FOMO: Fear and Hatred in Social Networks


One rainy evening I decided to stay at home and arrange myself an evening of favorite TV series on the couch with popcorn. And everything was so good – until a certain time. Alerts began to arrive on my phone, one by one.

With each new notification, my mood for rest was lost. My friends came to a concert near my house. What kind of concert, dammit? Then I saw pictures of other friends drinking exquisite cocktails in some fashionable restaurant.

A sudden flurry of missed opportunities gave rise to more and more anxiety and indecision in me – I was torn between my cozy nest and some spontaneous meeting and could not decide what exactly I wanted.

My problem is typical for the era of digital technology. It is called a fear of missing something important (FOMO is an abbreviation of the English phrase FEAR OF MISSING OUT”) and manifests itself in excitation, irrationality and irritability at the moment when you Flipping a tape in social networks like Vkontakte, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Billions of photos, tweets, statuses every day allow us to monitor how our friends and colleagues live.

There are a lot of advantages in this. So, by flipping through the records of my friends from all over the world, I feel a connection with them. For me, watching news and photos from the next concert or party of my circle of contacts is perhaps the most necessary item in the list of current affairs.

However, there are enough minuses too. Professor of psychology and behavioral economics, lecturer at the University of Duke, Dan Arieli in his book “Predictable irrationality” says that when we leaf through photos and records of friends, fear of regret begins to overcome us. This is due to our concerns about the erroneously chosen leisure.


We are torn between choosing: to spend your evening at home or on a “get-together” to show it on the social network

In social networks, we see updates in real time, which is very different from, say, discussion over dinner past week’s events. Just at the moment when we see how our friends drink wine without us, it comes to the realization that everything could have gone differently.

One can draw an analogy with everyday life. In which case would you be more upset: after being late for a flight for two minutes or for two hours? For two minutes, of course. You immediately imagine how everything would turn out, if you had time, and this leads to strange actions.

The fear of missing something important is peculiar not only to those who lead an active nightlife. My friend, a specialist in advertising, said she was quite happy with her life, but then she opened Facebook. “And then I thought:” I’m 28 years old, I live with three neighbors, and … oh! You have such a lovely kid and a mortgage, “she said. “And then I want to die.”

In such cases, my girlfriend involuntarily begins to post on her pages about how cool she spent her time, what she did at the weekend. And it often helps to improve well-being, but at the same time can lead to the emergence of FOMO in another, unsuspecting person.

The creators of some social networks claim that they developed their services only so that people would like to return to them, but there was no secret intention at all.

No one wants to upload their content “into the void,” says Kevin Systrom, general director of Instagram. The more interesting the photo, the more likely it is that it will attract attention. The response of users can lead to a certain dependency. He says that Instagram users like when their photos are jogging, and that’s why they are constantly opening this application.


We are dependent on the likes

The concern that some are experiencing when they see others enjoy life can be further enhanced by an endless stream of new notifications. “We do not see the world as it is,” Systrom said. “We humans only process this endless stream of data.”

Of course, FOMO is not a new phenomenon. Previously, this fear arose because of secular chronicles in newspapers, photos from parties, e-mail, where we saw some people having fun. But now instead of polite and rare notifications we constantly get them directly to our gadget.

FOMO and marketing go hand in hand today. People who are prone to FOMO, it is easier to entice social networks and push to purchases, which are due to their fears. Therefore, do not underestimate the benefits of FOMO as a marketing tool. Here are some examples of how this “disease” can be successfully used in marketing.

1. Create conditions of shortage and urgency

Marketers have long used urgency as a special tricky technique, but coupled with FOMO, it gives unprecedented results. What else will make us act more urgently, like not the fear of being late and forever losing our opportunity? I, for example, once bought a sudden sale (which, it turned out, lasted a few more days) a couple of things that I did not really need and needed, all because I was afraid to miss the most profitable price tag.

Shortage and urgency are inextricably linked. The shortage leads to urgency: if there are one hundred tickets left for the concert or there are a hundred goods in the warehouse, then there is a limited offer. Especially when we hear “everything is almost sold out – hurry to make it!”, FOMO takes over us and forces us to run and buy anything.

Try to emphasize both shortage and urgency, and users with the syndrome FOMO will not keep you waiting.

2. Maintain user activity to ensure the value of each customer

Even if you do not conduct survey contests and do not ask users to share photos of their favorite products, they will start doing it themselves as soon as you ask them to express their opinion.

Give them discount coupons in exchange for feedback on Facebook or post questions like “What new things would you like to see in our product range?”. As a result, satisfied customers will raise a strong hype around your products, which in turn will lead you to new leads and customers who will never miss something worthwhile.

3. Promote not a product, but impressions

Impressions from the product are much more important than the product itself for people with FOMO syndrome, which greatly simplifies the promotion of events such as sales or the launch of something new. No one will want to miss an interesting event. This is one of the reasons why the owners of the phone from Apple annually stand in endless queues for a new iPhone – the current phone suits them, but they can not skip the premiere of the new one.

All this works wonderfully in areas where impressions are the product itself. This, for example, cruises, restaurants or theme parks. But I’m more often asked about companies selling a more standard product: solutions for the B2B market, pet food or candles. However, even in this case, you can focus on the impression that directly complements your product.

Let’s say I sell software that automates accounting. I sell the product, but I will sell it as something that will save you from hassle and stress and increase your productivity.

User content can also come in handy – users share their impressions about your product, and you put it all in social networks.

4. Find the application of exclusivity

As a rule, we rejoice when we are invited to groups for the elect. So, the perception of clients by their exclusivity can increase their number, as well as contribute to the emergence of their FOMO. Lack and exclusivity get along well with each other – people see something exclusive and their activity grows.

Trademarks like the White House Black Market and Sephora have bonus loyalty programs that work like this: the more you spend in a calendar year, the more bonuses you get. For example, having spent 500 dollars, you can count on an annual discount of 5% for all goods, and a check of $ 1000 gives a gift card and a 10% discount. Launch such a bonus program on social networks, so that only the elite get discounts and bonuses, and you will see what role this plays in FOMO-marketing.


Fear can become a significant source of motivation, in particular, if it is inherent in your target audience. The use of FOMO in marketing will bring you more results and more clients, especially if, along with this fear, you focus on the urgency of making decisions and a limited number of products, and also support your campaign with social proof. Users of the network are always afraid to miss something important, so make it important that they give you.

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