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We Can't Stop Checking the News Either. Welcome to the New FOMO (wired.com) 111

An anonymous reader shares an article: Countless studies have shown that social-driven FOMO (fear of missing out) stems from a person's primitive desire to belong to a group, with each snap, tweet, or post a reminder of what separates you from them. This other type of FOMO, the all-news, all-the-time kind, is new enough that nobody has really studied it much, yet of the half-dozen experts in sociology, anthropology, economics, and neurology I spoke to, all quickly recognized what I was describing, and some even admitted to feeling it themselves. "We scroll through our Twitter feeds, not seeking anything specific, just monitoring them so we don't miss out on anything important," says Shyam Sundar, a communications researcher at Pennsylvania State University. This impulse could stem from the chemical hits our brains receive with each news hit, but it could also derive from a primitive behavioral instinct -- surveillance gratification-seeking, or the urge that drove our cave-dwelling ancestors to poke their heads out and check for predators. In times of perceived crisis, our brains cry out for information to help us survive. Maybe this alarm stems from steady hits of @realDonaldTrump. Maybe it's triggered by left-wing Resistance types. Or could it be #FakeNews, ISIS, guns, police violence, or street crime, all propagated through our social media bubbles with headlines that are written specifically to grab our attention? This feels like a processing problem. "One thing we learn about human beings: We're meaning-making machines," Kross says. And social mania may be ideal for mainlining breaking news, but it's not great at providing meaning and context.
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We Can't Stop Checking the News Either. Welcome to the New FOMO

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  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2017 @12:24PM (#55070693)
    >> "We scroll through our Twitter feeds, not seeking anything specific, just monitoring them so we don't miss out on anything important," says Shyam Sundar, a communications researcher

    Seems like multiple levels of fail are in play here.
  • by halivar ( 535827 ) <bfelgerNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday August 23, 2017 @12:26PM (#55070709)

    I have a deep, intense fear that I will fail to miss out on the news. This fear is usually validated by the weekly shitstorm on my FB feed. Also, when /. posts "current events" articles.

    • I call that FOBO (Fear of Bumming Out).
      • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2017 @01:15PM (#55070983)

        I once made a comment to a co-worker about Trump's latest idiotic outburst, just assuming she was already aware of it. She had no idea what I was referring to. Then she explained to me that she didn't read any news, and had stopped paying attention to current events decades ago. She said that the result was less stress, and more time to spend on the important things in her life. As far as she could tell there were no negative consequences, since nothing in the news had anything to do with her life.

        • I am sure that there were many jews in germany in the 30s who did the same thing as your co-worker. Sometimes you need to know what's going on to be able to make an informed decision. Then again, maybe most people (including myself) can't do that even when they do know what's going on.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@@@world3...net> on Thursday August 24, 2017 @07:59AM (#55074659) Homepage Journal

          since nothing in the news had anything to do with her life.

          Trump has nothing to do with her life? Did she even vote, did she even know about the election or who the candidates were?

          Democracy only works properly if you have an engaged, informed electorate. If you don't, shit like Trump and Brexit happens, and I hate to use the N word but if it gets really bad you end up with 1930s Germany.

          • Trump has nothing to do with her life?

            Correct. Trump has actually done very little, and none of it makes a practical difference in the the lives of most citizens.

            Democracy only works properly if you have an engaged, informed electorate.

            Can you cite any evidence to support this? Is higher voter turnout really associated with "better outcomes" is some objective way? I doubt it.

            you end up with 1930s Germany.

            Voter turnout in the 1933 German election was 96%.

      • FOBO might be it for me. While I spend too much time here, I watch much less news these days. In fact, I pretty much only watch 'the news' when something big is happening.
  • by ebyrob ( 165903 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2017 @12:27PM (#55070713)

    Seriously though, this is definitely only going to exist in certain circles. I shudder to identify them properly but I see them in the elevator constantly when they can't pull their nose out of their phone between floors.

    • by Hylandr ( 813770 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2017 @12:36PM (#55070767)

      We used to call these people AOL subscribers.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      To be fair, I will pull out my phone and look at the screen to avoid any awkward conversations or pointless boring small talk (like on an elevator or waiting in line).

      It's a great conversation killer/preventer.

      • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

        To be fair, I will pull out my phone and look at the screen to avoid any awkward conversations or pointless boring small talk (like on an elevator or waiting in line).

        It's a great conversation killer/preventer.

        sociopath
        sspaTH/Submit
        noun
        a person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior and a lack of conscience.

    • People check their phones in elevators so as to avoid eye contact with strangers. Often the elevators are mirrored, meaning you can't avoid staring directly at a stranger when your head is level.
  • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2017 @12:39PM (#55070785)

    "This impulse could stem from the chemical hits our brains receive with each news hit..."

    Uh, news? That's a laugh. The only thing being passed around these days is bullshit, which the masses obviously love to puff, puff, pass.

    "In times of perceived crisis, our brains cry out for information to help us survive."

    Those of us still armed with brains and common sense are crying, because its become increasingly frustrating to find a needle of useful information in a haystack world full of bullshit.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You said it. Its also affecting internet searches. I don't know if its because the search engines are adjusting their algorithms to conform to the masses, more websites with useless information are being made, bad websites are getting better at SEO, or a combination of the three. Either way I'm finding that its becoming harder and harder to get real answers to anything technical or complex anymore on the internet when it was easy.

      • To be fair, the search engines seem to have got the "cheapest price" responses under control so you don't have to scroll to the third page. for the first meaningful result.

  • by grasshoppa ( 657393 ) <skennedy@tpno - c o . o rg> on Wednesday August 23, 2017 @12:39PM (#55070791) Homepage

    The article is stumbling on to something that goes far beyond the latest news cycle. We're a tribal species, and until somewhat recently our survival depended on forming cohesive bonds with like minded individuals. In the past, that was our tribe; we would cleave to the opinion of the group in an effort to ensure our survival.

    Those of you with a sharp eye might notice this leaves little room for independent thought or free will. You aren't wrong.

    In modern times those behaviors still exist, but they're expressed differently. As our communication technology has advanced it has allowed us to form these tribal bonds with people who are otherwise physically distant, but because of the distance we do not get the constant feedback we'd otherwise get from an in-person association. The end result is an almost obsessive need to stalk friends and family online.

    You'll note, danger doesn't really enter into it except as an amorphous "force" driving the need for socialization.

    • I didn't get the part about trying to be a part of a group; when they got to the part about information, that made sense. I often hover around people when they have information, and then lose interest when I can't learn anything more by hanging near them.

      Group cohesion has never really driven me. An intense distrust in my own understanding of things has. It's not a good way to make friends--I'm often dismissive of peoples's limited understanding (especially on things like economics) because I recognize

      • Mind you, I'm referring to humanity as a group, not as an individual. Once you see the strings, it's kinda hard to go back to believing in the tooth fairy, as it were.

  • by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2017 @12:40PM (#55070795)

    I was just dropping by to check for new stories.

  • by Baron_Yam ( 643147 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2017 @12:41PM (#55070805)

    Mostly I dig for science and tech news, the bleeding edge of human knowledge and engineering stuff (except I'm looking at the pop science reporting, not the actual research / studies).

    I've learned to put it all aside for most of my day and relax. It's way too easy to waste your time looking for the next bit of interesting information and never find it.

    The truth is that nothing (that I can do anything about) is going to happen on a time scale of days. If I read about something tomorrow even in a week... the delay is not going to affect my life, I'm not actually missing out on anything.

    • North Korea has launched an armada of 300 plus nuclear warheads aimed at the 300 largest urban population centres. You have 2 hours tops to get there.

      I hope you check back on Slashdot in the next 2 hours.

      Oh yeah- and there's a zombie apocalypse just started in Texas. No stopping it. Pick up a chain saw on your way out of town before it's too late.

      • Two hour tops to get where? The population centers? Or North Korea? Also, how would you notice a zombie apocalypse vs any other day in Texas?
        • Two hour tops to get where? The population centers? Or North Korea? Also, how would you notice a zombie apocalypse vs any other day in Texas?

          I should specify Get AWAY from there (the population centers).

          A zombie apocalypse in Texas would be marked by Texans acting more similar to human beings than normal.

        • I was so wondering where I was supposed to get to too! Evidently nowhere bigger than Detroit, MI with 900,000 some odd people.

          300 missiles: So much heavy water how could we be so blind.

          • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

            Given the homicide rate in Detroit, and the accuracy of NK missiles, you might be safer in some of those other cities.

      • WWIII isn't something I'd care to survive... but I live far enough away from probable targets that I would likely get to enjoy radiation sickness instead of simply getting vapourized. Yay. But you know what? That kind of news would get to me without having to look for it. You know, when everyone's running around in a panic because it's on every radio station and television channel.

        A zombie apocalypse is not what I'd call likely. And as a Canadian with a well-stocked fridge and a bunch of medieval weapo

  • I gave up (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tempest_2084 ( 605915 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2017 @12:42PM (#55070815)
    I actually gave up on watching or checking the news every five minutes when it went from 'These are the important things you must know!' to 'Here's what you should be outraged about today!'. I don't need to be told what I should or shouldn't be angry/disappointed/worried about, I'm a big boy and I'll make up my own mind on that. I just want to be told what's happening in the most neutral way possible, but that's not possible anymore it seems so I gave up. I'll listen to local news for a the highlights, but that's about it.
    • IME, "Breaking News!!!one!!" is usually wrong anyway. I hear all sorts of stuff spouted "Is it terror? Was there one shooter or 5? Was it Trump/Obama/Bush's fault?" but few real facts.

      I'm better off turning off the tube for the day and flipping back the next day when things have settled.

      • I kind of miss the days when the newspaper was king. By the time stuff went to print most the initial knee jerk reactions had died down and cooler heads had prevailed. Of course there were other problems with the newspaper monopoly (they literally could control what news you were allowed to see), but this constant 'up to second outrage' has left me burned out and apathetic. Not to mention that there isn't a neutral major news outlet out there anymore.
    • Re:I gave up (Score:4, Insightful)

      by eepok ( 545733 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2017 @02:48PM (#55071483) Homepage
      This is exactly how I feel, now. If there's a news article or headline that uses any kind of suggestive emotional descriptor, I turn off.

      "Shameful Statements from the President. Critics Respond." -- Newsflash: "Critics criticize!"
      "Horrific Accident on the Freeway..." -- Yep. Happens literally every single day of the year.
      "Person Stuns Other People" -- I don't care about the emotional responses of other people. Shocked, offended-- doesn't matter. Just tell me what the person did/said.
      "Sad Tale of Person Who Feels Bad Now" -- Ok... but what led to the feels?

      If you just trim it down to the necessary, journalistic info, you find that most of these articles or TV segments should be 20% their presented length. Just tell me what happened! I'll know figure out my own thoughts, opinions, and feelings on the matter!

      I'm not kidding when I say that I would happily pay $30/month for a news service that committed to leaving all that crap out and just reported like the following.

      Headline: "President Does This Action", Body: On , President did this. These countries have acted in support. These countries are filing official protests. Here's the legal/historical basis for this action (link).

      Headline: "Business Hypeman Unveils Design for Thing", Body: On , Business Hypeman revealed the design for a Thing. The thing is not functional yet. Business Hypeman says when released it will do that. Here's the basis for the technology (link).

      Headline: "Law Proposed to Change How This is Done", Body: On , a legislature put forth a bill to make this process standard. Supporters include these guys. Detractors include these guys. Lobbyists involved from these industries have taken sides. Here's the legislation (link) and an analysis from an unbiased source (link).
      • I'm starting to think the first person to make a news service like that would make a fortune. Maybe the time isn't quite right yet (too many people still like their biased bubbles), but in another few years I think it will be.
  • by XxtraLarGe ( 551297 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2017 @12:47PM (#55070847) Journal
    My wife & I went camping this past weekend in southern Illinois to view the eclipse. The location where we were at had no service on our phones. No Facebook, no news, etc. I get the same thing in the area where I go hunting. It's actually very refreshing. I highly recommend it.
  • by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2017 @12:51PM (#55070871) Homepage Journal
    But I wanted to post anyway.
  • I wonder how much that problem is linked to overchoice ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] ), the paralysis some feel when exposed to too many options. Mostly stemming from the fear of not picking the best option we could have.

    We have so many ways to get so much news today, that it becomes impossible to follow all of it. So from all these choices, we have to pick the ones we read, taking the chance of missing out the important news for us.

    Do anyone know if that link was studied?

  • Every morning (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lgordon ( 103004 ) <larry...gordon@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday August 23, 2017 @01:00PM (#55070915) Journal

    First thing in the morning, every morning.

    1. Did he start a nuclear war?
    2. Did he resign?
    3. Brush teeth.

  • by Qzukk ( 229616 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2017 @01:54PM (#55071185) Journal

    Mostly in hopes that NK has launched nukes and I can just not bother to go in to work today.

    • Mostly in hopes that NK has launched nukes and I can just not bother to go in to work today.

      You're lucky. My boss doesn't accept such excuses.

  • by HalAtWork ( 926717 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2017 @01:57PM (#55071209)

    Checking the news obsessively just leads to a greater obsession with doing same.

    There's nothing wrong with having someone else tell you if there's something important.... And with all these people afraid of missing out there must be tons of people who are aware of the media's particular perspective!

    I used to check Slashdot obsessively but then found myself stuck in a loop of doing just that, and didn't realize how much of it was pure obsession and not actual benefit/fun in any way until I stepped away. And it was actually getting me worked up, I would get too involved in conversations, and too anxious about bad news and everything terrible about the world, without being able to even do anything about it because I was busy refreshing pages.

    Remember pre-internet (or at least pre-AOL and pre-Google)? Life was still fun, maybe more fun...

  • This phenomenon is real. In order to compensate, I have developed a fear of fear of missing out. Some might call me fomophobic.

  • After all YOLO!

  • FOMO is a myth. The world is just too big. True Polymaths can't exist either for the same reason. If you learn to be an expert water surfer then chances are you are not going to be an expert hockey player and even if you are an expert water surfer, when you are surfing waves in one location, there are always going to be great waves you are missing out on somewhere in the world. It doesn't matter how smart you are, how skilled you are, or how much money you have you are constantly missing out on *WAY* mo

  • I finally realized that no mater how much I cared about the world, no matter how angry I got about politics, no matter how much I raged for the environment, there was absolutely nothing to be gained by being plugged in 16 hours a day. Now I check the news maybe once a day, and live the best life I can, only paying attention to those in my immediate sphere of influence.

    Living without the constant anxiety has improved my life immensely, and now I don't add to the stress of those around me by feeding into
  • by PJ6 ( 1151747 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2017 @08:01PM (#55072963)
    *EYEROLL*
    • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

      This!

      What has ever come across Twitter that was actually important? Is Charlie Sheen finally WINNING?

  • I came to check news on slashdot. I will be right back in 2min.
  • There's an underlying snobbery about the term FOMO. The key question is what are you searching for? The summary describes blindly scanning the feed page for whatever someone else somewhere reported. I suppose there are people who do that. But there must be other people besides me who search for news they are interested in for a reason. I use the "search" box on Twitter every day, looking for news on, say, lithium battery fires. Sure, if I take an interest in a non-research news topic, like Nazis or Tru
  • I will admit that I've been sucked in by the trumpet's manipulations for the past 8 months. At this point the goner in chief no longer matters to me. I've had it with old news, reality TV and politics, all of which means no more donald kardashian, errr trump for me. That also means no more not-so-brightbart and Alex "helpful as herpes" Jones infowhores. My serenity level and available time just increased measurably.

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