Once in a while I notice an interesting behavior of my mind which is not helpful. It may happen in many situations:
- When buying some clothes or shoes with a “discount” and trying not to miss the opportunity;
- When playing an addictive game where you need to log in every day;
- When considering which stock to buy next and trying to make a quick decision.
It turns out that this is a known thing in psychology and there is even a term for it – “Fear of missing out”. This is how it’s described in Wikipedia:
Fear of missing out, or FOMO, is “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent”. This social anxiety is characterized by “a desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing”. FOMO is also defined as a fear of regret, which may lead to a compulsive concern that one might miss an opportunity for social interaction, a novel experience, a profitable investment, or other satisfying events.
I guess it’s mostly experienced in Social media by the youngest generation but I think that the examples I gave at the beginning may also be attributed to this phenomenon.
Let’s start with the first example. I am just going through a website to buy some “things I need” for triathlon (e.g. energy gels I will use in competitions and long training sessions). I add it to my basket and I notice a sale of some running shoes. It says that the discount will expire after a day or two. What does it tell to my brain? If I miss this opportunity, I will not be able to buy those shoes on a “good price”. The fact is that I don’t really need those shoes at the moment. And when I really need some, I will still be able to find some discounts, as they actually happen quite often. I think I became pretty good with avoiding such “emotional” buys recently and tend to only buy things I really need (which is also debatable, when I think about it).
The second example is of a mobile game I used to play for 5-6 months. It is called “Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes“. It’s quite a simple game where you accumulate energy over time and spend it on different things, trying to build your squad of characters and compete with other people in the game. In essence, the game is very simple and involves a lot of grinding. You just need to log in at certain times every day, complete the daily quests and try to “climb the ladder”. I started spending more time on it, started opening the app when watching F1 race, when eating, when chatting with my colleagues during morning coffee. I started questioning myself – why am I doing this and what does it give to me? But I still didn’t quit the game as I was climbing up the ladder, my characters squad was getting bigger, I didn’t want to lose the energy that was accumulating and would be gone if I don’t log in. I told this experience to one of my friends at work and he told me – oh, yeah, that’s called fear of missing out. Only then I became familiar with the term. I still played the game for a couple of weeks, as I thought that I will be missing something if I quit, even though it felt like work to constantly log in and perform those quests. One day I didn’t open the app, another day passed and I was still not playing the game. An unexpected thing happened – I didn’t miss it! I could spend the time that I was spending in the game on much more useful things – reading some article of “The Economist”, chatting with my wife or friends, concentrating on my food. And the main thing is that I felt free somehow!
The final example is related to investment world. I sometimes find myself feeling “the fear of missing out” when considering which stock to buy next. A great example is one of my first buys back in 2012. I remember looking for investment opportunities then and reading about a company that suffered lately and was discussed in local traders/investors forum. The company was called Lithuanian Shipping Company (Lietuvos Juru Laivininkyste). The company had amazing potential, according to some “experts” in the forum. I was afraid to miss such an opportunity so I purchased some shares of the company. Was the company profitable at that moment? -No. Did I see how it could get out of troubles it was facing? -No. Did it stop me from purchasing those shares? -Hell no! I was afraid of missing this great opportunity current company price was offering. I ended up selling the stock after 4 months and suffering 16% loss (which was only ~€45, thankfully). This is what would have happened if I kept the company and believed that it can recover:
I think I can say that I learnt the lesson with minimum losses that time.
In investments world, fear of missing out is quite common, I would say. We need to make sure that it doesn’t take over our investments decisions. I think there will always be opportunities so it is OK to miss some, if we have any doubts. What I try to do now is to be more patient and don’t fall on this psychological phenomenon in my financial and other decisions.
Do you think “FOMO” is a thing? Do you experience it in your life? Can you tell any examples? Thanks for reading and don’t hesitate to leave any comments below!