Meet your hidden enemy- FOBO


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Disclaimers:

  • The essence of the article is not technical
  • They’re my personal thoughts and isn’t based on a scientific theory

We all feel sometimes that things are moving at a ridiculously fast pace in our industry.
Every day, we hear about a new technology hype that we “MUST” adopt.
Blinked for a second? You are not up to date.
Your choice of a certain new technology can turn to old news by the time you finish implementing it.

Don’t get me wrong; there is nothing bad with Progressivism, the exploration of new ideas and constantly looking for better solutions.
The problem starts when your motivation, judgment and decision-making are affected by the wrong reasons.

FOBO- Fear Of Being Outdated

FOBO is my take on the psychological term FOMO (Fear of missing out) and organically, both terms share a common idea where decision making and choices are being motivated by fear.

Self-determination theory contends that an individual's psychological satisfaction in their competence, autonomy, and relatedness consist three basic psychological needs for human beings. People with lower levels of basic psychological satisfaction reported a higher level of FOMO- FOMO from Wikipedia

In other words, lower levels of satisfaction of some psychological needs, such as the need to feel loved and appreciated, can lead to higher levels of FOMO.

Without having a scientific basis, I would say cautiously that the outlines of the FOBO and FOMO phenomena are similar.
Here are some common scenarios that can increase the level of FOBO:

  1. You hear the new young passionate developer talking about the next big thing in software architecture or DevOps.
  2. You meet colleagues’ in conventions and seminars discussing a new “MUST HAVE” technology and you find yourself secretly running Google / Bing search before anyone will notice your “Ignorance” and your “innovation driven reputation” will be torn into pieces (but only in your mind).

Although FOBO is natural and can be related to “the need of staying relevant”, even in other aspects of life such as art, sports, politics and even slang, it can become stressful over time.
This arguably has the potential to lead to irrational behavior.
In some cases it can even become CONTAGIOUS!

When you feel you are being “pushed away” into the “outdated” group, you get the urge of teleporting yourself to the “cool, tech aware guys” group and sometimes you do so by putting others in your position.

You should be aware of making FOBO motivated choices and behaviors that can have a negative impact on your domain and be counter-productive for the organization you are working for:

  • Adopting Immature bleeding-edge platforms and architectures due to “industry level” hype
  • Making rapid changes and constantly replacing existing tools for the sake of being updated
  • Arguing and dismissing what others have to say
  • Impose your FOBO on others just to eliminate yours

All of the above can be ineffective at best:

  • You can waste valuable resources on technologies that aren’t Production ready.
  • The context switch and transition taxes are not cheap, sometime it’s simply not justified

Conclusion

In the technological fast-paced environment of ours, it doesn’t take much to reach a point where you do not “know it all”.
You’ve got to remember not to panic since we all feel that way in some points of our careers, and your experience and appreciation will not disappear.
Responsible and rational choices are highly valued and reflect on your surroundings.
When you realize you do not - and cannot - know everything, you’re in a position to grow as an individual and as a team.

Comments (11)

  1. WouterdeKort says:

    Great article! I absolutely recognize the feelings of FOBO. Everything is going extremely fast and keeping up to date is hard. It’s good to read the views of others and to know that you’re not the only one suffering from this 🙂

    Wouter

  2. pfrejlich says:

    Very nice article. I think you described in a very concise way how most people feel when they care about their careers and feel they’re being left behind. Sometimes, driven by fear of not being innovative enough people become early adopters of immature technologies due to trends, appeal, curiosity… losing sight that most of the times technology has to be there to drive business growth and to support it, not to show off in front of your tech peers.

    Congrats man, keep up the good writing!

    1. Thanks for the feedback, that was exactly the point i was trying to make

  3. Ian Ceicys says:

    Great article but it’s completely hypocritical.

    Are you running on Windows phone? Outdated!

    Are you running Windows 8.1 or heaven forbid Windows 7? Outdated!

    In our DevOps world it’s just happening faster. Every 3 weeks see VSTS. Every year see Visual Studio.

    How do I handle my FOBO? I accept it and I really try to learn the newer, better, smarter way of doing things.

    Is it exhausting keeping up with hacker news, yes!

    Is it reality, yes! And I wouldn’t want it to slow down but rather get faster.

    Are you still on Windows 10 RTM? Become an insider and live on the edge.

    1. Thank you for your feedback.
      if you read carefully you will notice the following paragraph:

      Don’t get me wrong; there is nothing bad with Progressivism, the exploration of new ideas and constantly looking for better solutions.
      The problem starts when your motivation, judgment and decision-making are affected by the wrong reasons.

      I was referring to problematic decision making that is not driven by business growth and value.
      Sometimes it can lead to reckless behavior that can harm the business especially if you are in a lead position.
      I also wrote that it is a symptom of something wider than tech- it is the need/urge to stay relevant, not feeling “old” etc.
      i think it is different to run after the latest smartphone for your personal needs than to adopt bleeding edge technology in your workplace for the sake of your rep or other reasons.

      So try to learn the newer, better, smarter way of doing things but as some psychological approaches encourages- be more self-aware. it helps making good & responsible decisions.

      1. Ian Ceicys says:

        You make a good point about FOBO “for the wrong reasons.”

        However, in the end, in my opinion, there aren’t ‘wrong’ reasons, as reality will prove,in a nanosecond you are out of date…regardless of your ‘reasons’ and now you’ll have to run even harder to catch up.

        We as an industry, society, and what the heck the globe, are on an endless, tireless, ever increasing in speed treadmill to replacing existing tools\processes\technology for better tools\processes\technologies.

        Replace ‘up to date’ with the word modern. Do you want to do xyz in the ‘modern’ way or in the ‘antiquated’ way?

        Honestly, EVERY update is a tiny improvement.

        The only question is: Do you benefit from the improvement, can you articulate the value of the improvement? If you can’t articulate WHY/HOW being up to date with the ‘modern’ tool\process\technology is beneficial, then you’re not doing the hard thinking that’s required. Your competitors have figured it out, before you, yikes!

        Don’t be a doofus and fall to the back of the pack, hurry CATCH UP and find a way to be THE pacesetter.

        As for ‘be more self-aware’ I completely agree and I’m often reminded of the quote: “either get busy living or get busy dying”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tkzc983aE0

        Change is Optional, Survival is Not Guaranteed.

  4. Really great article!! Congratulations! Every profession has its challenges. Ours is to keep up to date.

  5. Gregory_Ott says:

    Thanks for this great article, this is exactly my way of thinking!

    1. Thank you for your feedback Gregory!

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