Johannesburg - Do you show up at a party without an invitation or clench your jaws and sweat compulsively wondering if the ship is about to sail without you?

Are you constantly on your cellphone, SMS excessively and tweet while in the loo, afraid of not being “with it”?

Then the chances are that you’ve have contracted South Africa’s latest epidemic, Fomo – Fear of Missing Out.

Fomo has been identified as an addiction that is sweeping the nation and according to a lifestyle survey by Pharma Dynamics, a flu and medicine company, 62 percent of 3 000 respondents admitted they lived in constant fear of missing out.

The survey revealed that more than a third of the survey participants often interrupted one call to take another even when they did not know who was on the other line or checked their Twitter stream or Facebook page while on a date because they believed something more interesting might be happening.

Mariska Fouche, spokesman for Pharma Dynamics, said: “Fomo is a blend of anxiety, inadequacy and irritation that can flare up, especially while browsing social media. Gazillions of Twitter messages, status updates and photos give exciting glimpses of the daily lives and activities of friends, co-workers and peers, and we don’t want to miss out.”

According to the survey, not even a serious cold or flu would deter 64 percent of respondents from going to work and 13 percent still go to a party or get-together despite feeling ill.

She warns that Fomo damages the immune system.

“Our modern-day obsession with not missing out weakens our immune system, raising the odds of catching a cold or flu. We push ourselves to the limit, always wanting to know, be everywhere and do everything even when we are ill,” she said.

Fouche said three percent of the survey participants admitted to saying yes when they would rather say no for fear of missing out.

“It is very difficult to say no when we have been programmed to say yes to most things, after all, we never know where yes can lead us. That is why when we miss a party or a social event, we sometimes feel a little less important than those who did go,” said Fouche, adding that social media induced Fomo with Facebook proving to be the most popular channel to boost it.

Even big brands are capitalising on Fomo. Alcohol company Smirnoff has gone on a “No fomo party report” with 5FM’s Roger Goode where he travels around the country “Fighting Fomo” and asking people why they believe their party is “un-missable”.

Professor Pearl Sithole, sociologist at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said Fomo came from needing to belong.

“There are negative conditions in life that are a progression from something good or harmless done excessively, Fomo is one such.”

Sithole believes Fomo can be related to peer pressure.

“At a young age we see this easily when we talk of peer pressure which is a condition of not wanting to be judged as a non-starter by your group to a point of merely doing bad things with them to alleviate that perception. Fomo is the same, it’s only that it takes a slant of consumerism. People want to be seen to be following the current trends, follow what their friends are up to, all within the fast pace knowledge circulation,” said Sithole. - The Star