The way we communicate has changed. Where once, our ancestors saw a carrier pigeon as a cutting-edge method of communication, for us, the thoughts of waiting a few minutes, let alone a few days, to deliver a message would leave us in a cold sweat. It can’t be denied that we live in the most connected era there has ever been as a direct result of the rise of social networking. We now recognise social media as an essential part of life, but it hasn’t always been easy….
We took to social networks like children take to sweets. We tried them, we liked them and we didn’t just want some, we wanted all of them! We joined Bebo, Facebook, Twitter, we posted daily and we shared EVERYTHING. We spent all day on laptops, we grew smartphones as extensions to our hands, we couldn’t bear to miss the latest update. For those of us who witnessed the start of social networking it’s a familiar feeling and most of us will admit to having experienced a touch of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) at one point or another.
The FOMO concept isn’t new. The term was first coined in the 1980s within the scope of the family circle or friends to describe the fear of missing out on valuable time or events with loved ones. Later on, Caterina Fake, Flickr’s co-founder, refreshed the term to adapt it to the digital era and the fear of missing out on important information when you are not logged in.
A constant state of FOMO was draining though and, as we matured in our online lives, we entered the teenage stage of social networking – we rejected everything we had done before. We were “too cool” to log in, “too cool” to care about what was going on in the places we hung out. We cut the ties, we deleted our Bebo, suspended our Facebook and embraced JOMO (Joy of Missing Out).
The JOMO state of mind allowed for a period of relaxation after the constant anxiety of FOMO. As blogger Anil Dash pointed out “there can be, and should be, a blissful, serene enjoyment in knowing, and celebrating, that there are folks out there having the time of their life at something that you might have loved too, but are simply skipping.”
However, despite the peace, a prolonged state of JOMO was never realistic and now we are discovering a new phase online – the Joy of Hiding Out (JOHO). In essence, we are reaching the adult-phase of our social media lives. We moderate our consumption of social network information, we are more selective about the networks we use and, most importantly, we’re less public in our use. As Chris Hoffman, of tech website MakeUseOf, notes “Many users appear to be moving away from the trend of over-sharing information linked to their real name and moving back to an older pseudonym model, as used by previously popular social platforms like AOL Instant Messenger and MSN Messenger, which didn’t demand real names or make so much content public.”
The adoption of JOHO can be exemplified by the rise of niche networks which allow for private interactions. Whatsapp, the private messaging service, has gained about 25 million users per month since Facebook acquired it in February, according to tech journalist Dave Smith. While photo sharing app Snapchat is continuing to increase in popularity – an app first popularised by teenagers, the phenomenon is now spreading to brands which are interested in developing time-limited coupons.
With more and more users embracing JOHO it does pose some interesting questions for brands. How can they adapt their communications to suit these new networks and, more importantly, how do they reach an audience that don’t want to be found? There is no simple answer but one thing is certain, in an era of digital disconnect, we couldn’t be more connected, everybody’s doing it, it’s just nobody’s talking about it.