Fear of missing out, and how to invent the next fidget spinner etc

“I’ll have what she’s having” are the famous words from the nearby lady observing Sally displaying her orgasmic pleasure in the epic 1989 romcom road trip (watch here). The right choice can be hard to find, but gauging on the joy of others is a good start. We typically base our choices on those of others, especially when the enthusiasm is … orgasmic.

People typically have an innate and inbuilt fear of missing out. It drives most of our decisions in life, including the wrong ones such as addictive social media usage and other behaviours. FoMO is normal and invasive, the anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere. The fear that if one does not experience the whatever, they will some how be missing out on what all the others are experiencing.

FoMO is all about fearing regret which may lead to a compulsive concern that one might miss out on a novel or new experience, toy or social media. No one wishes to be the one who misses out.

Whether it is youngsters making each others envious and addicted to the latest fun craze from fidget spinners to Pokemon Go, or adults fearing they may miss a social media post, like, share or just been seen to be there. The potentially fading time around the water cooler discussing last night’s episode of Masterchef on the TV, or the growing trend towards the experience economy to experience the latest funky food, wine or performance.

Where does this all come from, and how can YOU make your next CRAZE!?

It all starts with the self-determination theory, and that people have innate psychological needs that are the basis for self-motivation and personality integration such as …

  1. Competence—Seek to control the outcome and experience mastery.
  2. Relatedness—Is the universal want to interact, be connected to, and experience caring for others.
  3. Autonomy—Is the universal urge to be causal agents of one’s own life and act in harmony with one’s integrated self.

So, if a new product or service can offer things that allow people to feel related to others, build competency and build a sense of autonomy and individuality, you may be on a winner.

Self-determination theory research has also extended thinking into intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. Intrinsic motivation is the natural, inherent drive to seek out challenges and new possibilities. Extrinsic motivation comes from external sources.

Organismic Integration Theory is a sub-theory of Self-determination theory and defines four different types of extrinsic motivations: externally regulated (performed due to external demand or reward—e.g. gamification incentives and obtaining levels of excellence and/or joy); introjected regulation (taking on regulations to behaviour but not fully accepting said regulations as your own); regulation through identification (involves consciously valuing a goal or regulation so that said action is accepted as personally important—e.g. keeping up to date with social media); and integrated regulation (when regulations are fully assimilated with self so they are included in a person’s self evaluations and beliefs on personal needs—e.g. receiving social media likes).

Extrinsically motivated behaviours can be integrated into self. OIT proposes internalisation is more likely to occur when there is a sense of relatedness.

FoMO and psychological theories associated with it, provide a platform for the next fad, however also provide some explanation to why many are addicted to the latest trend or social media. They comply with a desire for new exciting experiences (ideally easily obtained), personal reward and/or relevance and external influencers to ensure it is entrenched in their lives.

Making the next big thing easily (cost + availability) accessible is critical, and ensuring that orgasmic response is shared and generates significant social endorsement (and likely helped by detractors who are just making it cool to rebel), yet comes from within each person and fulfills one’s own need and desire to belong, experience the new and display a level of autonomy and individuality.

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