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FoMO, out of the sea of new terms coined by millennials, this one certainly sticks. Man is a social animal, his need to find comraderies; and regrets over being left out of plans or not being invited to parties is a tale as old as time. But in the 21st century, particularly in the age of social media this issue has become agonizingly relevant.

In 2013, British psychologists elaborated and defined FoMo as “pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent”. And in a time where no activity is complete without documenting it in photos and videos and posting it to our social media accounts, one becomes hyperaware of the happenings they might have missed and despair over the lost opportunity to share it on their social media as well.

Scientifically, FoMO includes two processes; firstly, the perception of missing out, followed up with a compulsive behaviour to maintain these social connections. Scientists say that dopaminergic tracts, in particular, the mesolimbic systems get activated with successful social connections. The lack of this reward stimulation is associated with a range of negative life experiences and feelings, such as a lack of sleep, reduced life competency, emotional tension, negative effects on physical well-being, anxiety and a lack of emotional control.

FoMO is further aggravated by problematic Social Networking Sites (SNS) use due to its easy access for adolescents to interact at will and constant need for personal validation and rewarding appraisals of distorted sense of self. The constant “upward social comparisons” and ‘Round the clock’ nature of these communication may lead to feeling lonely and inadequate and can adversely impact one’s self-esteem.

In a Belgian study with 1000 subjects, 6.5% were found to be using SNSs excessively, they were found to have lower emotional stability and agreeableness, conscientiousness, perceived control and self-esteem which could be risk factor for affective disorders, potentially leading to depressive symptoms and higher risk of having suicidality.

Another downside is its association with negative alcohol-related consequences and greater willingness to engage in higher risk behaviours just to fit in with peers resulting in adverse health consequences including longer sleep onset latency, reduced sleep duration and quality and overall impact on psychological health.

The roots of FoMO lie in our very nature and the chemistry of our brain. We feel rewarded by the attention and adoration we get from social involvement and this keeps us going back for more. Capitalism plays on this very need to feel involved and has launched several successful campaigns resulting in a mass production of “clones” who look, talk and act alike. ‘Birds of a feather flock together’, they say but our desire for social acceptance and validation forces us to change the colours of ones feathers completely just to “fit in”. Being at the right place, at the right time, in the right pair of shoes, and with the right kind of people has consumed all aspects of one’s social life.

In my opinion the most repentant consequence of it is the lack of individuality and its appreciation thereof. People, especially adolescents and young adult are losing their sense of self and are getting influenced into remodelling themselves just to be socially accepted. The intolerance of us as a society towards thoughts and actions deviating from our own is abominable and pitiful. FoMo is a broad-spectrum phenomenon and is the root cause of many other social issues such as body image issues, squandering etc.

Its high time we get “de-influenced” and broaden our definitions of social acceptability; and start appreciating the uniqueness in each and every one of us and let go of the fitting in mentality As gen Z , I say we right the wrongs of those before us and focus more on JoMo- the joy of missing out or HoGo- the hassle of going out.


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