Fear is a powerful motivator of human behavior

Fear is a powerful motivator of human behavior – “For Millennials, Social Media Is Not All Fun and Games” http://ow.ly/4KaBb

For Millennials (otherwise known as Generation Y and born roughly between 1980 and 2000) the always-on, constantly connected nature of technology – the most recent incarnations of which being driven by the success of social networks and the proliferation of mobile devices – has its drawbacks.  The “Fear Of Missing Out” (FOMO) is a term coined by MTV following a recent study of Millennials yielded some interesting (and startling) observations:

  • Over half of the respondents agreed with the statement “what I post online defines who I am”
  • 66% said that it is “exhausting to always be ‘on'”
  • 58% concurred with the assertion that “when I’m unplugged, I worry that I’m missing out on something”

Many of these observations are essentially rehashing what people have known or suspected about our immature and evolving relationship with technology – it is the proverbial “double edged sword.”  All mammals – especially humans – are “social animals” or those that are highly interactive with other members of their species “to the point of having a recognizable and distinct society.”  Recent advancements have certainly allowed us to increase the breath and immediacy (although perhaps not the depth) of these interactions.  In fact, a recent article by the New York Times’ Jenna Wortham summed up the FOMO conundrum beautifully.

“One recent rainy night, I curled up on my couch with popcorn and Netflix Instant, ready to spend a quiet night at home. The peace was sweet — while it lasted. Soon, my iPhone began flashing with notifications from a handful of social networking sites, each a beacon of information about what my friends were doing.

As the alerts came in, my mind began to race. Three friends, I learned, had arrived at a music venue near my apartment. But why? What was happening there? Then I saw pictures of other friends enjoying fancy milkshakes at a trendy restaurant. Suddenly, my simple domestic pleasures paled in comparison with the things I could be doing.

The flurry of possibilities set off a rush of restlessness and indecision. I was torn between nesting in my cozy roost or rallying for an impromptu rendezvous, and I just didn’t know what to do.”

Based on the study performed by MTV, Ms. Wortham is certainly not alone in her anxiety and indecision.  Although I’m technically not a Gen Y Millennial,  I’ve found that when fending off any feeling of FOMO “the best defense is a good offense” – balance doses of social media with healthy spans of being unplugged.