By Denise Mann Health Day Reporter
MONDAY, June 27, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Are you plagued by FOMO — “afraid of missing out”? In that case, silencing your smartphone might not be the stress reliever you think it is.
That’s the result of a new study that found many people check their phone far more when it’s on mute or vibrate than when it’s beeping and ringing.
“Without any ‘buzz’ or clear sound coming from their phones, people with high FOMO might use their phones even more,” said study author Mengqi. Liao, a doctoral candidate in communications at Penn State University.
For the study, 42% of 138 iPhone users chose vibration-only mode; 8.7% were on silent mode and the rest kept their bells on for four consecutive days. Before it started, people filled out a survey to see if they had FOMO, and they turned on the Screen Time tool on their phones so they could report accurate data to researchers.
Those who turned off their phone had the best time on social media and checked their phone more often than participants who did not turn off their device. Phone screen time was not only higher in people with FOMO, but turning off notifications also increased feelings of stress.
“Instead of muting or turning off all notifications on their phones to avoid distractions, users with high FOMO could customize their notifications settings and selectively turn off certain notifications,” Liao suggested.
That may mean turning on notifications from close family and friends to ease anxiety, she said.
“We hope that our study can inspire more personalized notification design or better notification design that could improve user experience on mobile phones, in addition to a simple do not disturb feature for everyone,” Liao said.
Two outside experts agreed that breaking up with your phone and overcoming FOMO will likely require more than silencing your device.
Therapists often tell people to turn off their phones so they can be more present in their daily lives, but this study suggests that may not be the best course of action for some people, says Thea Gallagher , assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at NYU Langone Health in New York City.
“The data points to something different if you have FOMO: you’ll be compulsively checking your phone even more because you think you’re missing notifications,” she said.
Gallagher suggested taking a physical break from your phone and trying to access the root of your FOMO.
Lovern Moseley, a child and adolescent psychologist at Boston Medical Center, agreed.
“FOMO is more of an issue for younger patients, teens and young people, but many of us struggle with being tethered to our phones and recognize the need to cut down on the time we spend on them,” Moseley said, who is also an assistant clinical professor at Boston University School of Medicine.
Smartphones are a double-edged sword, she said.
“They can be such a benefit in terms of having information at our fingertips, but they can also be a drawback because we reduce social interactions since we’re constantly on our phones,” Moseley said.
It’s not easy to break this habit, she added. Try to find a more fulfilling replacement behavior and accept that you may feel uncomfortable at first.
“That distress will go away at some point,” Moseley added.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America offers advice on how to overcome FOMO.
SOURCES: Mengqi Liao, doctoral candidate in communications, Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pennsylvania; Thea Gallagher, PsyD, assistant clinical professor, psychiatry, NYU Langone Health, New York; Lovern Moseley, PhD, child and adolescent psychologist, Boston Medical Center, and assistant clinical professor, psychiatry, Boston University School of Medicine; Computers in human behaviorMay 26, 2022
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