What happens if you don’t look at your smartphone
The Internet has multiplied the number of ways in which we communicate.
While we still communicate one to one (in a personal email, for example),
we now also often communicate one to many (e.g. in a Facebook post or
WhatsApp group message).
One of the most important elements of online communication is self-
presentation: we only want to show our best side. We post photos of
perfectly prepared dishes, perfect holidays, perfect parties, perfect scores.
And this starts a vicious circle: whenever we feel bored or alone, we look
at our smartphone. But what are we looking for? We basically want to see
that others have seen us – a ‘like’, a ‘share’, a ‘retweet’ is proof of that.
But when looking at social media we also see the apparently perfect lives
of our friends – which we are not part of – and how these lives are being
‘liked’ and ‘shared’. Scientists call the ‘uneasy and sometimes all-
consuming feeling that we’re missing out – that our peers are doing or in
possession of more or something better than we are’ – ‘Fear of Missing
Out’, or FoMO. A team of psychologists at the University of Essex, led by
Andy Przybylski, came up with this name.
People under the age of thirty-five suffer more from this phenomenon,
men more than women, teenagers more than adults, unhappy more than
happy people. To clarify: it’s not a question of really missing out on
something; it’s about the feeling of having missed out on something.
We’ve all been there: when we’re feeling down, bored or stressed out, we
check our smartphone. But all this does is make us feel even worse.
Smartphones act like an accelerant when it comes to FoMO – and thereby
corroborate the fifty-year-old ‘McLuhan’s Media Theory’: ‘The medium is
‘In the twentieth century “I think, therefore I am” no longer applies, but
rather “Others are thinking of me, therefore I am.” ’