Forget FoMO: In Business Its FoBIA

I’m pretty hip, cool, groovy and with it, most of the time. Having said that, I think I just proved otherwise by using those expressions. Maybe I’m mad, bad and trending. Whatevs the case I’m totes going to go ahead with this post.

Recently, I happened across an article about FoMO, telling me I was missing out. Naturally, it reeled me in, I mean if I was missing out, I couldn’t knowingly continue to miss out on what I was missing out on. Turns out I was missing out on knowing what FoMo meant. For the equally uniniated hip, cool and groovy  FoMo is:

Defined as a fear of one’s social standing or how one is perceived among peers,  and a need to constantly know what is happening and what others are doing, FoMO  is most prevalent in people aged 16 to 35.

Read more:

FoMo is driven by our social media, constantly connected culture. All the information about what your friends, rivals and social set are up all just a click of a button away. This is apparently creating a narcissistic, anxious and sleep deprived Gen Y. However, as the article points out it’s not all bad, FoMO may actually make you strive to better yourself. All that comparison, might just light a fire in your belly and give you a way forward.

How 2013 is this though?

These human traits have existed ever since the Garden of Eden and when you know who was a boy. They have certainly existed in the workplace ever since I was a girl. Social media just aggregates the information and delivers it in a way where actual human to human contact is minimised. It hangs the hubris out there for all the world to see, but can be a wonderful outlet for compassion, connection and achievement. I’m keen on social media, but understand the personal responsibility that comes with its use.

The reality is we all buy into FoMO to some degree or another – whether it’s gossiping over the back fence, rubber necking our way past a car accident or following our favourite celebrity on Twitter. It is not just the purview of 16 to 35 year olds. They may just lay claim to social media FoMo.

phone charging poleWhich brings me back to the business world. In the past couple of weeks, I have had cause to observe just how anxious people get when they are not tethered to their smartphones or other technology devices. At every business meeting I have had over the past fortnight people have laid their mobile devices on the table before them. Whilst they may have been on silent, at least a couple of them continued to check emails coming in. One even responded and made a call totally unrelated to the topic of the meeting at hand. What message does this send to the people in the meeting?  At a seminar, half the participants sat phone in hand, scrolling away on their screens.

Is business on the phone really that pressing? Are we really that indispensible that we can’t focus on one thing solely for 1 hour? Or that we can’t switch off after hours?

Or are we a creating a business culture of FoBIA?

FoBIA is a term I have coined to mean Fear of Being Irrelevant, Already.

It seems that the need to create the perception that we are important or busy by remaining tethered to our communication devices abounds. It also looks good to an audience if you are constantly checking in, it means you must be important. Check your emails at 8pm, 9pm, 10pm, 11pm or you might miss out on a piece of information that you could have picked up in the morning *.

But how much of this is real business need, and how much of this is fear and patch protection? How much is posturing?

Worse still, is this becoming a habit?

I refuse to believe that the advent of Web 2.0  forces us to redfine the meaning of ‘need to know’ and respectful person to person communication. Respect is the bottom line for all interactions, online, offline or in outer space and committing your attention is a part of that.

True leadership and ability to influence begins with making other people feel valued. The size of one’s inbox or phone is no measure of business prowess.

So to all you legends in your own inboxes, I say no need for FoBIA and forget FoMO. Human interaction will enrich your life, information in and of itself will not.

For another post on technology and its impacts today read this great piece from Barney who blogs at Views from the Hill.

* Legitimate after hours use is not included in this statement, for example working on a time critical or global transaction where communication with other time zones are necessary.

About the curtain raiserhttp://raisingthecurtain.netI have spent my life in offices. For now I am putting that behind me and preparing for the second act. Middle age didn't come with acceptable signposts so I am making my own through my writing. A journey shared is more fun than going it solo.

25 thoughts on “Forget FoMO: In Business Its FoBIA

  1. The one nice thing about getting older is that FoMO no longer matters. But I’m happy to be educated on a term I never knew existed. Thank you for that!

    I’m guilty of checking email and blog comments and such during conferences, but not because I feel I’m so important I must, but because it gives me less work to do when I get home. Then I can just enjoy time with the family without worrying about my emails that have piled up. But I would never pick up my phone if it were an interactive meeting. That’s just rude.

    Great article!

    • You’re absolutley right about FoMO mattering less as you get older, it has a lot to do with confidence and knowing who you are. Glad I could pass on the new term. It totally freaks my kids out when I know them. I plan to keep freaking them out ;).

  2. Totally agree with you Judy. It really gets my goat when you’re work meeting and one of the people that you need engaged in the discussion to resolve issues is glued to their iphone screen. It is disrespectful at the bare minimum. I am starting to call them on it in front of the other participants!

  3. Love it….FoBIA…
    You are brilliant.
    I just have to work that into a conversation…going to a party tomorrow evening…I’ll let you know if I succeed. At the very least I can count the FoBIAites……

  4. I wonder if the meaning of making people feel valued has changed with electronic tethering.
    And if we who are immersed in it are demonstrating our value by staying on top of whatever is coming in.

    • I’m not sure it has. I think feeling valued through social media is different to feeling valued IRL. It’s fine if you are both using devices in the presence of each other by agreement or with a shared understanding of what your interaction will entail. The difficulty arises when expecations are not aligned.

  5. My daughter is a FoMo and I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t read your post 😉 so thank you. Yes the phones, the IPad’s all the devices to keep us in touch are saying that who is the one on holidays blogging?? 😦 xx

    • Welcome to the tthe ranks of the cool, hip and groovy :). Blogging on holiday is fine. Blogging whilst out for dinner at a restaurant or crawling through the Daintree may be problematic. You almost need a seperate bag just for the charger chords!

  6. As a trainer and facilitator in the business world (I used to joke that I spend my life in meetings), I used to have a ground rule that people had to turn off all their electronic devices during sessions. Of course, during breaks, everyone checks right away to see what they had missed. It’s an addiction of sorts, and I think you’ve identified what drives it. I too love the community aspect of social media and agree with have a responsibility to use it well and wisely.

    • I’m convinced its an addiction, how many times have we read about or heard of device withdrawal? Most amazingly still, most people are fairly positive about their experiences with device detox and seem to scale back a bit after they realise that life goes on.

  7. I’m waiting for the FoMo and FoBIA crash: post stress syndrome, when the mind goes into overload and cannot handle overwhelming multi-tasking.

    I am also expecting arthritic thumbs and crab-like fingers to get noticed.

    Wonderful post, Judy. My head kept bobbing as I read. Everything you mention is so true.

  8. Judy, an old friend and social worker once told me, “we need to be present in the conversation.” So, many things are missed by our distractions. As for the fear of missing out, given what some people talk about, I don’t think I am missing out too much. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. Take care, BTG

    • How is the Web 2.0 denial going? Are you feeling anxious about not being tethered?

      I just read the avatar anxiety article. So interesting. We are yet to fully appreciate teh psychological impacts of the social media world we have created. I have also felt some of the things from the Levy article quotes.

      Life is all about balance, is it not?

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