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Maybe it’s FOBI, and not FOMO, motivating your behavior.

May 20, 2015

Maybe it’s FOBI, and not FOMO, motivating your behavior.

FOMO is the acronym for the Fear Of Missing Out – the very real sense of concern, wonder, and anxiety of what exactly could be happening when I am not there? What joys, pleasures, opportunities and scandals am I not rightfully partaking in?

FOMO is the bad-boy who supposedly drives the social media behavior of sharing, often not caring about others, and sometimes leading to mild depression through covetous behaviour.

“What a great party they had”, “I wish I could’ve eaten at that restaurant”, “how did they hear that before me”, “I wonder if I’ll ever go on a holiday like that?, and “is their child prettier than mine?” All this inane mental clutter can enter the lives of those, creating problems where there were none.

On the other hand, FOMO can be a great motivator. If you don’t want to miss out then improve your game. Be friendlier, enhance your skills, get noticed more, be different. Be better.

Being in the commercial psychology business (also known as marketing), we spend most of our time understanding behaviours and the motivations behind them. My agency has been exploring and analysing the notion of FOMO for quite some time, as advertising often plays more into insecurities, than it does to aspiration.

On the surface it may appear that, “if I drive that car, then people will see me as successful”. But the real fear may be, “if I don’t drive that car, people will see me as unsuccessful”.

A fear of failure may be far more motivating than a need for overt success. But we’ll never approach an ad with the latter as a proposition, for insecurity is the natural flipside of the aspiration coin – they coexist. Any need for recognition has an underbelly of the fear of failure. People who want to improve their lot are driven by fear.

It would be quite blunt to look at the shinier side of the coin and say they have a fear of missing out, when the real fear may actually be FOBI – the Fear of Being Irrelevant.

Why do we feel the need to Tweet? To have a Facebook page? To be on LinkedIn? Sure, part of it is for connection, to share and exchange ideas and opportunities. But we believe, as great is the human need, or craving, for interaction, equally great is the fear of being unnoticed, unremarkable, uninteresting, unimportant – irrelevant.

20 years ago, teenagers wanted to grow up to be doctors, lawyers, engineers, and teachers. Today, according to UK research, they strive to be celebrities. They seek fame and fortune over being useful to society. This is an age where talking about money is no longer dirty. All reality TV shows focus on “more and better” – how to be prettier, be younger, have a nicer house, win a big job, a hot bride, get a full makeover, win a million bucks.

In fact, they could all use the Survivor line, “Outwit. Outlast. Outplay”.

Combine hedonism and competitiveness with instant gratification, and you create a toxic mix of “anything you can do, I can do better”.

FOBI –think about your motivation in what you do these days. I see people at restaurants, movies, shows, work with their eyes glued to their phones. Fingers like woodpeckers, tapping away. Why?

Where would you rather be?

FOBI is a far bigger fear than FOMO. Missing out is small time compared to Irrelevance. It’s hard-wired into us through societal shifts.

This simple observation is a great new angle to drive demand. Terrible as that is (I hear a Dr Evil “bwaaahaha” in the background).

But how amazing to strive to be personally liberated from it. Note to self.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Lemohang Molobi permalink
    June 15, 2015 5:58 pm


    Lovely read, may I please reblog/repost this on my LinkedIn as part of an article I would like to write, will give credit where due.

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