Smartphone Addiction: Muting the Phone May Increase FOMO, Social Media Use, Study Finds

Smartphone addiction has long been linked to FOMO — a fear of missing out — but a new study suggests that muting your phone may actually increase, not relieve, your stress.

By turning off their phones or putting them on vibrate, people started checking their phones even more than usual, the study found it. Study participants who muted their phones also spent more time on social media. “And in those with FOMO, muting their phone led to more screen time and more stress.”

“Without a distinct ‘buzz’ or sound from their phones, people with high FOMO could use their phones even more,” study researcher Mengqi Liao, a doctoral candidate in communications studies at Penn State University, said. US news and world report

A better option for people with FOMO to avoid distractions is to adjust their notification settings so that unimportant ones are turned off, Liao added.

The four-day study involved 138 people. About 42% were told to set their phones to vibration only; another 8.7% put them on silent. The rest of the participants kept their ringtones on. Beforehand, they all took a test to determine if they had FOMO.

“The term FOMO was”first thought” in 1996 as part of a research paper by a marketing strategist. Since the early 2000s, it has been used to explain why people have become tied to their phones, especially their favorite social networking sites.”

The phenomenon includes the perception that others are having more fun or living a better life. It arouses a feeling of envy and erodes self-esteem. Social media sites can make this worse.

FOMO is generally associated with negative emotions, including loneliness, decreased self-esteem, stress, anxiety, and depression. And if a person is already feeling lonely and anxious, FOMO can make those feelings worse.

studies have also found that FOMO among young people can lead to frequent smartphone use at night, affecting sleep duration and quality. The blue light these devices emit has also been shown to affect sleep. And the damage that poor sleep can have on a person’s health, as well as performance and productivity at school or work, is well established.”

Neerja Birla, founder and chairman, Mpower, wrote in The economic times that “social media is a powerful tool for staying connected in the modern world. However, it does not give a complete and accurate picture of people’s lives, as it is more the trailer of all their good times and highlights. And so, in many ways, the social media version is a false reality.”

Therapists say it’s important to understand the underlying cause of FOMO in order to let go of its grip. That can make it easier for people to reduce the time they spend on their phones.

“Treatment for FOMO usually involves cognitive behavioral therapy to address the underlying factors that lead to the heightened anxiety. The goal, experts say, is to control the emotions, but not completely eradicate them. Focusing on gratitude can also help.”

People with FOMO who are also addicted to their smartphones are often advised to take a physical break from their phones and adopt healthier ways to stay in touch with their family and friends. For example, try to spend more time with them in the real world than in the virtual one. Adopting a substitute behavior to take when they feel the urge to check their phones can also help.

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