Virtual FOMO

FOMO The Social Impact of Social Media

By Christine Goncalves

I have never experienced life without social media. In the mid-2000s, the first iPhone was released and social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter were launched. Today, everything has a social component and we have the ability to be always-on broadcasters sharing where we are, what we’re doing, and who we’re with. Social media is an integral part of our everyday lives— and a huge emotional driver for our moods, and not always in the most positive way.

FOMO, or the Fear Of Missing Out, is some- thing Gen Zers experience digitally. It seems that with every new social platform that pops up, there are new ways to feel left out by friends.

Focus on Inclusivity

Often, members of Gen Z do not even know that they are making others feel bad about not being included; It can happen at any time in unexpected ways. In fact, according to the New York Post, Venmo, a peer-to-peer payment application, can cause members of Generation Z to be more anxiety-ridden than ever before. When you make a payment on Venmo, it is shared publicly. Essentially, you can see what your friends are doing and who they are with on the Venmo feed.

I have seen the unintentional social effects of Venmo. A few months ago I had plans with some friends—but one friend was unintentionally left out. That night, we agreed not to post anything so she wouldn’t be upset that we were all together. However, she saw us all Venmo each other for pizza. The captions gave us away: “Thanks for the 🍕” and “🍕 Party.”

No one posted any photos or videos—but she was clearly able to see that she wasn’t invited.

Generation Z is sensitive when it comes to feeling self-conscious about missing out. It is important for brands to recognize the emotional impact that social media can have on their audiences and try to prevent FOMO when it comes to the content that they produce.

Go Live

Gen Zers want to feel included even at the most exclusive events. Vogue won me and my friends over by going live from the red carpet at the Met Gala in 2018. They shared exclusive, live footage online and on their social channels, giving view- ers a way to feel like they were at the event— even though it was highly exclusive. Inclusivity is huge with Gen Z, and when social media is used to make us feel like we are a part of something, I love it.

Give the Inside Scoop

Another useful way to prevent FOMO amongst Gen Z is by giving them access to make them feel more involved in a brand. In 2016, Dunkin’ Donuts was one of the first brands to use the Facebook (client) Live feature to give the public a tour of their test kitchen during the Valentine’s Day season. The brand used this feature to show how it creates new recipes and products. According to Dunkin’ Donuts’ social media manager Melanie Cohn, the brand saw one of its highest average view times ever on Live video compared to pre-recorded video. The video attracted more than 36,000 viewers. Access is what social is all about, and when a brand opens up, Gen Zers respond.

Go Behind the Scenes

Similar to Dunkin’s’ offering insider access to its most engaged audiences, behind-the-scenes content can offer a sense of inclusivity as well. Nike (client) regularly shares behind-the-scenes content featuring their athletes. As a part of Nike’s 2018 “Equality” campaign, which featured celebrities such as LeBron James and Serena Williams, Nike released behind-the- scenes footage of various athletes in which they discussed what the initiative meant to them.

From Fear to Faithfulness

It is vital to recognize that Generation Z is very sensitive to exclusivity. To prevent brands from alienating Gen Zers and activating our innate fear of missing out, they should focus on building communities. I want to be involved. I want access. I want to see what is happening behind-the-scenes. Without transparency, I fear that I am missing out or being misled. When brands share what they stand for, I buy in and share that sentiment with my comm- unities. That’s how you turn fear into faithful, loyal fans for life.