Living in a Connected World/Persistent Connectivity and the Fear of Missing Out

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Introduction[edit | edit source]


his chapter aims to discuss the key academic concepts and theories behind the development of persistent connectivity and the fear of missing out respectively. To achieve this, we have split the chapter into key sections and within these further sub-headings which we feel will aid our investigation into this broad subject; there are many angles from which this subject can be approached and it is our aim to cover these angles by setting the chapter out in this way. The main focus areas can be found in our Main Concepts section from which one can navigate to their areas of interest.

Main Concepts[edit | edit source]

In order to gain an understanding of this topic, it is important to first determine what is meant by The Fear of Missing Out (FoMO). The section regarding this will look into the history of this concept starting with when it was first introduced. It will discuss some of the previous studies that have been concerned with the fear of missing out including the motivational, emotional, and behavioral correlates of fear of missing out and additionally, the connection between alcohol and FoMO.

In regards to the persistent connectivity and the fear of missing out that is becoming more and more normalized in todays society, we will be talking about The Development of the Internet and technological advances that have happened throughout the past couple of decades. This allows us to see the changes not only to the ways in which we function socially but also the way that new technology and persistent connectivity has changed the ways in which our businesses function and go into depth about the Current Uses of the Internet.

We will then go on to talk about the Always on Culture that has come to light in the last decade, with the surge in mobile technology and ongoing access to the internet anywhere people go. This always on culture is then linked to the effects that our persistent connectivity may have on our internal and external selves.

We talk about the Internal Effects in which we discuss the ways in which our internal identity can be altered by the web through the creation of "mini performances" which means to say that we create a different version of ourselves for presentation purposes. We then go on to talk about "the google effect" which suggests that our brain has changed due to evolving technology in that we no longer store information in the way we used to. Also within the chapter we touch on the tethered self and the creation of identity through new media sites.

The External Effects of the Web are then discussed by talking about how our social interactions have been altered by the development of mobile technology and the ways in which persistent connectivity has changed our view of what is acceptable and what is not. In this section, we also discuss mobile privatization and the ways in which how much we share with people has changed largely since the introduction of social media.

In the final section we look at ideas from a key sociologist, Erving Goffman, as we explore his theory - Goffman's Mask - of using different personas and masks to portray ourselves depending on the circumstance. This is an important aspect to acknowledge when we consider the ways in which we connect with others on the internet. We will talk about how these personas create a range of meanings and attitudes in the topic of persistent connectivity online and also how these changes can be identified in regard to the fear of missing out.

The Development of the Internet[edit | edit source]

Before 1970[edit | edit source]

Before 1970, individual researchers developed the technologies, including queuing theory involving probabilities, packet switching, and routing. Leonard Kleinrock pioneers the packet-switching concept in his Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Joseph Carl Robnett Licklider

In 1962, J.C.R. Licklider argued that, within a few years, computers would become sufficiently powerful to cooperate with humans in solving scientific and technical problems. He conceived the Intergalactic Network, a concept really close to what the Internet is today. In 1965, ARPA(Advanced Research Projects Agency) sponsored a study on « cooperative network of time-sharing computer ».

1970's[edit | edit source]

During the 1970s, experimental networks, notably the ARPANET, were constructed. Dr. David Clarck implements Internet protocols for the Multics systems, the Xerox PARC ALTO and the IBM PC. In 1972, the first email was sent by Ray Tomlinson. The « @ » sign was chosen to separate local from global emails: « ».

1980's[edit | edit source]

The Internet protocol is introduced in 1984, it gives an address (IPV4) that provide us a IP number for each computer so we can connected. This protocol sends packets one after an other from transmitter’s IP number to the receptor’s IP number. The Transmission Control Protocol has the role of checking if the packet sent to the receptor arrived. Macintosh introduced some essential elements of the computer: the graphic interface, a design software and a word processing software. A new stage appear, the computer technology goes from a means of monitoring, and tracking (Big Brother) to a tool that can benefit to humans. The Internet became a tool and a way of express their liberty. The same year, Stewart brand, a journalist interested in informatics, created a virtual community named The WELL with the involvement of 600 persons. People discovered conversations online: they could express themselves through internet by sending messages and waiting answers.

Stewart Brand

William Gibson write a science fiction book, the Notion of cyberspace appeared in his book. He conceptualized data base, approach the notion of hackers. Researchers try to inspire from its book to make more researches. In the mid-1980s, hundreds of thousands of workers at IBM were using electronic networks for e-mail and file transfers, the banks were performing electronic funds transfer. The first network gateways between U.S. and Europe was established by Lawrence Landweber. First U.S developed the network to allow access to Education: Dr. Stephen Wolff leads the development of NSFNET (National Science Foundation Network) to support research and higher education.The global Internet extend, about 25 countries were connected to the NSFNET.

1990's[edit | edit source]

In the 1990s, the invention of the web made it much easier for users to access informations. Linux, the operating system is created with a graphical interface. In 1991, for the first time the World Wide Web is made available to the public thanks to Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau. Through this major step, a browser called Mosaic appear and helps popularize the WWW (World Wide Web) among the general public. The first blog was created in 1998, the web publishing tool are available for non-technical users to express themselves. Between 1995 and 2000, the Dotcom bubble[1], also known as the Internet bubble, referred to the period in which investors look to the market of Internet. Investors pumped their money into startups and Internet companies and hope those investments will turn into profit. The Dot Com bubble burst, investitures reduced or cut funding, some of the Internet companies failed. was launched in 1995 during the Dotcom bubble, but the company persevered and decide to chose a slow growth strategy to stay in business.[2]

2000's[edit | edit source]

The early 21st century was marked by the famous virus called I LOVE YOU[3] or LOVEBUG. It infected 15 million computers and caused damage estimated at $5 billion. This virus was sent by email to Outlook inboxes, the subject of this email was: « ILOVEYOU » to make people believe that the email was a love letter, in the email there was an attachment named « love-letter-for-you ». Victims of this virus lost their files and their usernames and passwords were sent to the virus’ s creator. In 2001, Microsoft launched the operating system Windows XP, increasing the ease of access to the Web for the general public.

The internet has grown substantially between 2000 and 2010, there were only 361 million Internet users in 2000 in the entire world, 10 years later, that number increased to 1,967 million in the world[4]. The internet became more spread out, with a user number increase of 444, 9 % in 10 years.

Which country's internet population has grown the most between 2000 an 2010?

Country New Internet users since 2000 Relative growth
China 397.5 million 1767%
United States 144.1 million 152%
India 76.0 million 1520%
Brazil 70.9 million 1419%
Russia 56.6 million 1826%
Japan 52.1 million 111%
Nigeria 43.8 million 21891%
Germany 41.1 million 171%
France 36.1 million 425%
United Kingdom 36.0 million 234%

Blogging and social media began to explode in popularity since the early 2000’s, Friendster was founded in 2002 and became known as the first modern general social network. In 2003 LinkedIn was founded, it was one of the first social networks devoted to business, MySpace started the same year and was followed by websites to facilitate photo sharing like Photobucket and Flickr. Facebook and Twitter both became available in 2006 to public users. Today, there are thousands of social media platforms, all serve a different interest: photography, dating, business, videos, and social communities. E-commerce has also been developed, companies now provide online food ordering, media streaming in a fully online marketplace.

Current Uses of the Internet[edit | edit source]

Business Uses[edit | edit source]

Nowadays, organisations are more likely to use some sort of social media in their marketing practices. With the coming of social media it means that companies now have a much farther reach in terms of raising awareness of their brand as well as identifying new potential customers.

Business use of social media in the UK

According to this chart developed by Christine Moorman in “The CMO Survey”, the average percentage of firms using social media in their marketing activities is over 80%. [5] This information makes it clear that social media must be a very strong tool in regards to business success.

With collective monthly views of 2.8 billion on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter [6] it is understandable the appeal for organisations to use the platforms in increasing their success and profits. The development of targeted advertisements on platforms, such as Facebook and twitter, it is now easier to target specific customers based on their likes and dislikes on the platform. This ensures that the organisation is only targeting potential customers and not wasting time on advertising to people that simply wouldn't be interested in the products or services on offer. With targeted advertising now being easily accessible to the majority of businesses including small independently own companies it is a very cheap and effective way of advertising your products or services without breaking the bank. All Instagram users now have the option to transfer their profiles to business profiles making it easier for customers to get in contact or interact with their website, also on Facebook you have an option to create a page for your business which gives the option to completely cut out the need to have a website at all again cutting costs for smaller businesses that may not have the funds to afford running a website.

Along with targeted marketing and cutting costs social media can also act as a customer touchpoint, which is when the organisation is given the opportunity to interact with their customers on a personal level. It can be seen that a lot of companies now use their social accounts as a point of customer service, often aiding customers with problems and responding to complaints. However, this can have a negative affect on the business as as well as it’s upsides social media also allows for negative comments and complaints to spread a lot quicker than they would when social media wasn't around.

Social Uses[edit | edit source]

We have already established that the number of users on social media is now in the billions but why do people use these platforms? There are various social reasons that people tend to gravitate towards social platforms a study done by Anita Whiting and David Williams [7] which identified ten uses and gratification of using social media after carrying out 25 interviews. The ten uses and gratifications identified were:

Social Gathering
  • Social interaction
  • Information Seeking
  • Pass time
  • Entertainment
  • Relaxation
  • Expression of opinions
  • Communicatory utility
  • Convenience utility
  • Information sharing
  • Knowledge about others

Social Interaction is one of the key current uses of social media, Melissa Leiter says “Social media comes down to a simple basic human desire: the need to connect with other humans, to be part of a group” [8] and since many social media sites accommodate for the forming of communities and allows people to find others with the same interests as a much larger scale than you could have before the development of the internet it is easy to see how the natural instinct to connect with others would be enhanced. A lot of the more well known social media sites are designed solely for the purpose of social interaction, hence the term "social networking sites". Facebook is primarily used to communicate with people, with being able to comment on status', pictures and on people's personal pages, it's all about being social. Facebook also has a private messaging service, making it even easier and more accessible to have constant communication with peers, following the Web 2.0 concept (which you can read more about in Internal Effects).

A social use that seems to becoming more and more popular in modern society and with the rise of the internet is that of online dating, which we wish to further explore here.

Tinder Logo

In the digital age, online dating has become more and more common with the invention of sites such as Tinder, Grindr (for LGBTQ+ people) and - to name just a few. Using such sites has a fair amount of appeal to individuals, of course they are easily accessible, involve little effort unless you pursue a relationship and move it to in-person dating, and for many people, the idea that they can be less honest about themselves than they may be when meeting in 'real life', as they can essentially create any type of personality that they like for themselves, even one that holds no similarity to their real self whatsoever by using different pictures, a different name and so on. This is not exactly moral however it is more common than one would think and even has a name - Catfishing. However Wagatwe Wanjuki (2005)[9] discusses the more positive aspects of social media in her article on online dating. She discusses some studies that she has researched which state that online dating is just as, if not more, successful than real life dating (as found by Stanford University, 2012). It is also beneficial to many as it widens the dating pool, so if they are from a small area they have a wider variety of people to connect with online. This shows how using the internet for social uses can be a helpful for many people in a variety of situations.

Information Seeking refers to people self-educating from the vast amounts of information available on the internet. The internet has allowed vast amounts of information readily available at our fingertips which was previously a trip to the library to get your hands on. This has encouraged people to take to the internet in order to find out any information they need whether that be for school, work or a simple piece of general knowledge, which is great in terms of easy access but could be making us too reliant on this form of research. The Kaspersky Lab states that, “we don't commit data to memory because of the "Google Effect" – we're safe in the knowledge that answers are just a click away, and are happy to treat the web like an extension to our own memory”. Like Web 2.0, you can read more about the “Google Effect” in Internal Effects.

Pass Time is an obvious reason to use social media and the internet in general as nowadays people find it hard to be doing nothing and in need for constant stimulation, Philip Karahassan, a psychologist says after looking at his own uses of smartphone technology he often found himself using his smartphone when he was “at a loss of things to do” and says that this results in to miss out on actual thoughts and experiences [10]

Entertainment is a huge factor of the internet as since the internet has revolutionised the way we play games and consume movies, TV and other forms of entertainment. The internet has allowed gaming to be collaborative as your gaming experiences can now be shared with others through “Live Gaming”. The amount of young boys that play games with others on the internet is around 50% [11] which shows the popularity of the internet for this use. Nowadays, most entertainment mediums are accessible to anyone with a computer, the ability to download and stream games, films and television programmes has allowed people to consume forms of entertainment at their leisure without having to go out and visit a game shop or DVD store which is a very common practice for internet users as can be seen in “Our Survey on Social Uses” where the majority of answerers, 64%, used the internet in this way.

Relaxation is a less common use of the internet scoring a mere 21% of our survey participants using it for this reason however, much like using the internet for entertainment it is the same types of activities that can also act as uses for relaxation. For example, winding down after a long day by watching a funny video could be seen as a reward of hard work and an aid in relaxation to get the stresses of the day out of mind. Watching a funny video clip, streaming relaxing musics or downloading a film to watch can offer that relaxing break that people need but this also combines with using the internet for entertainment.

Expression of Opinions can relate to the sharing of statuses about current events or even just something that you have an opinion about. Many people choose not to share too many opinions as it can often lead to backlash from other social users however their are some people that can get away with the sharing of opinions and it is encouraged that they do so. A key group who uses social media for social purposes (i.e. engagement with their fans) are celebrities, and they tend to have huge audiences. However there can be repercussions of this as things can often be misinterpreted online and this causes issues, adding more to the list of dangers that we can encounter when using these online platforms, most recently the Harry Potter star, Emma Watson received backlash on a recent photoshoot and her self proclaimed “feminist” status was questioned by many people online. Emma Watson then responded to the backlash with the statement, “Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women with” [12], this is a key example of the power of opinions on social media.

Communicatory Utility involves using platforms like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and iMessage in order to communicate with friends. The main attraction of these services is that internet messaging systems allow you to contact someone for free (if at a free wi-fi hotspot) as well as being able to contact someone from all parts of the world. As previously discussed in the “Social Interaction” section, forming online communities on social media can often lead to meeting people from different countries which before the internet would include a cost at communicating to but using messaging systems allows you to communicate essentially for free.

An example of Convenience Utility in the Whiting & Williams research paper was the idea of the ‘convenience of online shopping’ which is a popular use of the internet nowadays. A staggering 41% of purchases are being made online [13] showing the popularity of the activity. The convenience lies in the fact that customers can access online shopping 24 hours a day and whenever suits them, as well as the ease of accessibility shoppers also have access to products from around the world which would not have been available before the internet [14].

Information Sharing refers to the act of posting information about you to others. This can include sharing pictures of your holiday or writing a status update about what you're doing, each day over 55 million status updates are made each day on Facebook [15] and an average of 52 million photos are posted to instagram [16]. Although information sharing is one of the least popular uses of the internet according to our social uses survey, a study done at the University of Arizona concluded that when people were posting statuses they essentially felt less lonely even if their statuses were not getting engaged with by their peers. However along side that was the sad truth that when seeing other friends statuses were being “liked” and responded to more caused the subjects to feel as if they didn't belong [17]. This is caused by the Fear of Missing Out.

Knowledge About Others is essentially being “nosey” and going through peoples profiles or keeping up to date with their statuses, etc. A blog written by Professor Laura Portwood-Stacer states that social media “has eradicated the geographical barriers of privacy” [18] making it so easy for us to find out a variety of information on someone just by scrolling though their social media profiles, you can find out what they had for lunch and where they had it or what movie they went to see and who with. The information on people that can be derived from social media is endless, of course that can be down to the problem with “Information Sharing” or again the Fear of Missing Out.

Our Survey on Social Uses

To aid our knowledge and research into this subject, we decided to carry out a survey to observe what social media sites were most commonly used, and the key reasons (based on Whiting and Williams'[19] uses of gratification) that they used said sites. The results were as follows (note, the results are based on the response of 100 people);

What is Your Age? Answer
18-24 73%
25-34 7%
35-44 6%
45-54 12%
55-64 1%
65-74 1%
75 or older 0%
Why Do You Use Social Media? Answer
Social Interaction 79%
Information Seeking (self educating) 37%
Pass Time 83%
Entertainment 64%
Relaxation 21%
Expression of Opinions 18%
Communication (messenger etc) 83%
Convenience (easily accessed) 29%
Information Sharing 35%
Surveillance/Knowledge 43%
How Often Do You Use Social Media? Answer
Extremely Often 54%
Very Often 38%
Moderately Often 7%
Slightly Often 1%
Not at All Often 0%
Which of the Following Social Networking Sites do you Use Most Often? Answer
Facebook 92%
Google+ 11%
Snapchat 55%
Instagram 60%
Twitter 33%
Other 12%

There are quite a few points that we can consider from the retrieval of this information. Firstly, as one may expect we discovered that most people using social media are in the 18-24 demographic. The second largest areas of use were generated from the 45-54 category, which is rather intriguing. An article by Eleanor Doughty (2015)[20] suggests that the reasons for older people using sites such as Facebook (which we saw from the survey was the most used site) is related primarily to communication. She argues that as people get older they are aware that their mobility may be decreased and therefore Facebook and Facebook Messenger becomes an extremely useful tool for them. Doughty (2015) cites Martin Lock, CEO of[21] who states; "Being comfortable using Facebook will help older people stay connected to their families and friends, and may help alleviate loneliness in later years". Which is of course a very relevant and useful thing to keep in mind. It is often assumed that communication over online platforms is a negative thing, and some believe that it reduces personal value. However as seen here, sometimes it can greatly improve individuals lives.

Career Development Uses[edit | edit source]

The internet plays a major role in career development. The effect of persistent connectivity is discoverability, meaning a simple search of a potential employee's name yields thousands of results. This can either improve or damage a potential employee's chances of getting a job, as how one presents themselves online is an employer's best estimate of how said potential employee may represent their company. In fact, according to a study conducted by CareerBuilder, around 60% of employers look at social media profiles of potential hires. Furthermore, in the same study it was found that around a quarter of employers have actually admonished or fired current employee's due to their negative internet presence. [22]


An example of how social media has positive effects on career building is LinkedIn, a website aimed toward aiding in employment through the use of a social media platform. This medium allows users to make a functional, high tech resume that highlights their strengths. Social media allows the user to present a particular image, and LinkedIn utilizes this feature to assist users in presenting their employability.

Examples of the negative effects of social media use is outlined in Business Insider's article "13 People Who Got Fired for Tweeting". [23] Many people have gotten fired or forced to resign due to presenting controversial opinions on social media platforms. Increased discoverability online allows employers to see anything written on social media profiles or potential or current employees, therefore how someone presents themselves online must be constantly monitored in order to prevent these negative effects.


However there is a growing group of people that instead of depending on the internet to get them a job they have made a job out of their use of social media by turning themselves into social media influencers, this group of people consists of bloggers, you tubers and Instagram stars. Due to their large amount of filling on various platforms, businesses have seen this as a new marketing opportunity and sponsors an influencer that they feel best suits their brand to promote products to their many followers. A way to think about this is an update from celebrity endorsements and since the reign of social influencers is constantly expanding some industries have taken their involvement a step further as recently fashion haus Dolce & Gabana had social stars like Youtubers, Marcus Butler and Jim Chapman [24] with combined 7 million subscribers, walked their mens fashion show. The use of social influencers in, what used to be extremely exclusive, fashion shows has allowed the fashion industry to get a much bigger audience as consumers are now able to see the fashion real time due to the amount of coverage of the events due to influencer attendance [25].

However social influencers are breaking their way into many careers just by the use of their social accounts, music star Justin Bieber is another example of a success story as he was first discovered on Youtube and is now one of the youngest most successful musicians of the century so far. The most common success story is Youtube superstar Zoella (Zoe Sugg) who's first youtube video was her showing 50 things she had in her room, now she has over 10 million subscribers as well as three best selling books and a beauty and lifestyle range in cosmetic drug store, Superdrug. These are only some of the amazing career developments achieved by the use of the internet but really show the current power of discoverability online.

Surveillance Uses[edit | edit source]

The final use of the internet fall under a very controversial heading and that is the use of the internet for surveillance. This way of using the internet can be done for a variety of reasons, as Daniel Trotter Daniel Trottier discusses in his book ‘Social Media as Surveillance: Rethinking Visibility in a Converging World’ [26] there are four primary uses of social media surveillance:

Bansky one nation under cctv
  • Interpersonal
  • Institutional
  • Market
  • Policing

In this book he talks about the risks of social media surveillance and how although you may feel like you have your information and security setting under control that you cannot control your peers and the organisations that control the platforms you are posting on. Interpersonal Surveillance refers back to the Social Uses of the internet and using it for “Knowledge About Others” and how people can spy and find out a variety of information about you through these platforms. A less discussed surveillance use is Institutional uses which Trottier has taken the example of universities and schools and how they use social media in order to manage their students. He then refers to Danah Boyd’s idea of the ‘invisible audience’ [27] in relation to the fact that students allow this type of audience, in this case their institutions, to spy on their online activities. Market Uses again refer back to the previously discussed “Business Uses” that are based around the use of the internet and social media in order to find out information about certain customers and use that information in product development or advertisement targeting. The final use discussed by Trottier is Policing, a survey carried out in 2013 by the International Association of Chiefs of Police [28] concluded that over 95% of police departments that were surveyed use social media to come extent, the most popular use was in order to solve crimes said 80% of participants. The massive amounts of information available about individuals and the things we post that we assume no one will see can come in handy for law enforcement as police can often access this information and can identify suspects from crime from small clues that we leave online.

Always on Culture[edit | edit source]

Sherry Turkle

"Always-On" culture is a term coined by theorists which refers to the fact that we now live in an age where we are constantly connected to technology and the internet. Whether this be from constant notifications on your phone, to having new facets of technology continually available to us, it seems impossible to break away from our virtual lives these days. Sherry Turkle, a leading theorist in this area of studies, describes us being "tethered" to technology, with information and everything our lives have come to be at the touch of a finger tip.

A theorist who takes a more positive stance on the concept is danah boyd, who doesn't see this constant connection as a bad thing suggesting that it's not about being "on or off" anymore as we are always-on nowadays, it is a choice whether or not we allow ourselves to always be on - "technology doesn't simply break social conventions - it introduces new ones." Technology and social media allows us to not always be connected to a physical handset, but connected to the network, which according to boyd is the meaning of "always-on".[29]

"Tethered" to Technology[edit | edit source]

Sherry Turkle refers to the idea of always-on culture in a somewhat critical way. She talks about the idea that we now live in a world where "madmen and women" talk to themselves, unaware of what is actually happening around them. She also goes on to explain that today's generation of teenagers are our "first view of tethering in developmental terms".[30] What Turkle speaks about is the fact that we have a generation, in an important foundation-building time of life, using a technology which we are unable to identify any long-term disadvantages. However, Turkle's skepticism follows a trend more-or-less all new technologies face. From the first TV set in the domestic space, to the home computer, people have forever contested the way in which new technologies will effect society, and many also live in fear of these changes.

Availability[edit | edit source]

Permanent Connectivity[edit | edit source]

One major way in which technology has changed our lives over the past two decades is the immense range of tech available to us at affordable prices, and therefore reaching a larger audience. From the development of the laptop portable computer, to more recent developments such as the smart watch and tablets, the vast array of accessories that are on the market cement the idea of "always-on" - you don't even have to be carrying your phone anymore to be connected, instead it can be strapped around your wrist.

Apple Watch

A 2015 study by UK survey company Ofcom reveals that 90% of 16-24 year olds now own a smartphone while the number of 55-64 year olds owning a smartphone device has more than doubled since 2012, rising from 19% to 50%. [31]

An older man using a smartphone at a press event

As Turkle explains it "it assumes the existence of separate worlds, plugged and unplugged." She also speaks about being "tethered to our "always-on/always-on-us" devices" which she describes as "animate and inanimate".[32] This is a bizarre yet extremely appropriate turn of phase to describe a mobile phone etc. is effective in hammering home the point that while the physical handset is just something to hold, it consumes so much of our lives that it cannot just be dismissed in such a nonchalant manner.

Notion of Availability[edit | edit source]

The notion of availability is the idea that we now live in a society where we expect to be able to reach someone instantly. We live in a society where we see no excuse not to be able to communicate at any time, and have an expectation of being constantly available. With the growth of instant messaging apps and, as mentioned previously, the growth in wearable technology, it becomes apparent that there genuinely seems to be no reason for us to not be always available. danah boyd is a social media scholar who talks about this issue and the blurring of the lines between "real-life" and "virtual-life" - "It's about living in a world where being networked to people and information wherever and whenever you need it is just assumed." boyd goes on to explain that Always-On Culture is "about creating an ecosystem in which people can stay peripherally connected to one another through a variety of microdata."[33]

The result of this blurred line between online/offline life means that many users feel the need to declare a social media "purge", or a "holiday". Users will often post to sites such a Twitter and Facebook publicly announcing their short-term departure from the site; professionals will often send out mass emails altering their contacts to the fact that they will not be available to answer and reply between certain times.

Online Disinhibition[edit | edit source]

Online disinhibition is the understanding that people posting online seem to have less of an awareness of consequence of their actions online. Gackenbach and von Stackleberg describe this as "the inability to control impulsive behaviours, thoughts or feelings and manifests online as people communicating in ways that they would not ordinarily do offline." [34] Another prominent theorist specialising in the topic of online dininhibition is John Suler. In his work "The Online Disinhibition Effect", he describes the way in which online disinhibition can work in two different ways - benign and toxic.

Benign Disinhibition is the term used by Suler to describe the pleasant way in which user will act anonymously and/or publicly online. "Sometimes people share very personal things about themselves. They reveal secret emotions, fears, wishes. They show unusual acts of kindness and generosity, sometimes going out of their way to help others." This maybe be why some people are more likely to participate in an online charity challenge, such as the Ice-Bucket Challenge, but may not be willing to give money to charity in the street - their inhibitions are lowered and therefore their sense of responsibility is too. However, this could also relate to the idea of "FOMO" - the fear of missing out - which is explain in detail below. Toxic Disinhibition is the term Suler uses to describe the darker side to the internet and the way way in which users create a "toxic" virutal environment. He explains "people may be rude, critical, angry, hateful, and threatening, or they visit places of perversion, crime, and violence – territory they would never explore in the “real” world."[35] In taking Suler's approach, there are evidently not just cons to the idea of online disinhibtion, but also pros too.

Perhaps the most notorious example of online disinhibtion, and more specifically toxic disinhibition, is the act of "trolling". This is the act in which someone purposefully seeks to cause offence or harm others verbally online. It is in this instance where the previous point of the blurring of online/offline lives becomes an issue. While some may see it a whimsical way to make fun of someone, new legislation has determined that online trolling is a serious crime. There have been many debates over the past five years or so as to whether trolling should be considered a real crime. This comes with the statistics that 52% of teenagers have experienced "cyberbullying". [36]

Social Context Cues[edit | edit source]

One of the main issues surrounding the way in which we speak online is the lack of social context cues in place to regulate the way in which we communicate with each other. As Suler explains "People don’t have to worry about how they look or sound when they type a message. They don’t have to worry about how others look or sound in response to what they say. Seeing a frown, a shaking head, a sigh, a bored expression, and many other subtle and not so subtle signs of disapproval or indifference can inhibit what people are willing to express." [37] Users lack interpersonal cues, and therefore feel a lower sense of responsibility when it comes to communicating with others online. To contrast, text-based communications usually indicate a low fidelity, whereas face-to-face communications usually indicate the highest level of fidelity.

Privacy Concerns[edit | edit source]

Another issue which causes concerns for a constantly connected user is the issue of privacy. Being constantly available and connected means that technology and the internet touches nearly every part of our lives - from our social relationships, to online banking, there may be a relatively justified cause for concern when it comes to keeping information safe. What seems worrying is the lack of awareness when it comes to "snooping" - people simply do not pay enough attention to terms and conditions etc. to realise just how open their information to the world is. What is even more worrying is that there are users who are aware, but simply accept it as part of the culture of having an online identity.

Data Mining[edit | edit source]

Data mining has become an issue in the past few years, and certainly became more apparent since the NSA snooping scandal and similar instances of tracking. It can be defined as the collection of information online, either through cookies or data trails etc., by an individual, company or organisation. Even the most inconspicuous sites are a treasure trove for companies looking to gain from user information - "Viewed through the lens of market research, platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are much more than sites of networked sociality: they are the world's biggest focus group. Generating more data than any market researcher could ever hope to read and analyse."[38]

More information on privacy issues concerning social media can be found in the Privacy in the Digital Age chapter of Living in a Connected World.

Changes to Interactions due to Technology[edit | edit source]

Technological innovation has dramatically changed the way humans interact and coexist. From the beginning of the digital age up until present day, human behavior has adapted to live in a world dominated by ever-changing machines. This technology-focused mindset not only affects connections with the outside world, but also impacts an individual's sense of themselves.

Internal Effects[edit | edit source]

We are living in a digital age. For some, this concept is terrifying and for others it is welcomed with open arms. But no matter what stance one takes, it would be naïve to assume that we are in no way affected by the fast growing network of social media sites, messaging/photo apps and video sharing sites that undoubtedly encourage the 'always-on culture'. Neil Tweedie (2010) talks in an article in The Telegraph [39] about how we are constantly being distracted on the Internet – describing it as an “electronic sweet shop”. The implications of this are quite dense, implying that the web is a negative force in our lives taking us away from the many things that we should be focusing on - work, education, socialising. It is these things that arguably have caused many people to see the internet as a negative thing in society (see Moral Panics. And of course, being distracted by a sweet shop isn’t however always a good thing and likewise it would not be unfair to say the same for the Internet. Though the web and social media sites can of course lend to positive things, Tweedie is referring to the more sinister effects. These sites, he argues have an immense power to influence our thought process and behaviours. Quite a bold implication, but one that holds truth nonetheless. The creation of the Internet has completely changed our world, and the way in which we do things. To explore this and the internal effects it has on individuals, this section will be split into key concepts with the intention to investigate and analyse these effects.

Web 2.0[edit | edit source]

Terry Flew (2008)[40] states that our modern Internet (named Web 2.0) is solely designed to promote persistent connectivity. We are more active on the Internet and social media sites now more than ever before as a result of this. Of course this 'always on culture' is one of the key things that has changed in our world.

Web 2.0 comes with the development of sites such as Facebook and Twitter, both of which allow for instant and constant communication. Web 2.0 wants the internet to be easy to use, in order to promote the use of social media to people of all ages. Sites are thus designed to be appealing to all in their design and function. Apps like Facebook Messenger have given us the power to be accessible at any given time, which is alluring to a lot of people as they may be too busy in their everyday lives to meet up with friends and family as much as they like, but instant messaging apps give them an alternative. Whereas before we would have had to travel to see someone in person to have a discussion, all we have to do now is pick up our phones. We can have a full conversation with little effort required, and engage in interaction without ever having to leave our house. Because of this, we are now engaging in less and less in person interaction which is argued by many to be bad for ones mental health. Donelan et al (2010: 237)[41] describe Web 2.0 as being primarily "user generated content" (237). Which means that the people are the key creators of what is out there. We can upload our own photos, customise a lot of the sites we use, create blogs and videos and even create our own websites. Is this why we are so driven towards it? The idea that we can do and say what we like, with far less regulation than in real life, and what are the internal repercussions of this?

Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt wrote an article on Everyday Health[42] and argues that being addicted to the internet is entirely possible, and is affecting more and more people as the internet develops. What Carson-DeWitt notes is that people with this addiction are likely to feel socially isolated; and while they may believe that being online will make them feel less alone, it often does the contrary. Looking at Facebook especially, people tend to use the web to show off their lives, primarily with photos. Undoubtedly this can make one feel jealous and unhappy with their own lives, yet they are missing out on things by spending such a huge portion of their time online. These are only some of the small effects that spending too much time on social media can have. Web 2.0 may be interpreted by some as a good thing, however is encouraging greater amounts of time spent online and making it more accessible for people truly the best thing for our society? Some may argue no.

Our 'Mini-Performances'[edit | edit source]

Erving Goffman (who you can read more about in our Goffman's Mask section) was a very influential sociologist who was fascinated with the everyday procedures of human life and furthermore the interactions that we partake in. He argued that the self is a social product. What he meant by this is that our personalities and sense of self are created as a result of the social interactions that we have. Different interactions develop different parts of ourselves and this is also transferred onto social media sites. Goffman proposed the idea that we display different parts of ourselves in different situations/company; we wear masks. Thus we are never fully showing our true self, we can pick and choose different masks to wear depending on how we wish certain people to see us. He referred to this as frontstage and backstage personalities, or the idea of 'I' and 'me'. Which is the concept that we have a true self or a backstage self but this is reserved for ourselves. Our frontstage self is the one that we put on show for others to see. But like any play we can change this, and it may be altered depending on differing audiences. Roberts (2006: 65)[43] comments on this, stating that "the individual presents themselves to others and tries to control the impression that others gain of him or her in acting in their presence". This concept is referred to as 'impression management'. This becomes important to our modern world, as it could be argued that this notion is extremely applicable to the internet and more specifically - social media sites. It is arguable easier to carry out this impression management online, which is perhaps why social media sites hold an appeal for many. The use of uploading photos onto Facebook and Instagram allows us to paint a certain picture of our lives; one that does not necessarily reflect the reality.

An article by Britney Fitzgerald (2013) on The Huffington[44] talks about the way we act on Facebook. She outlines how even though we display our real names (or at least the majority of people do) there is still an, even subconscious, element of anonymity and thus our behaviour changes.

Goffman argues that certain social situations expect different roles and 'faces' from us. There is an element of expectation linked to certain scenarios, we have predetermined ideas and understandings of how we should act. Whilst online, this expectation differs due to the uniqueness in the way that we communicate. Swingle (2016)[45] outlines how the reason for our differing behaviour is due to the fact that social media platforms thwart our ability to read emotions as we would in a face-to-face conversation. In Swingle's (2016: 164) words, "the medium directly promotes narcissism". This can of course be contested, as not everyone who uses social media platforms can be accused of being narcissistic, but it is interesting to consider nonetheless. And, inevitably, there is some truth to the claim as due to how different online communication is to real life communication, it would be ignorant to assume that we act entirely the same in both situations.

The Tethered-Self[edit | edit source]

More can be found on the tethered self in Always On Culture however it is useful to briefly discuss it in relation to internal effects also. The Tethered Self is a concept presented by Sherry Turkle (2011). She states that "each is tethered to a mobile device and to the people and places to which that device serves as a portal" (p.155). So, what Turkle is essentially saying is that we are addicted, or tethered to this online self that we have created. The implications of this are quite large indeed. Turkle (2011: 156) discusses how the creation of the internet and further this notion of the tethered self has changed the way in which we experience life. She relays an anecdote about how a director of a students exchange program explained to her that students were no longer appreciating travel in the way that they should. Instead of experiencing the new culture around them, they would spend their time on Facebook, talking to friends back home.

Rice (2009)[46] states that this notion of the tethered self goes further, claiming that we are so tethered to these social media sites that people are beginning more and more to turn to such sites to help us make decisions, or to ask for advice about our personal lives. Rice (2009 does note that this can be a positive thing, citing James Surowiecki from his book The Wisdom of Crowds (2004),[47] who argues that individuals tend to make better decisions when they are being informed by others, rather than doing so on their own. However Rice goes on to say that there are hugely negative implications from this also, as one may expect. Rice (2009: 145) states that the ""voices" of our invisible entourage can drown out the sound of our own hearts", and goes on to say that looking for others opinions on social media sites the way we do makes it increasingly difficult to know what thoughts actions and feelings belong to us. In other words, we begin to forget our own natural instincts and care more about the way in which others see us and how they think that we should be living our lives. Showing further just how deep the internal effects of the social networking cites can go.

The Google Effect[edit | edit source]

Genevieve Roberts (2015)[48] wrote an article for The Independent that is useful to discuss when looking at this topic. Essentially, she argues that the Google Effect is the idea that we are no longer storing information like we once would, because we feel safe in the knowledge that everything we require an answer to is only a Google search away, treating the Internet as an "extension of our own memory". Our brains are not working as hard to remember information any more as, somewhat subconsciously, we are aware that essentially we do not need to in this modern digital age of ours because we have machines to memorise and store things for us. Many academics are currently worried that this notion is actually making us less intelligent, something mentioned by Roberts (2015). Of course this is not to say that we all treat the internet in this way; but the general consensus by academics is that users of the internet are all affected in some way. Roberts cites Dr Maria Wimber, lecturer at the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology, who argues that the Internet has simply changed the way in which we deal with and store information.

“Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips”

In 2011 researchers at Columbia University, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Harvard University published a study in the journal of science. The study “Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips” used four different experiments to determine the impact that internet search engines, such as google, may have on our cognitive functions of memory.[49]

The study found that participants who were primed with trivia questions they did not know the answer to were faster in recognising computer based words than non-computer based words - thus showing a desire to fill gaps in knowledge with computerised resources. If participants thought that the computer would save information for them, then they were slightly less likely to remember this information. Moreover, believing that the computer had saved the information for them did not enhance the participants' memory of specific information but it did enhance their memory of where to find the information on the computer at a later date. Overall, the participants' would seem to remember which computer folder the information was stored in rather than the actual content of the folder.

The researchers concluded the study by saying “We are becoming symbiotic with our computer tools, growing into interconnected systems that remember less by knowing information than by knowing where the information can be found.”[50]

Identity and the Internet[edit | edit source]

Turkle talks about the influence of the Internet and social media on peoples identity. She touches on Erik Erikson's stages of development and specifically 'moratorium'. [51] She believes that "connectivity offers new possibilities for experimenting with identity and, particularly in adolescence, the sense of a free space, what w:Erik Erikson called the moratorium. He describes the moratorium as a "psychosocial stage between childhood and adulthood" when the person "re-examines his identity and tries to find out exactly who or she is." [52] Turkle talks about this notion of identity in relation to the internet and claims that "the internet provides new spaces in which we can [experiment with our identity.]" She goes on to say that with the introduction of the web it is not only adolescences that can do this but adults are now also able to experiment with their sense of who they are.

People are now able to do this with the introduction of social media sites with which people are able to create profiles with which they are able to express their interests that they might not feel comfortable expressing in public. These sites allow for the creation of anonymous accounts which allow people to experiment with their identity before they display it to their friends and family. It can be seen as a way of easing people into their new identity until the are certain that they want to commit to that identity.

Moral Panics[edit | edit source]

Not to go into too much detail, but to finish of this section we wish to mention briefly Stanley Cohen's [53] concept of a moral panic as it is arguably relevant here. The definition of moral panics by Cohen (1972: 9) is as follows; “a condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests”. Though contested, many would and have argued that the internet is a threat to society (Krinskey, 2008)[54] The reasons for this have of course been previously outlined within the entirety of this chapter. As with many moral panics, one of the key things that people worry about in relation to the web is the way in which it will affect children, and this is not unjust. In relation to the internet, one of the key worrying points for many people - namely parents - is the thought of online grooming or the easiness for strangers to access information about these young individuals. A quick Google search of "what are the dangers for kids online" brings up a multitude of results a lot of which are tips for young people online. These tips include things like "keep privacy settings as high as possible", "don't post photos of yourself" and "do not talk to people you don't know [55]. Tim Newburn (2013)[56] discusses the moral panic surrounding Paedophiles in the 1990's. This concern has transferred over to the media, as some believe that it makes children more accessible for these people. There have been known cases where these awful things have occurred as a result of young people not being careful enough and ending up in unthinkable situations, Kayleigh Haywood being one of these poor victims[57]. And so we can see that certain moral panics surrounding the internet have credible reason to exist, and we can see from this some of the ways in which the desire to be online across all ages cannot always be a positive thing.

Social Comparison Theory[edit | edit source]

Presented by social psychologist Leon Festinger, Social comparison theory proposes that people obtain – what they understand to be – ‘accurate self-evaluations’ by comparing their opinions and abilities to others and thus gain an understanding of how to rank themselves in these areas. Downward social comparison is defined as looking to an individual or group of people, who you already perceive to be lacking in some regard, to boost your sense of self. In cases of upward social comparison, rather than observe the many differences that make you superior to another person or group of people, you draw the similarities between yourself and someone or a company of people, who you already perceive to be largely better than others. It has been suggested that while downward social comparisons are used to temporarily lift our self-image, upward social comparisons are far more powerful as motivators to achieve or fulfil the roles we deem desirable and successful.

In the context of social media, there is a rampant sense of self-evaluation and examples of both downward and upward social comparison are evident. A Reuters articles on Facebook envy found that:

‘Social interaction was the second most common cause of envy as users could compare how many birthday greetings they received to those of their Facebook friends and how many "likes" or comments were made on photos and postings. . . These feelings of envy were found to prompt some users to boast more about their achievements on the site run by Facebook Inc. to portray themselves in a better light.’ (Goldsmith, 2013) [58]

Facebook offers a unique opportunity to openly judge, critique and criticise – whether privately or in the company of friends – and use these downward social comparisons to deem yourself more popular and thus more successful. Conversely, it allows you to direct these judgements and criticisms at yourself. Either way, these negative emotions, directed at others or yourself, are harmful and detrimental on a deep mental level.

Self Image[edit | edit source]

Social media has become an unprecedented form of currency in the modern world. Perhaps the most valuable is Facebook, as it allows a window into your life that Twitter or Snapchat do not. On Facebook, you have your education and your work, which people use to determine your intelligence and financial standing; you have pictures from parties, holidays, birthdays and weddings, which people use to determine your attractiveness and the activeness and well-roundedness of your social life. The people making these determinations: your childhood friends, school friends, university friends, work friends, holiday friends, night-out friends, your family, potentially your partner’s family and friends, casual acquaintances and absolute strangers. A plethora of people, who sit as an attentive audience and casually judge the stage-show of your life, with no consideration for the time, the labour and consideration demanded to put on such a phenomenal event. What will entertain one section of the audience will not entertain another; what will impress your friends will not impress your family. At least, this is how it is understood to be.

Your sense of self – and most importantly, your sense of self-worth – comes from how you understand others to value you. Suddenly, fifty likes on a profile picture is more valuable to a person than a promotion – although ideally, there would be fifty likes on a status about the promotion as people congratulate you and celebrate how successful a Facebook profile you present, regardless of the reality.

A study revealed that: ‘Becoming self-aware by viewing one's own Facebook profile enhances self-esteem rather than diminishes it. Participants that updated their profiles and viewed their own profiles during the experiment also reported greater self-esteem, which lends additional support to the Hyperpersonal Model. These findings suggest that selective self-presentation in digital media, which leads to intensified relationship formation, also influences impressions of the self.’ [59]

While likes and comments are important to boosting your sense of self-worth, the simple act of maintaining a profile that you are proud of is enough to create positive emotions and thus improve your self-image. Although, is it a simple task to maintain a Facebook profile to be proud of and, consequently, is it a simple task to maintain your self-image on social media?

A separate study conducted among students it was noted that: ‘The multivariate analysis indicated that those who have used Facebook longer agreed more that others were happier, and agreed less that life is fair, and those spending more time on Facebook each week agreed more that others were happier and had better lives. Furthermore, those that included more people whom they did not personally know as their Facebook 'friends' agreed more that others had better lives.’ [60]

External Effects[edit | edit source]

Over the past decade, the development of mobile technology has changed the way in which we interact with people. Gitte Stald describes the changes that have occurred over the past 10 years: "Within a decade, the typical mobile available on the popular market has developed from being a portable telephone to being a handheld computer with enough data and speed capacity to facilitate mobile internet access, MP3 music, photography, video, advanced games and tools such as a calculator, diary, notebook, alarm, clock, GPS and more." [61] These new high quality functions that are now available on the majority of mobile phones may be the reason that most people constantly have their mobile with them. The option to always be connected to the internet is one that allows people to stay connected through not only text and phone calls (which are offline functions) but also through social networking sites even when they are out of the house. Stald describes the common mobile as a "Swiss Army Knife, which holds a number of useful tools - even if people almost always tend to use the same ones." It can be said, however, that there is a difference in the way in which different age groups may use their mobiles - which has been shown further up in this chapter in Social Uses of the internet. These statistics suggest that younger people use the internet on a more frequent basis and use more social media sites. This can be linked back to how each generation grew up. Younger people grew up with technology during their childhood and therefore have a better understanding of how it works and are more likely to use it extensively. Whereas slightly older people did not have the same access to technology as this and therefore are less likely to use it heavily.

A 2006 survey showed that 80% of informants never turned off their mobile phones. While the other 20% of people turned their phones off between 4 and 12 hours per day. I would suggest that since the development of the mobile phone has come so far in the past decade since this survey was conducted that those figures will have grown extensively. This constant connection, not only to other people, but to the Web means that we are never truly 'offline'. One 19 year old girl that had been interviewed during the process of this study talked about switching off her phone to de-stress but also commented "I can't be without it for too long. What if I miss something." Stald describes "missing something" as referring to the constant updating of the social network. This means that with this fear of missing out, young people today have no or few communication and information-free moments. People are often contactable right up until they go to sleep and as soon as they wake up in the morning which puts a continuing pressure of these people to reply and remain available throughout the day.

With this constant connectivity right up until we go to bed can have harmful effects on our sleeping pattern as well. "The blue light emitted by screens on cell phones, computers, tablets, and televisions restrain the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle or circadian rhythm. Reducing melatonin makes it harder to fall and stay asleep." [62] With the majority of people claiming that they never switch their phones off, it is concerning that our levels of sleep may be reducing as a generation due to our high levels of technology usage. This is something that can be can be linked to McLuhan's theory Technological Determinism which suggests that technology shapes the way society functions - which I talk about in more detail in the section "being 'Pausable'". I think this change in sleeping patterns throughout this generation, suggests that McLuhan's theories are credible in that some things about our society have changed due to technology. And the introduction of mobile technology is not the first time we see this. Technology shaping our society can be traced all the way back to the invention of the wheel or the light bulb. Significant changes such as these ones are what shape our society.

Being 'Pausable'[edit | edit source]

The fact that people nowadays always have their mobiles with them creates this notion that people are "pausable". [63] The ways in which our social interactions work now is that we pay more attention to our phones than the person talking to us - something that has changed since developed mobile phones have emerged. Turkle states that "our face to face conversations are routinely interrupted by incoming calls and text messages." The distraction of our phones constantly being with us means that people fade in and out of conversations only catching parts which means that our full attention is no longer on the person we are with but spilt between to modes of communication. This is an point that has been suggested by many media researchers but why is it that people now believe they can put the face to face interaction they are having on pause in order to answer their mobile. An 18 year old boy, that Turkle talked to, claimed that his friends are now "so used to giving their phones all the attention... they forget that people are still there to give attention to." This kind of interaction means that our face to face interactions no longer mean as much as they might have before.

There are a few ways that theorists look at this. Marshall McLuhan believes that technology is an extension of the human body, he believes that big cultural shifts are determined by the changes in technology which is a theory called Technological Determinism. He said that there are "personal and social consequences of any medium - that is, of any extension of ourselves - result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension." [64] In this, we can link back to how we are now "pausable" due to the changes within technology as McLuhan suggests that new technology often changes the ways in which we interact with people and do every day tasks. With the constant fear of missing out and the need to be connected all the time are we then missing out on actual experiences? Due to these technological advances we now experience our lives in a different way than we would have before. The increase in photography with mobile devices is one way in which our experiences have changed majorly. For example, when people go to a concert nowadays, people feel the need to film every second of the concert and therefore does this mean that our experiences of the concert are no longer as meaningful as before as we are watching them through our phones or cameras and not experiencing it in full. We put our whole lives 'on pause' just so that we can keep up to date or perhaps even keep other people up to date.

This is then counterbalanced by the views of Raymond Williams who believes that technology is not an extension of ourselves but the social context in which we use technology actually determines what we make of it, he believes that our social interactions throughout history shape the ways in which we have used technology. This is called Cultural Determinism With this, Williams flips the idea that technology is actually shaped by the needs and wants of the society that we live in. Williams also delves into the fact that the intention of technology can often differ from the actual use of it. Mobile phones are a major development in technology that has changed the ways in which we function as a society which can be linked to both of Williams notions here. The extensive use of mobile phones in our every day life has changed our social interactions and demean the relationships that we have with one another due to a overwhelming use of technology instead of face-to-face interactions. It can also be said that mobiles are now used for things other than their intended use as they were created in order to boost communication which made it easier to be contacted but in contrast it can be said that mobiles often take away from our communication and often isolate us due to our overuse of our devices instead of real interactions.

New Boundaries[edit | edit source]

Papacharissi talks about the "uncoupling of space and time" within the changes of social interactions. [65] He means to say that we can live our lives in any time and space that we wish but all from the comfort of our own homes. We "no longer require the traversing of temporal and geographical boundaries." Which means to say that our use of the web has now extended not only for information gathering but to fully living our lives through the internet. This is something that can be seen through the introduction of not only social media sites which allow communication but also with the introduction of dating websites and apps such as Tinder. The introduction of this to our online environment means that even less face-to-face interactions are necessary in order to live a normal life with normal relationships - but they are now online relationships.

The ways in which we use the internet in our every day life "results in transforming the private sphere of the home into a space that is both public and private." Due to the widespread use of social media there appears to be a new norm in how much we share with people. On social media, it may be easy to forget how many people are able to access what we are posting which means that people are more likely to post more personal things. The line between our public and private lives is becoming more blurred in that the things that people would have shared only with their close family and friends, before the introduction of social media, is now shared with everyone on their friends list - and potentially more than this depending on privacy settings. This persistent connectivity that has been created by these platforms means that there appears to be no secrets about what people are doing.

Mobile Privatization[edit | edit source]

Raymond Williams came up with the term mobile privatization as a part of his "criticism of the failings of technological determinism and its role in the accounts of media history." [66] w:Mobile privatization is one way in which theorists describe the attachment that people have to their mobile devices. And although this term was made before modern mobile phones, it can be strongly linked to the uses of modern mobile phones. The theory suggests that people's mobile devices give them a feeling of security and being "at home". It can be said that because we are "always on" it means that we could travel anywhere and still feel comfortable due to the connectivity of their mobiles. This means to say that we do not need four walls and a roof over our heads to feel at home because we are now able to carry our homes with us. This is a notion that can be linked back to Stald's idea that "the meaning of the mobile goes beyond its practical function."

Online Presentation[edit | edit source]

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There are different reasons that we might post our lives online. The reasons can, of course, be linked to identity as I have talked about before with finding identity through online experiences and sharing in the internal effects section. But there are other reasons such as to preserve memories and therefore look back on. But is this idea still valid in this day and age? Mendelson and Papacharissi talk about the use of photos on social media and question "if photos are taken for the purpose of being displayed and tagged, does this render the experiences and the social relationships presented more real?" [67] This is a contentious question as it suggests that the snapshots we take now are more real, but does the selfie truly capture a memory in the same way that a photograph may have done before the introduction of the selfie craze. It can be said that the way that photos are taken now is too staged which takes away from the way in which it works as a time capsule. If someones social media site is full of pictures of only themselves (and their face only) then what purpose does this serve? Stald describes the "mobile as a personal log for activities networks, and the documentation of experiences" which means to say that we use our mobiles to capture moments and then relive them through the photographs and the memories that we have saved onto our mobile devices.

Mendelson and Papacharissi suggest that "people are able to post only that information which presents a desired image." The way in which we present ourself may not be in line with the way we are in reality and therefore we are able to construct a new identity that we present to the people online. The pair compare online presentation to the ways in which we present ourself in real life: "In everyday life, people consciously and unconsciously work to define the way they are perceived, hoping to engender positive impressions of themselves. This effort entails emphasizing certain characteristics, through dress, hairstyle, behavior and/or speech, while hiding or diminishing other characteristics perceived as flawed, depending on context." The way in which they describe the ways people try to present themselves in reality can be likened to the ways we try to present ourselves in the best light online as well. However, there is one key difference in that flaws are able to slip through in real life whereas online people are able to edit their flaws and delete anything that they do not want online (although this does not necessarily mean that the photos or status is gone forever as once they are online, they are often never truly offline.)

Fear of Missing Out[edit | edit source]

The 'Fear of Missing Out' or the FOMO can be defined as a feeling of uneasiness that a person might get with regards to the idea that they are missing out on social experiences that other people might be having. It is fueled by an eagerness to be constantly up to date with what others might be experiencing. In the current day, social media platforms provide us with unlimited methods of engaging with others online. People are scared that if they are not constantly active online then they will be missing out on vital social interactions. This causes them to experience a negative feelings when they see other people posting on social media. They believe that the other person is having more fulfilling life experiences than them and this can cause a feeling of low self-worth. Thus resulting in an overwhelming urge to stay socially connected to people via social media and technology. You can read more about the fear of missing out in relation to privacy in Living in a Connected World/Technology as an Extension of Self. of the book.

The history of FOMO[edit | edit source]

In June 2013 a Wikipedia page was created explaining the phenomenon of The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). FOMO was described on the page as a form of social anxiety which was caused by being overly active on social media. The page also discussed a study by social psychologist Andrew Przybylski (2013). The study was concerned with why people used social media, and it found that some used it more due to unfulfilled psychological needs. This was the first time that FOMO was recognised by academic research - it had previously trended on social media and been referred to in news articles but this was seen as a lighthearted phrase.

Although 2013 was when FoMO was recognised as an academic term, it's origins date back to 2004. A Harvard Business student, Patrick McGinnis, wrote a comic story for the school newspaper in 2004 in which he spoke about the suffering of students. He identified that people would rather over fill their evenings with a variety of events that they couldn't possibly attend than feel like they were missing out on something. He wrote that this in turn led to a drunken email at three in the morning to an abandoned friend: “Sorry I missed your 80’s theme party at Felt—you know that you are totally in my top 15.” The concept managed to circle its way around Harvard until it gained momentum. [68]

After the term had been circulating for a while it's popularity increased. In 2007 a Business Week article addressed the term saying that the epidemic was 'catching on everywhere'. Then by March The Guardian had added the word into it's glossary of Youth internet slang. By this point it seemed like everyone was talking about FoMO and at a time where Facebook was rapidly growing the concept was getting more and more relatable. In April 2011,FoMO became the Urban Dictionary's most searched for word of the day(Dossey,2014) Finally, the following year FoMO became official with the Oxford Dictionary(2012) recognising the word as the “Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.” [69]

The need to belong[edit | edit source]

The history in regards to FoMO and social media may only be traced back to 2004 but it is important to note that the concept of the fear of missing out has been around for a lot longer. We can see this from phrases such as 'keeping up with the joneses', people have been trying to fit in and out do each other so they don't feel like they are missing out for a long time. There are previous theories that deal with why humans experience certain emotions if they feel left out. FoMO can be understood as the need to belong somewhere whether it may be a social group, an online community or the wider world.

Mark Leary and Roy Baumeister wrote a paper on 'The need tɒ Belong' in 1995. The paper hypothesises that as human beings our fundamental motivation is to belong. The study speaks of our drive to form long lasting and successful relationships with our people - it is simply in our nature to attempt to bond with others. In order to for us to satisfy our need to bond, Leary and Baumeister say that there are two steps. First, we need to frequently interact with others but these interactions must be pleasant and around other people. Secondly, the interactions must be stable with a mutual concern for the others well being. The study also points out how easy it is to form social bonds and how we can form attachments with rivals or opponents because of our inclination to create relationships. Although it easy to form these relationships, it is much harder to break them. For example, when training groups are formed the group members know that the meeting will eventually stop. Even when the group purpose has been fulfilled members try their hardest to hold onto the social bond that they have formed with each other. They then promise to stay in touch and have reunions but the reality is that this barely happens. [70]

They found that when the relationships began to break down an individual's mental health as well as physical health and general well-being deteriorated. The effects of broken bonds were all negative and impacted poorly on the individual. The need to belong relates to the concept of FoMO as the need to feel like you belong somewhere relates to the same feeling people get in regards to social media. People want to belong to their social media platforms and form bonds with their 'friends' and 'followers'

The effects of FoMO are very similar to those experienced from the need to belong, both result in the individual experiencing negative emotions. These emotions amplify when the individual feels they are missing out on something others are partaking in - maybe a social gathering their friends. They then begin to fear that the have missed out by not being at this social gathering thus resulting in a surge of emotions that leads to the individual feeling like they do not 'belong' to their social cohort anymore.

Previous studies[edit | edit source]

Motivational, emotional, and behavioral correlates of fear of missing out.

An article which is concerned with the phenomenon of the fear of missing out is Motivational, emotional, and behavioral correlates of fear of missing out. In this, three studies are carried out in order to obtain a better understanding of the subject. The first study used an international sample to create a measure of individual uniqueness measure and introduces a FoMO scale. The second study investigated how motivational and well-being factors relate to the fear of missing out. Lastly, the third study suggested a correlation between behavior and emotional needs and the fear of missing out. The article considers FoMO from a psychological needs perspectives. The self-determination theory considers human motivation and it is a useful perspective in understanding FoMO. According to the self-determination theory mental health and self-regulation heavily depend on the three standard psychological needs. First is competence, one must be able to make changes to the world. Second is autonomy- one must be able to think for themselves and make independent decisions. Lastly, we have relatedness - a connection with other people is essential.

This theory is often referred to as basic need satisfaction and it can be related to the fear of missing out. In order to achieve high need satisfaction, an individual is inclined to use social media persistently as a way of connecting with others. Low levels of basic need satisfaction(BNS) can relate to FoMO and engagement on social media sites in two ways. Individuals who have low levels of BNS may use social media because it can be seen as a resource to communicate with people, a tool to develop social competence and an opportunity to create lasting social ties - this is a direct link. The link could also be indirect, this being that FoMO could serve as a mediator link in relation to psychological needs and social media engagement.

The study found that young people, particularly males, tended to report higher levels of FoMO - there was no gender difference among older participants. The results also indicated that those with a high FoMO reported more instances of negative moods and lower overall life satisfaction. Some of the research also focused on University students - it was found that those with high levels of FoMO were more likely to log into facebook during a university lecture. Furthermore, young adults who experienced high levels of FoMO were more likely to pay attention to emails, texts and their mobile phones while driving than those with lower levels of FoMO.[71]

The relationship between FoMO, alcohol use, and alcohol-related consequences in college students

In 2014 the Otago Department of Psychology, New Zealand, conducted a study on alcohol, university studnets and the fear of missing out. 432 students took part in two psychometric tests to measure their FoMO level and completed a brief Young Adult Alcohol Consequences Questionnaire. In the questionnaire the amount of negative alcohol-related experiences in the past 3 months were reported. In study one, alcohol was measured retrospectively and in study two it was measured prospectively using a 13-day internet diary.

In study one, the amount of drinks consumed per week was measured by the survey. Students were asked to "Think of a typical week in the last 30 days for you. Think of what you did, where you lived, what your weekly activities were. Try to accurately remember how much alcohol you typically drank." [72] From the results, 3 measures of alcohol use were measured: weekly drinking, drinking frequency and drinking quantity.

In the second study, the number of drinks that the participant consumed was measured by a daily diary. For 13 days participants had to report the number of alcoholic drinks they had the night before. The previous nights drinking was assessed as the diary was only available from 3 pm - 8 pm, this was a measure to reduce the risk of intoxication while completing the survey. This was then calculated against the three measures of alcohol use used in study one.

Accross both studies it was found that FoMO was significantly related to an increase in negative alcohol related experiences. Participants who were more likely to experience the fear of missing out reported double the amount of negative alchohol relatd incidents than those who were less likely to experince the fear of missing out. There was also a significant link found between FoMO and the quantity of alcohol consumed by students.[73]

Facebook and FoMO[edit | edit source]

With 1.79 billion users, Facebook is one of the most popular social networking sites in the world. In the last decade, the popularity of social media surged and networking sites became pivotal in how we communicate. Facebook and other social media sites allow us to communicate frequently with other users at the touch of a button. Not only can we be in frequent contact with someone who is half the world away but we can check up on our friends 24/7 - this means we are always up to date on their lives.

Research conducted by Psychology Today found that there is a link between FoMO, Facebook and negative consequences. 76 Irish University students participated in the study which included four collective intelligence sessions. The study found that “Increased dissatisfaction with one's life" and a "Decrease in Privacy” was the primary consequence of FoMO in relation to Facebook. These consequences both contributed directly to a “Poorer self-image” at the second stage of the study and a “Decrease in concentration” at the fourth stage. Other consequences that they found were an increased dissatisfaction with ones life, feelings of jealousy in relation to friends and an increased tendency to neglect basic needs. [74]

Researchers at the University of Missouri also discovered that there is a link between Facebook and depression - this is caused by feelings of FoMO. They found that when others post about new cars/houses, happy relationships or expensive holidays, this evokes feelings of envy among other users. If users are envying the lifestyle and activities of their family and friends then they start to fear that their life is less meaningful, these users are much more likely to report feelings of depression. [75]

Another study also found that those who experienced high levels of FoMO tended to use Facebook as soon as they woke up, during meals and before going to sleep.[76] Further information on this study can be found in the above section "previous studies".

Goffman's Mask[edit | edit source]

Erving Goffman
File:Erving Goffman.jpg
Born 11 June 1922(1922-06-11)
Mannville, Alberta, Canada
Died 19 November 1982 (aged 60)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Stomach cancer
Nationality Canadian
Institutions National Institute of Mental Health; University of California, Berkeley; University of Pennsylvania; American Sociological Association; American Association for the Abolition of Involuntary Mental Hospitalization
Alma mater University of Manitoba BSc
University of Toronto B.A.
University of Chicago M.A., PhD
Doctoral students Carol Brooks Gardner, Charles Goodwin, Marjorie Goodwin, John Lofland, Gary Marx, Harvey Sacks, Emanuel Schegloff, David Sudnow, Eviatar Zerubavel
Known for Sociology of everyday life; Symbolic interactionism; Social constructionism
Influences Ray Birdwhistell, Herbert Blumer, Émile Durkheim, Sigmund Freud, C. W. M. Hart, Everett Hughes, Alfred Radcliffe-Brown, Talcott Parsons, Alfred Schütz, Georg Simmel, W. Lloyd Warner, Dennis Wrong
Notable awards Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1969; Guggenheim Fellowship, 1977; Cooley-Mead Award, 1979; Mead Award, 1983

Erving Goffman[edit | edit source]

Erving Goffman was a Canadian-American sociologist and was considered one of the most influential of the twentieth century. Many of his concepts relate to our topic of living in a connected world. When looking at the themes of persistent connectivity and the fear of missing out, it is important to regard some of Goffman's work, as he explains how society can act in a world reliant on the internet.

In 1959, Erving Goffman's book entitled 'The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life' was published. This focuses on how people can change the way they act, or want to appear in different scenarios. However, it is important today to use these theories to link with the online world as well as the 'real life' world.

Later on, Goffman wrote other books, which refer specifically to human interactions and the affect of these. His later work, including 'Stigma' [77] and 'Interaction Ritual' [78] showed how different types of people can be analysed to show the behaviour we tend to encounter. A high percentage of human interaction these days takes place online, on various platforms, and this could be a reason in which many of us have a 'fear of missing out'. While we can meet up with people in groups, we cannot predict the online interactions, which many people want to be a part of.

Erving Goffman has also written an article called 'Where The Action Is'[79], which describes occasions where people congregate to do something. In modern times, these places where many people can connect in one place is best found online. With the internet connecting people globally, many things are arranged, discussed and shared online and can result in a lot of persistent connectivity.

In the work Goffman produced, particularly 'The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life', he analyses interpersonal interactions- an important use of internet connectivity. While he was writing in a time where the internet was not a factor, the theories he discussed were comparatively unexplored areas of thought. One theory in particular, about the different 'masks' and personas we wear in different situations can be related to our online identities, and how this shows in our persistent connectivity. [80]

Goffman's Theory[edit | edit source]

Erving Goffman’s theory states that there are two personas when it comes to the persistent connectivity on the internet; the ‘I’ persona and the ‘Me’ persona.

The ‘I’ is always present in some way but is usually backstage, behind the mask in front. The mask shows the ‘Me’ persona and is influenced by the persona behind it. The ‘Me’ persona shows how the person wants to be seen and means that some parts of the ‘I’ persona can be hidden behind the mask. Only certain characteristics, or parts of their life, are shown. The ‘Me’ persona may be seen as the one engaging in persistent connectivity as people get to ‘know’ this persona based on online activities. Meanwhile, the ‘I’ persona may be the one related to the fear of missing out. This is more to do with the refreshing of pages, and looking at other profiles. This persona is not presented as much online but is often presented to.

“While in the presence of others, the individual typically infuses his activity with signs which dramatically highlight and portray confirmatory facts that might otherwise remain unapparent or obscure”

(Goffman, 1959: 30) [81]
Cruikshank Pierce' Egan's Real Life - Drury Lane Theatre 1821.jpg

These types of strategies emerge depending on front and back stage settings and are determined by the anticipated mannerisms expected. While people acting on stage put on a character and are aware of the many people they are exposed to, that same person can change persona very quickly as soon as they go backstage. They no longer need to put on a show or present to anybody and they can simply be themself. Goffman refers to this in his work and it helps to understand some of the reasons why our persistent connectivity is not always an 100% accurate representation of ourselves. [82]

The theory of Goffman’s mask leads to many questions about how the persistent connectivity and the fear of missing out can cause us create an image of what we ‘should’ be like online. If we connect too much and observe the way other people present themselves online, gradually a social norm is created and people try to impress others with pictures and comments that others would like. Often this is purely for the likes or the interest, to gain a feeling of self-worth. People can often use the acceptance of their ‘Me’ persona, to feel better about their ‘I’ persona, as they appreciate some sort of connection between the two. In some ways, the mask becomes a conception of the identity we have formed for ourselves online. We strive to become this persona, and if we believe this online persona looks good we can end up trying to live up to this character we have presented. “This mask is our truer self, the self we would like to be”. [83]

Fitting In Online[edit | edit source]

While Goffman speaks of these masks also being used in real life when we come across different situations and have to act accordingly, these masks are more easily used online. This may be due to the fact that people can look at us at any time when online, by simply searching our name into a search bar.

Although people can see images of others, and sometimes even live videos, when judging a person online you are never looking at them in real life.

A global map showing the availability of the World Wide Web in the 2010s. The regions with the highest level of access, in dark blue, are North America and Europe.

Almost everything has been censored by the person, as they have uploaded these pictures, videos or text and know that they will be viewed by certain people on certain platforms. This makes it easier to create new masks and try to fit in, adapting the 'I' persona, to a newer one which is maybe deemed to be better in some way.

Goffman states that “When interactions migrate online, the interacting parties meet in time rather than in a place”. [84] This is an important factor to consider when debating the ability to adapt and fit in online. You are able to interact with people from anywhere, and you do not have to even make conversation with someone to get to know what they are like online. Many pages online are open to interaction and you are able to see what someone was doing without having to be in that place. With over half of the world's population using the internet today,[85] we are able to view many other profiles before deciding what ours "should" be like.

Masks for Different Platforms[edit | edit source]

On different platforms, we are able to put on different masks to enhance some of our characteristics, matching the general characteristics of users of the site we are on. An example may be that on Twitter, the majority of accounts seem to be open for anybody to come across, and so users may bear this in mind when deciding how to portray themselves through the words they use. More time will be taken to take into account the language used, with the word limit sometimes taking an effect on choices.

On platforms such as Snapchat, people filter their lives and broadcast what they think is the most exciting. These updates are available to a much smaller audience and they do not remain on the site, so the time taken to choose a mask is lessened. There is less thought about what is said and more thought about the kind of life people want to show their 'Me' persona to have.

A very different form of online identity is created when people engage in gaming online. While on other social media sites the images that represent people are usually photographs taken at a particular point in time, on Gaming sites, avatars are often made. It may be argued that this is not a direct representation of the person, but the argument still stands that this is the picture that goes with the character the individual has created. This is another of the masks which Goffman writes about. On some online games, the people become absorbed in the game and the adrenaline keeps people playing. As a form of escapism, gaming online often creates persistent connectivity but in a different sense. In this connectivity, the players often enjoy the life they have created virtually.[86] Connecting to this online provides an alternative life to live, and can show how life online and in real life (irl) are separate. It focuses the idea that we can be entirely different online and offline.

Goffman has often referred to the need to 'juggle' masks in life, and this is widely seen across the various online accounts of most users of the internet. No social media site is used for the same purpose, and so there are often different aspects of people's lives are scattered across a variety of pages. This means that when looking at someone on two different sites, it could appear to be like looking at two slightly different people; in actual fact they have just altered their mask.

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