FOMO Plagues Introverts


By Svitlana Hrabovsky

Photo courtesy of Holly Lay.

Do you ever find yourself cuddled up in bed, binging on Netflix, while shamelessly eating a pint of Haagen-Dazs strawberry ice cream? Certainly, many can admit to doing something along those lines.

Yet those who enjoy staying in, specifically on weekends–days usually reserved for socializing with friends–may feel insecure about their introverted ways. Perhaps, after checking Instagram to see what others are up to, those introverts may feel a sense of FOMO (the fear of missing out). As a result, they may force themselves out of bed and away from Netflix for a night out.

Well, fear no more introverts. A recent study conducted by Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business professors Daniel C. Feiler and Adam M. Kleinbaum discovered that our perceptions of social networks may not be in touch with reality. While we tend to assume our networks are fairly balanced between introverts and extroverts, it turns out that extroverted social networks (all those friends with Instagram shots of them out and about) are actually plagued with what has been termed the “systematic network extraversion bias.” What this means is that the number of extroverts on any given social network is overrepresented.

Feiler and Kleinbaum came to their conclusions by placing a group of 284 MBA students into randomly assigned study groups. Each group consisted of a wide range of personalities, from extreme introversion to extreme extroversion, and every level in between.

What the researchers found was that extroverts tended to have a high level of extroversion bias due to two main factors: the popularity effect and the homophily effect. Kleinbaum explains to BTR what these two terms mean.

The popularity effect states “extroverts are more socially outgoing, more gregarious, and as a result everyone is more likely to interact and become friends with extroverts.” However, people also tend to become friends with those who are similar, which sociologists call “homophily.”

“When these two things are going on together,” Kleinbaum says, “introverts end up having more exposure to a broader range of personality types because extroverts tend to be friends with other extroverts through both of these mechanisms.”

On the contrary, introverted groups seem to have the least extroversion bias, most likely due to these two factors–the popularity and homophily effects–working in opposing directions for introverts.

Given how pervasive social media has become in our daily lives, our connections to our friends have become much tighter. Many can be caught checking their Facebook and Instagram feeds—struck by images of where their friends are and what they are doing.

Although this can potentially cause those who prefer a more introverted lifestyle to feel insecure, their desire to stay in may actually be working in their favor.

“If you’re more extroverted, you may really have a skewed view of how extroverted other people are in general.” However, “if you’re very introverted you might actually have a pretty accurate idea,” said Feiler.

Kleinbaum explains this is because “we tend to make inferences about the world based on the stimulus that’s available to us and I think an important source of information for us about what the world looks like is our social network.”

He goes on to say individuals possess a tendency to look at their network of friends and assume that is the representation of the world. In reality, though, there are many more factors that need to be considered and our assumed view may not be as realistic as we had thought.

“What we are showing here (through our study),” says Kleinbaum, “we are showing because people’s networks are systematically more extroverted than the world at large really is and that might lead people to think that the world at large is excessively extroverted, when in fact it is only the case for extroverted networks, due to the homophily effect.”

So the next time you find yourself sitting in bed binging out on Netflix on a Friday night, bask in your inner feelings of JOMO (joy of missing out). If you find yourself starting to feel guilty about staying in because all of your other friends seem to be out–just remember that there are plenty more out there just like you.