Posts can spur envy of your good time


I missed the Florida Georgia Line concert in Youngstown a few weeks ago. Feeling bummed, I started wondering if I was really experiencing FOMO, or this was something new.

Never heard of FOMO? It’s the acronym we use for the “fear of missing out,” a fairly common term for describing our feelings of anxiety when we might miss an opportunity for social interaction or a unique experience.

The term FOMO was added to the Oxford Dictionary in 2013.

But that wasn’t what I was feeling. There was no fear of missing out because, well, I was already missing out. This was something different.

It was envy.

I was envious of missing out on the experiences my friends were having. I call it EOMO or “envious of missing out.” Yes, Oxford Dictionary editors. You have my permission to use this in your 2019 edition.

Okay, maybe EOMO isn’t as catchy FOMO. Say EOMO three times fast. It doesn’t roll off the tongue as nicely as FOMO.

But the envy we feel about seeing our friends’ experiences play out on social media are real, feelings that conjure regret, frustration and negativity.

According to a study published in the August issue of Computers in Human Behavior, researchers Ruoyun Lin, Niels van de Ven and Sonja Utz found that Facebook users tend to be more envious of friends who post updates about experiential purchases (e.g., big vacations) more than material purchases (e.g., sports cars).

Lin’s team noted that if we see posts from friends that make us envious, we might become frustrated. It can ultimately damage our relationships as we become more negative toward those we envy. On the flip side, seeing those posts may motivate us to make our lives a little better. We might go out and make big purchases, and subsequently brag about those purchases on social media.

While it’s important to know “what” kinds of posts elicit these emotions, it’s just as important to know “why.”

Turns out that posts about experiences are more relevant to us than big, fancy material purchases. We’re more envious of posts made by friends who attend big events than those who post about buying new homes.

In reality, we actually see fewer posts about those material purchases. As Lin’s team noted, we prefer to see posts about experiential purchases even if they do elicit feelings of envy.

This is also true for those who post about their experiences. We believe we’re giving our friends the information they want. For example, those who post about their purchases believe their friends would much rather read about those experiences – such as attending a big concert in Youngstown – than a new car.

They’re right. I might have been feeling EOMO on that concert, but I was happy for my friends and motivated to attend that big concert next year.

Adam Earnheardt is chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University. Follow him on Twitter at @adamearn and on his blog at adamearn.com.

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