02 Dec Fear of Missing Out

Buying “Innovation” requires a leap of faith.

We all know there’s a temptation to make the leap because everyone else does.

But we may not realize just how irresistable the fear of missing out can be.

Or that it is so persistent today that there is an acronym for it: FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).

Or that there is evidence that it can blind us.

FOMO is why “Americans Can’t Go Two Hours without Checking Technology Devices” according to Crucial.com: “One in four Americans becomes stressed by going longer than 30 minutes without checking their email or phone due to fear of missing out.”

But more importantly, we don’t perceive how compelling FOMO is: “The independent survey . . . conducted by GMI Research . . . found a disconnect among Americans when it comes to the perceptions and realities of their technology use . . . While three in four men reported having a balanced or very balanced tech-life ratio, 84 percent of men admitted to having checked a mobile device while driving . . . ”

This disconnect isn’t benign. It is related to “Inattentional Blindness” –  “an event in which an individual fails to recognize an unexpected stimulus that is in plain sight.”

In a driving fatality case in Utah, the accused driver, Reggie Shaw, has become an anit-texting law evangelist after being shocked to realize that he didn’t remember texting at the time of the accident, until the evidence was presented to him in trial.

Since FOMO is so irresistable and blinds us to reality, some liken its power to an addiction. But others contemplate that it could be even worse. Addiction is usually related to something that gives a positive reward all the time. Matt Richtel, author of ‘A Deadly Wandering,’ loooks at the science behind why FOMO is “so magnetic.”

You would think that if our devices delivered us lots of irrelevant or non-urgent information, we’d be conditioned to press it less.  Perservsely, we’re conditionded to press it more.

He calls it “Intermittent Reinforcement” which comes from the early behavioral research of B.F. Skinner on rats.

Every parent can see the FOMO effect in their kids – evidenced by the piles of tried and discarded toys children “had to have” six months earlier. The size of that market nears $100 Billion in the US.

But FOMO drives marketers’ judgements too, encouraging digital media and marketing innovation bubbles that burst. 

FOMO is a powerful barrier for innovations based on market intelligence instead of illusion.

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katherine@comradity.com