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The fear of missing out is an old, actually an ancient fear, being triggered by the newest form of communication: social media.

Our survival as an individual within a tribe, and thus our survival as a species, once hinged on our being aware of threats both to ourselves and to the larger group. To be “in the know” when we roamed around in small groups was critical to survival. To not be aware of a new food source, for example, meant you literally missed out on something that could mean the difference between life and death. When humans began to create more stable farming communities, being in the know involved paying attention, being in the right places at the right times to get resources and information, and engaging in the gossip of the day as it filtered through the community.

We all know that systems to consolidate and enhance communication among humans to keep each other informed of important information, including potential sources of danger to our tribes/countries/species, developed over time and include the forms we interact with today such as television, newspapers, the internet, and social media platforms.

Because being left out is considered that important an event for us to pay attention to and to respond to quickly, we actually have a part of our brain that is specialized for sensing if we are being left out. Not that it is usually a matter of life and death anymore whether you are on facebook or twitter, but for many people that is or has become their community “lifeline.”

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– Anita Sanz, Clinical psychologist

Source: FOMO: What’s the psychology behind the fear of missing out?