Is “Incompleteness Anxiety” a Real Thing?

A Google search didn’t reveal the existence of any such model. So, I will assume (till proven wrong), I coined this term 🙂

So, what is it?

Incompleteness Anxiety” is anxiety arising out of an urge to complete a task that doesn’t need to be completed.

The most prominent examples of this can be found in dealing with emails, messages and RSS feeds. There might be other examples as well.

Let me take the example of email to explain this:

  1. In email, an unread email is an “incomplete” state. Almost all email clients highlight unread emails inviting an action.
  2. However, most emails don’t need to be read. But if you leave it unread, the next time you return you don’t remember if you already saw it.
  3. This gives rise to anxiety to mark emails as read or to move them away and reach a “complete” state.
  4. I realised this after using HEY for a few days. In the Feed and Paper Trail, HEY doesn’t indicate any unread email differently from a read email. There’s just a line indicating “new since you last visited”. If I go back, without acting on any of the “new” emails and return, there’s no special treatment for the “unread” emails that I didn’t open.
  5. This takes away the anxiety of using email.

Is this a real thing? Does this make sense? Maybe it is just me.

Note: This is different from FOMO. There’s no fear of missing out on most emails. We don’t open an Amazon confirmation email to see what’s in it, but to complete the “task” of marking the mail as read.