9 June 2015

Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) is the uneasy and sometimes all-consuming feeling that you’re missing out—that your peers are doing, in the know about or in possession of more or something better than you. FOMO may be a social angst that’s always existed, but it’s going into overdrive thanks to real-time digital updates and to our constant companion, the smartphone1

Until today I had no idea that the FOMO phenomenon had been named, I only knew I had an ever growing concern about the possibility that I might be paying too much attention to my phone. I often drop everything I’m doing to answer the beckoning call of a notification. I believe I may suffer from a different strain of the FOMO, the PROFOMO (short for professional fear of missing out, trademark pending). I realize that by configuring a specific sound to work-related emails (I don’t recommend you to set that up in your phone if you haven’t done so already) I’ve conditioned a pavlovian response2 that I can no longer supress.

While discussing this topic recently a colleague said that she was glad to use previously considered off times to stay updated on what was going on at work (during her commute to work for example) all thanks to her smartphone. Although I do the same it made me wonder, shouldn’t off times remain… Off?

I don’t have an answer for myself quite yet but I can’t help sharing some of my observations for what it means for companies and their customers. The FOMO is here to stay because the tools we use to stay connected aren’t getting any less invasive. Companies that surf on this trend are those that are able to harness the power of well-designed calls to action:

  • Starbucks uses its social media accounts in a way that screams «you don’t want to miss this’’ to its followers. They post great looking pictures of clients having fun while advertising a special on Frappucinnos at the same time, who would want to miss out on the fun?
  • H&M got a lot of visibility for its innovative way of grabbing the attention of its fans. They combined the zealotry of Instagram and the geolocation strategy to invite clients in the store closest to their current location with great deals on clothes. If H&M wasn’t there at that moment, how many people would have been left missing out on those great deals?!

It should be noted that a counter-trend is alive and kicking, the Anti-FOMO! Did you know that there are means to actively block out the online world in ways that will make you forget the dreaded fear of missing out. The focus here is on the experience and a desire to disconnect.

  • Take goRVing.ca, a site that encourages you to take a Recreational Vehicle to disconnect and explore the land with your loved ones in tow. KFC also took a jab at the always connected PROFOMO culture with its family meal, showing a hard working mom putting the phone down to enjoy a meal with her family. There are many products that underline this growing need to forgo the virtual world and seize the «real-life’’ moments.
  • As for the primary culprit itself, the smartphone, there is an ever growing list of apps that aim to accompany you in your anti-FOMO quest. OffTime helps you customize your connectivity to help manage the notifications that can or cannot disturb you for a moment of your choosing while UBhind allows you to track your smartphone’s use (or overuse) to help you put a finger on the error of your ways. There are many other options which seem to prove that this anti-FOMO movement is indeed a real counter-trend.

I wanted to end this article with a message of hope for those of you who are struggling with the FOMO. Unfortunately, you’re on your own, I have notifications to check out!

1 – JWT Intelligence: http://www.jwtintelligence.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/F_JWT_FOMO-update_3.21.12.pdf

2 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_conditioning