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F wie FOMO

Fear of missing out, also FOMO, lässt sich recht treffend mit «Angst, etwas zu verpassen» umschreiben. Das ist im Grunde nichts Dramatisches und die meisten von uns werden es in der einen oder anderen Form schon erlebt haben. Bemerkenswert ist hingegen, dass das Phänomen im Zusammenhang mit der Nutzung von sozialen Medien in letzter Zeit heftig diskutiert wird, weil es dort zu Suchtverhalten führen kann. Als Erster soll übrigens der Marketingstratege Dan Herman 1996 darüber geschrieben haben. Besonders anfällig sind erwartungsgemäss Jugendliche: Eine Studie der New-Yorker Agentur JWT hat gezeigt, dass rund 40 Prozent von ihnen oft oder gelegentlich FOMO erleben. Bei den Erwachsenen waren es nur 5 Prozent.

10. May 2023
Dr. Christopher H. Müller, Owner, Expert Consultant

Owner, Expert Consultant


Fear of missing out, also known as FOMO, can be accurately described as "the fear of missing out on something." It's not something dramatic, and most of us have probably experienced it in one form or another. However, what is remarkable is that the phenomenon has recently been heavily discussed in relation to the use of social media, as it can lead to addictive behavior. Interestingly, marketing strategist Dan Herman is said to have been the first to write about it in 1996. Adolescents are particularly susceptible, with a study by the New York agency JWT showing that around 40 percent of them often or occasionally experience FOMO. Among adults, the figure is only 5 percent.


Social media platforms, by their very nature, have a lot of potential for triggering FOMO. To be noticed on these platforms, one must constantly stage oneself. To stay updated on what's happening, one must constantly stay connected. This increases the on-time spent on social media and brings profit to the operators.

And what role does usability play in all of this? Well, if used insidiously, its concepts can be used to intensify the existing addictive potential. For example, infinite scrolling can create a hamster wheel that keeps people trapped. Algorithms fill their filter bubbles, countdowns create a sense of urgency, and dark patterns ultimately push them to do things they never actually wanted to do. The big players in the industry are known to employ all of this and much more to maximize their profits. While it may not be illegal, it has increasingly drawn regulators' attention to their business models.


So, let's summarize: FOMO can help keep users on a website for longer. However, it should not be taken to the extreme because, as Obi Wan Kenobi put it, "Greed is the path to the dark side of the Force."

Published in: Netzwoche Issue 6, 2023

Dr. Christopher H. Müller, Owner, Expert Consultant

Owner, Expert Consultant

Dr. Christopher H. Müller, founder and owner of Ergonomen Usability AG, earned his PhD from the Institute for Hygiene and Applied Physiology at ETH Zurich. With over 22 years of experience, he is an expert in usability and user experience. His strong sense of empathy allows him to quickly understand the needs and perspectives of his clients. With creativity and courage, he supports his clients in their digitalization projects and the optimization of products, services, and processes. He takes a practical approach, developing tailored solutions that can be effectively implemented. Dr. Christopher H. Müller is a columnist for Netzwoche. He also serves as a board member for the Zugang für alle Foundation, and is a member of two Swico advisory boards and co-president of the Regional Conference Nördlich Lägern.