The Fear of Missing Out

“FOMO” stands for “Fear of Missing Out”… FOMO is a great motivator of human behavior, and I think a crucial key to understanding social software, and why it works the way it does. Many people have studied the game mechanics that keep people collecting things (points, trophies, check-ins, mayorships, kudos). Others have studied how the neurochemistry that keeps us checking Facebook every five minutes is similar to the neurochemistry fueling addiction. Social media has made us even more aware of the things we are missing out on. You’re home alone, but watching your friends status updates tell of a great party happening somewhere. You are aware of more parties than ever before. And, like gym memberships, adding Bergman movies to your Netflix queue and piling up unread copies of the New Yorker, watching these feeds gives you a sense that you’re participating, not missing out, even when you are.

— Caterina Fake, cofounder of Flickr, on the fear of missing out and social media. This pretty much sums up that invisible, inexorable drive to see things, check things and know things, given a new fuel and immediacy by the evolution of social media. [via Kottke]

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