply just average, not worth talking about. 

Blue check marks are the new danger

After sending a risky text message, WhatsApp’s blue check marks can drive you crazy. Because the evidence of “he/she/it read it” leads to the expectation of a response. If you don’t get one, you’ll remain disappointed. Professional terms for this also already exist: “Ghosting” describes ceasing all communication and contact with the former partner without any warning. You can’t get in touch with that person anymore, as if the earth had swallowed he or she up. This can be upsetting, especially if it happens after a long time. Getting “ghosted” is also one of the phenomena that only got so significant through the recent changes in lifestyle due to the media. 

We don’t want to badmouth everything, we simply want to point out how much smartphone usage might have changed our society in the last years. Therefore: Our karma tip for today - give your counterpart a compliment and put your smartphone away, even if it’s just for one hour! :-) 


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