Following the Joneses: FOMO and Conspicuous Sociality

A draft of Following the Joneses: FOMO and Conspicuous Sociality (DRAFT) is now available.

ABSTRACT: I argue that the emergence and proliferation of the term FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and its siblings (FOBO, FODA, MOMO, FODO) reveals a difficulty with the management of envy and compulsion arising from social media usage. The feelings of FOMO can be understood as envy-related anxiety about missed experiences (fear of missing out) and belonging (fear of being left out). Beyond feelings, people who speak of FOMO also speak of it as an external manifestation, most often as a compulsivity (related to what I characterize as “conspicuous sociality”) and as an illness to be remedied. And although FOMO is often seen as a recent phenomenon, I argue it is a continuation of a concern and discourse about envy and anxiety (e.g., “keeping up with the Joneses” and neurasthenia) prompted by changes in communication media that began over a century ago.

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