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Fear of missing out: prevalence, dynamics, and consequences of experiencing FOMO


Abstract and Figures

Fear of missing out, known colloquially as FOMO, appears to be a common experience, and has recently become part of the vernacular, receiving frequent mentions in the popular media. The present paper provides a multi-method empirical examination of FOMO. In a first study, experience sampling was used to assess FOMO experiences among college freshmen. Nightly diaries and end-of-semester measures provided data on the short and long-term consequences of experiencing FOMO. Results showed that students experience FOMO frequently, particularly later in the day and later in the week, and while doing a required task like studying or working. More frequent experiences of FOMO were associated with negative outcomes both daily and over the course of the semester, including increasing negative affect, fatigue, stress, physical symptoms, and decreased sleep. A second experimental study investigated FOMO on a conceptual level, distinguishing FOMO from general self-regulation and exploring its links with social media.
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Fear of Missing Out: Prevalence, dynamics, and consequences of experiencing FOMO
Marina Milyavskaya
Department of Psychology, Carleton University
Mark Saffran
Nora Hope
Richard Koestner
Department of Psychology, McGill University
This manuscript has been accepted for publication in Motivation and Emotion. Please note that
some changes may occur during the copy-editing process, such that the final published version
may differ somewhat from this version.
Author Note
This research was supported by a grant to Richard Koestner from the Social Sciences and
Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and the Fonds de Recherche du Québec -
Société et culture (FQRSC-Quebec). Marina Milyavskaya was supported by a fellowship from
the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).
Please send correspondence to Marina Milyavskaya, Department of Psychology, Carleton
University, Loeb 550B, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. E-mail:
Fear of Missing Out, known colloquially as FOMO, appears to be a common experience, and has
recently become part of the vernacular, receiving frequent mentions in the popular media. The
present paper provides a multi-method empirical examination of FOMO. In a first study,
experience sampling was used to assess FOMO experiences among college freshmen. Nightly
diaries and end-of-semester measures provided data on the short and long-term consequences of
experiencing FOMO. Results showed that students experience FOMO frequently, particularly
later in the day and later in the week, and while doing a required task like studying or working.
More frequent experiences of FOMO were associated with negative outcomes both daily and
over the course of the semester, including increasing negative affect, fatigue, stress, physical
symptoms, and decreased sleep. A second experimental study investigated FOMO on a
conceptual level, distinguishing FOMO from general self-regulation and exploring its links with
social media.
Keywords: fear of missing out; experience sampling method; well-being;self-regulation
Fear of Missing Out: Prevalence, dynamics, and consequences of experiencing FOMO
Imagine you are a college freshman living, for the first time in your life, with only your
peers. Your co-ed dormitory, located in the heart of one of North America’s most dynamic cities,
is buzzing on this particular Friday evening as everyone is getting ready to go out. Yet while the
dorm is pulsing with anticipation of a memorable night downtown, you have decided to work on
a term paper due on Monday. Consider how your studying experience will be altered by the
knowledge that your friends will be out having a great time while you remain with only your
unfinished paper as company. It seems likely that, even with excellent willpower and study
habits, your studying will be affected by what you know you could be doing, and you will be
distracted by nagging thoughts and anxiety about missing out on a potentially exciting
experience. Commonly referred to as “Fear of Missing Out”, or “FOMO”, this is a salient
experience for many young people. Indeed, if one were to google “FOMO” one would be met
with over 3,000,000 hits, including a New York Times article, a Forbes opinion piece, a handful
of marketing magazines trying to pin down this up-and-coming trend, and countless bloggers
lamenting their own FOMO experiences. Condensed to FOMO, proliferated and placed firmly
into the vernacular of the 21st century, Fear of Missing Out has received relatively less attention
in psychological research. The present paper thus provides a quantitative exploration into the
widespread social phenomena known as FOMO, using experience sampling methodology to
examine how often and when it is experienced in day-to-day life, as well as exploring its effects
on psychological adaptation.
With the proliferation of choices in today’s society, it may seem as if the notion of
securing maximum opportunity, rooted in economic rational choice theory (von Neumann &
Morgenstern, 1944), has become firmly entrenched in the Western world. However, recent
research has demonstrated that having too many choices can lead to choice paralysis, where both
decision making and well-being are undermined (e.g. Iyengar & Lepper, 2000). One factor that is
thought to underlie the negative effects of choice overload is the potential regret resulting from
making a sub-optimal choice (Iyengar & Lepper, 2000). Similarly, FOMO can be thought to arise
from an abundance of choices among activities or experiences, particularly those of a social
nature, coupled with an uncertainty over the ‘best’ choice and anticipatory regret over the options
not selected. Unlike post-decisional regret, which occurs upon realising that another choice
would have been better after a choice has been made (Zeelenberg,1999), FOMO can be
experienced despite believing that one made the ‘best available choice’ in the moment. For
example, a student deciding to go on a date rather than to a fraternity party might still wonder
what he missed by not going to the party even though he enjoyed his date and would repeat that
choice in the future.
It has been suggested that decisional regret is particularly prominent for young people in
Western society because there are few explicit guidelines about how to make meaningful life
choices (Schwartz, 2000). The first year of university, when many young people find themselves
on their own without authority figures to guide their choices, may be a time when one’s decisions
become particularly important. Each decision a freshman makes thus carries increased adaptive
importance and may likewise be accompanied by more uncertainty as to whether it is the ‘best’
decision, along with increased decisional regret. Similarly, the freshman year may present greater
social opportunities, along with more responsibilities that would require passing up on those
opportunities. As a result, experiences of FOMO may be particularly heightened during freshman
The scientific community has begun to examine the correlates and consequences of
FOMO, especially as it relates to the use of computers and social media. In one of the first
psychology papers to examine the topic, Fear of Missing Out was defined as the “pervasive
apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent”
(Przybylski, Murayama, DeHaan, & Gladwell, 2013, p.1841). This definition highlights the
social aspects of FOMO that further distinguish it from post-decision regret: it is specifically
about missing out on experiences that others are having. Przybylski’s first study surveyed a large
international sample of adults about their FOMO experiences, resulting in a 10-item Fear of
Missing Out scale that assessed the construct as a fairly general and stable individual difference
variable. This FOMO scale was shown to be associated with lower psychological need
satisfaction, general mood and life satisfaction, and higher social media usage. Following studies
also found FOMO to be related to greater depression, anxiety, and physical symptoms (Baker,
Krieger, & LeRoy, 2016; Elhai, Levine, Dvorak, & Hall, 2016), and to more problematic social
media and mobile phone use (Beyens, Frison, & Egermont, 2016; Oberst et al., 2017).
A key limitation of the research on FOMO is its use of cross-sectional surveys (e.g., Elhai
et al., 2016; Oberst et al., 2017; Przybylski et al., 2013), which does not allow for any
conclusions about causality or about the long-term effects of experiencing FOMO. Based on
their findings and on FOMO’s likely ties to regret, which has been shown to result in a variety of
negative psychological outcomes (Zeelenberg, 1999; Lecci, Okun & Karoly, 1994), we expected
that experiencing FOMO in a given situation will be related to proximal negative emotional and
self-regulatory consequences, and frequent FOMO experiences to be related to increased
negative affect and stress over time. Additionally, since experiencing FOMO typically involves
choosing one option or activity at the expense of others, we also anticipated that frequent FOMO
experiences will be related to greater fatigue (Hockey, 2013), a state that has been shown to be
exacerbated by decision making (Vohs et al., 2008). Finally, given that regret has been shown to
guide decision-making and behaviour, we expected that FOMO could similarly affect students’
behaviour; in particular, we expected that students’ sleep would likely be affected by FOMO, as
students who experience FOMO may be particularly likely to miss out on sleep, either because of
greater rumination and stress or in order to maximize their activities and opportunities by staying
up later.
The popular media has suggested that FOMO is likely amplified by the proliferation of
social media, making it easier than ever to be aware of experiences on which one is missing out
(Worthman, 2011). The studies by Przybylski and colleagues (2013) support this view, finding
FOMO to be moderately related to social media use. We would suggest, however, that there is a
larger scope to the phenomenon of FOMO, and that FOMO can likely be experienced without
involvement of social media. Indeed, it seems likely that college students in the pre-Internet era
experienced a fear of missing out when they heard sounds of a party down the hall or across the
quad. The focus of recent FOMO papers on social media (e.g., Alt, 2013; Oberst et al., 2017,
Przybylski et al., 2013) is natural given the way technological advances in this area have
impacted social interaction and self-regulatory patterns. However, we suspect that FOMO occurs
among young people frequently and across a range of situations and contexts, including those
devoid of social media influences. Our second study was designed to specifically look at the role
of social media in the FOMO experience.
Overall, the goal of the present investigation is to provide an in-depth exploration of the
FOMO phenomenon. First, we wanted to assess FOMO experiences in a more
phenomenologically proximal manner, rather than asking about generalized retrospections. To
examine a socially induced but private phenonomon like FOMO, a good place to start is to track
individuals’ activities, interactions, and experiences across contexts and over several days. Such
an experience sampling method (ESM; Csikszentmihalyi & Larson, 1992) could allow
researchers to address some basic questions such as how frequently young people experience
FOMO, the contexts in which FOMO occurs, and the consequence of frequent FOMO
experiences. Experience sampling has been demonstrated to be successful in capturing transient
moments of intense motivations, such as desires and resistance in normal everyday life
(Hofmann Baumeister, Förster, & Vohs, 2012). The primary goal of our investigation was thus to
employ the experience sampling methodology in order to explore basic questions about FOMO
experiences among college students (Study 1). Additionally, we conducted a second
experimental study to examine two important conceptual issues regarding the nature of FOMO
experiences. Specifically, we sought to determine whether FOMO experiences were uniquely
linked to social media usage, and whether FOMO could be distinguished from more general self-
regulation conflicts in which one must delay gratification and persist at a boring task.
Study 1
In the first study, we used the experience sampling method (ESM; Csikszentmihalyi &
Larson, 1992) to capture university freshmen’s in-the-moment experiences of FOMO. We were
particularly interested in investigating whether FOMO was especially likely while engaging in
certain activities, and examining the fluctuations of FOMO throughout a typical week. This ESM
methodology provides a measure, unbiased by recall of past experiences, of how frequently each
participant experienced FOMO, both over the course of each day and over an entire week. The
frequency of FOMO experiences can then be related both to day-level outcomes (measured using
a nightly diary) and to adaptation over the course of a semester. Experience sampling is
particularly well-suited to examine FOMO, which concerns present experiences on which the
person is currently missing out, as distinguished from decisional regret, which is retrospective
and focused on past decisions. Based on Przybylski and colleagues’ (2013) definition of FOMO
(see above), we focused on the frequency of experiences of missing out that participants reported
in their day-to-day lives – that is, we operationalized the frequent endorsement of missing out as
representing the “pervasive apprehension” of missing out.
This study was designed to provide an initial understanding of the FOMO phenomenon,
with three sets of research questions. First, we were interested in determining how frequently
FOMO is experienced, and when. We expected FOMO to be more frequently experienced on
weekends than during weekdays, and later rather than earlier in the day, when a greater number
of social activities typically take place. Second, we wanted to know whether the frequency of
FOMO experiences was related to any of the Big Five personality traits, and ensure than FOMO
was not simply a manifestation of, for example, high neuroticism or high extroversion. Finally,
and perhaps most importantly, we were interested in the consequences of experiencing FOMO,
both on a day-to-day level and over the course of a semester. As described earlier, we
hypothesized FOMO to be related to numerous negative outcomes including negative affect,
stress, fatigue, and decreased sleep.
Participants and procedure. One hundred and fifty nine first-year university students
(72% female, M age = 18; SD = 1.04) who had smartphones were recruited for a study of goal
pursuit and well-being that included an ESM component.1 Participants came into the lab at the
start of the fall semester to complete baseline measures (including personality and well-being
measures) and were introduced to the ESM protocol. Three weeks later, participants completed
the week-long ESM and nightly diary component of the study: For seven days, five times during
the day at random intervals distributed over the course of 12 hours (from 10am to 10pm),
participants received a text message with a link to a brief online survey regarding their present
experience, which they were asked to complete immediately. They also received a nightly
message with a different survey (at 10:15pm). One hundred and fifty one students completed at
least some of the daily signals, for a total of 3615 ESM surveys (68% response rate) and 955
nightly surveys (90% of all nightly signals sent). At the end of the semester (in late
December/early January), participants were asked to complete an online questionnaire that
included well-being measures; one hundred and seven students (68%) completed this
Experience sampling measures. At each signal, participants were asked the following
question to determine FOMO: “Is there something your friends or peers are doing right now, that
you feel you are missing out on?” (yes/no response option). They were also asked to report the
current activity in which they were engaged.3
Nightly measures. At the fixed evening signal, participants rated their affect during the
day using a nine-item scale of affect (Emmons, 1992) that included four positive (e.g., joyful)
and five negative (e.g., frustrated) items. Additionally, single items assessed fatigue (“Please rate
the degree to which you felt this way during the course of the day today: mentally exhausted”)
and vitality (“Please rate the degree to which you felt this way during the course of the day
today: alive and vital”). All items were rated using a slider with a scale from 0 (not at all) to
6(very much). Finally, participants checked off which, if any, of nine physical symptoms they
experienced that day (e.g. headaches, sore throat; Emmons, 1992).
Person-level measures. At the start of the semester, participants completed a battery of
questionnaires including the Big Five inventory (44 items; John, Naumann, & Soto, 2008; αs for
each of the Big 5 facets ranging from .72 to .87.). Affect, stress, and sleep quantity were assessed
both at the start and at the end of the semester. Positive and negative affect was measured using
the same items as on the nightly surveys (Emmons, 1992). Stress experienced over the past two
weeks was assessed on a scale of 1(no stress at all) to 7 (very much stress) for ‘academic/school
stress’, ‘interpersonal stress’, and ‘general stress’ (e.g. in your job, activities, other
responsibilities, etc.). These three items were combined to create an overall stress variable. Sleep
was assessed by asking participants “On average, how many hours did you sleep each night
during the past 2 weeks?”
Data Analysis and Results
Missing data
As noted in the participants section, participants only responded to 68% of the ESM
signals, and 90% of the nightly signals; the rest can be considered as missing data. For the
within-subject analyses (i.e., of in-the-moment FOMO, or nightly affect), all available
observations were used (unlike within-subject ANOVA, HLM analyses do not require the same
number of observations from each subject). However, when computing proportion scores, we
needed to have a minimum number of reports to establish a baseline, so we removed anyone who
completed fewer than 7 ESM surveys (20% of all surveys sent) using listwise deletion (19
participants were removed). For the analyses examining changes in well-being across the
semester, we used only those participants who completed the final time point (listwise deletion).
The 39 participants who did not complete this time point were not different from those who did
complete this time point (n=101) on measures of FOMO or well-being (positive and negative
affect, stress, sleep) at time 1, suggesting that the data were missing completely at random
(MCAR), supporting our use of listwise deletion (i.e., parameter estimates are not biased by
listwise deletion when data are MCAR; Peugh & Enders, 2004).
Frequency and contextual correlates of FOMO experiences.
Using the ESM data, we first examined when people were most likely to experience
FOMO using two-level multilevel modeling (signals nested within person). Since FOMO
experience at each signal is a binary variable, these analyses were conducted using a logistic
multilevel regression (using HLM software; Raudenbush & Bryk, 2002). Analyses with a
categorical IV are displayed using odds ratios (OR) derived from the estimated log odds of the
outcome. Overall, the freshmen students experienced FOMO on approximately 16% of the
signals (SD = 16%; range: 0 to 97%).4 Table 1 presents the proportion of times participants
experienced FOMO by activity in which they were engaged when they completed the survey.5
These activities were effects-coded to allow for a statistical comparison of each activity (except
for the “other” category) with the grand mean (Cohen, Cohen, West, & Aiken, 2003). Fixed
effects from the population-average model with robust standard errors are reported (Raudenbush,
2004). Compared to the likelihood of experiencing FOMO at any given point, FOMO was more
commonly experienced during studying (OR = 1.40, 95%CI[1.13; 1.73], p = .002) and work (OR
= 2.18, 95%CI [1.00; 4.75], p = .051), and less commonly experienced during eating (OR = 0.61
[.43; .86], p < .05). Interestingly, FOMO was not less frequent than average during socializing
(OR = 0.91, 95%CI[.68; 1.22], p = .527). In order to examine the prevalence of FOMO
throughout the week, the time of each response was coded into two-hour segments. Figure 1
displays the proportion of FOMO experienced throughout the day on each day of the week. As
expected FOMO was more commonly experienced later in the day (OR = 1.15, 95% CI[1.09;
1.21], p < .001), and on Thursday (OR = 1.56, 95CI[1.09; 2.21], p = .034), Friday (OR = 1.56,
95%CI[1.09; 2.23], p = .03), and (marginally) Saturday (OR = 1.45; 95%CI[1.01; 2.09], p = .
054) compared to Monday.
FOMO and personality.
To examine the relationship of personality variables with frequency of FOMO
experiences, a person-level variable was computed representing the proportion of the signals on
which FOMO was reported. As this variable was strongly positively skewed, we transformed it
using a square root transformation so that it more closely approximated a normal distribution.
This variable was then correlated with the personality measures included in this study. These
analyses were conducted using SPSS 22. Only participants who responded to a minimum of 7
signals during the week were used for these analyses (N = 140). All five of the Big Five traits
were unrelated to FOMO (rs from .02 to .14; all ps>.09; full results can be found on These results were essentially the same when all of the trait variables were
entered simultaneously as predictors in a regression.
FOMO and well-being.
Next, we tested our prediction that FOMO would play a role in physical and
psychological well-being, both on a day-to-day level and over the course of the semester. To
examine the influence of FOMO on daily well-being, the proportion of signals in which a person
indicated having experienced FOMO that day was used to predict nightly ratings of positive and
negative affect, fatigue, vitality, and physical symptoms. Multilevel modeling with day nested
within person was used for these analyses (using the mixed command in SPSS 22). FOMO was
group mean-centered, so that results reflected the effect of having higher or lower FOMO than
average on a given day. All analyses also controlled for day of the week. Unstandardized
coefficients are reported. Results showed that experiencing FOMO more frequently during the
day predicted greater negative affect (b = .56, p = .01, 95% CI [.13, .99]) and more fatigue (b = .
81, p = .01, 95% CI [.17, 1.44]), but not lower positive affect (b = -.36, p = .13, 95% CI [-.83, .
11]) or vitality (b = -.10, p = .73 95% CI [-.65, .45]). Additionally, more frequent experiences of
FOMO predicted the number of physical symptoms experienced during that day (b = .56, p = .
04, 95% CI [.03, 1.09]). In order to evaluate the possibility that a third variable, such as greater
time spent studying or working, could be responsible for the array of negative effects observed,
we repeated the analyses and controlled for the proportion of signals at which participants
reported their activity as studying, in class, or working. All of the results for FOMO held in these
supplementary analyses, controlling for proportion of signals engaged in these work and school-
related activities
Finally, using only the person-level data again, we conducted a series of multiple
regressions to examine the effect of FOMO experiences early in the semester on changes in well-
being over the semester. Participants who completed at least seven daily signals as well as the
final questionnaire were used for these analyses (N = 101). In each regression, the baseline for
that measure was included, so that the results represented the influence of FOMO on changes
over the semester. As in the personality analyses, a squared root term of FOMO (to improve
skewness) was used; consequently, only standardized estimates are reported. The frequency of
FOMO experiences during the week-long experience sampling period predicted greater negative
affect at the end of the semester (controlling for baseline negative affect), β = .23, t = 2.51, p
=.01, explaining 5% of the variance. There was no effect for positive affect, β = -.08, t = -.81, p =
.42, ΔR2 = .01. FOMO experiences also predicted increased stress over the semester (controlling
for baseline), β = .26, t = 2.92, p =.004, ΔR2 = .07. Importantly, students who experienced more
FOMO during the week-long experience sampling period reported a decrease in sleeping over
the course of the semester, β = -.23, t = -2.59, p =.01, ΔR2 = .05. These results again held when
controlling for the proportion of signals spent studying, in class, or working.
Brief Discussion
In this study, experience sampling was used to assess everyday in-the-moment
experiences of FOMO in first year university students. Results show that FOMO was prevalent
for these students throughout the day, particularly later in the day and later in the week. FOMO
was more likely to be experienced by individuals while doing obligatory activities such as
studying or working, but was not less likely when people were already engaged in a social
activity. Our results also demonstrate the deleterious effects of FOMO. More frequent FOMO
experiences were associated with increased negative affect, increased fatigue, greater stress,
more sleep problems and physical symptoms, while unrelated to positive affect and vitality.
In addition to the role of concurrent activity, contextual influences on FOMO also
included the effects of day of the week and time of day (seen in Figure 1). As predicted, FOMO
was higher later in the day and on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays – all peak social times.
With increased social opportunities come more opportunities to feel as if you are missing out on
something else. This time-sensitive increase in FOMO was found in the current study even
though, in order to avoid disturbing participants, we ended the ESM signalling period at 10 PM.
FOMO increased in frequency later in the day (as more social opportunities arise) and it seems
likely that university students would have many additional social opportunities after 10 PM.
Thus, it could be expected that FOMO would further increase later into the evening. These
findings are also congruent with the non-empirical discourse on FOMO and when it is
experienced, lending further scientific validity to the popular phenomena.
Our finding that FOMO is unrelated to personality traits is important given recent interest
in FOMO as a person-level construct (Przybylski, 2013). Although we did not assess FOMO at
the person-level as was done by Przybylski and colleagues, we found that the frequency of daily
FOMO experiences was unrelated to the Big Five personality traits, suggesting that FOMO is not
simply a matter of, for example, high neuroticism. This addresses one of the limitations pointed
out by Przybylski and colleagues in their paper, who stated the need to distinguish FOMO from
the Big Five as a future research direction.
While this study provided an in-depth look at the frequency and consequences of FOMO,
it did not delve into its conceptual implications and correlates. Given that very little research has
been published on the FOMO experience, we were interested in better understanding FOMO as a
psychological phenomenon. To do so, we wanted to distinguish it from related constructs.
Specifically, the way in which FOMO was operationalized in our first study made it possible that
what we termed ‘FOMO experiences’ were simply instances where students had to exercise self-
regulation and engage in an undesired activity (e.g. studying) rather than doing something
exciting with their friends. Additionally, FOMO has been proposed to be driven by social media
use (e.g. Worthman, 2011), which has received some support in recent research (Alt, 2013;
Oberst et al., 2017, Przybylski et al., 2013). In our first study, we did not examine the relation of
social media use to FOMO. However, as described in the introduction, we do not believe FOMO
to be uniquely a product of social media. Another study was thus designed to tease apart these
issues and gain a better conceptual understanding of the FOMO experience.
Study 2
After finding evidence that FOMO was a common phenomenon amongst our student
sample, related to contextual variables, and with robust affective consequences, we were
interested in further investigating some basic properties of the FOMO experience. First, we
wanted to know whether FOMO is simply a question of self-regulation and occurs only when a
person has to force themselves to do an unpleasant activity (e.g., homework) while his or her
peers are engaging in something more pleasant, or whether it also occurs when the current
activity is a pleasant activity of one’s own choosing. Based on popular descriptions of FOMO,
we hypothesized that people can experience FOMO even when engaged in an interesting focal
The study also aimed to examine the role that social media might play in FOMO. Recent
research highlights that FOMO is driven by social media (Alt, 2013; Beyens et al., 2016; Oberst
et al., 2017, Przybylski et al., 2013). However, while social media may help people become
aware of other opportunities on which they are missing out, people are likely to experience
FOMO independently of how these alternate opportunities are brought to their attention.
Specifically, receiving a phone call from a friend reminding you about a party would likely have
the same effect (if not stronger) as seeing a tweet from that friend about the good time he is
having at the party. We hypothesized that FOMO was associated with missed social
opportunities, but that it did not matter whether these opportunities involved or were
communicated by social media.
In addition to seeing the conditions under which FOMO is present, we were also
interested in its emotional and self-regulatory consequences. First, to replicate our Study 1
finding and based on popular culture’s discourse on the phenomena, we expected FOMO to be
related to lower positive and higher negative affect. Additionally, we expected FOMO to be
characterized by greater distraction and decreased focus on the current activity, as well as
increased regret for not engaging in the alternate activity.
In order to address these questions, we conducted an experimental study. Participants
were asked to read a vignette and imagine themselves in the situation. Each vignette described an
activity that the person had planned to do that evening (either an assignment, reading a book, or
seeing a friend), as well as an alternate activity (watching a TV show or going to a party with a
reminder from a friend or from social media). The originally planned activity was always chosen.
After reading the vignette, participants answered questions about their thoughts and feelings in
that situation. This manipulation allowed us to test the following hypotheses: (H1) FOMO would
be higher when people are missing out on a social rather that non-social alternate activity; (H2)
Social media usage would not affect FOMO; (H3) FOMO would be similarly experienced
whether the planned activity was an obligation (working on an assignment) versus something
done for pleasure (reading a book); (H4) FOMO would occur even when one is already engaged
in a social activity; (H5-6) FOMO would be related to lower positive affect and higher negative
affect; (H7-9) FOMO would be accompanied by increased distraction, decreased focus on the
current activity, and increased feelings of regret. Similarly to Study 1 that used frequency of the
feeling of missing out, here FOMO was operationalized as the strength of the feeling of missing
Participants were 304 American adults (39.5% female) between 18 and 72 years old (M
= 30.8, SD = 11.8) recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk for a brief, 5-minute psychology
study. Most of the participants (88%) completed at least some college, and 77% used social
media at least once a week; full demographic information can be found on Thirty-
six participants (11.8%) completed the study in less than 2 minutes and were removed from
analyses (final N = 268). Each participant consented to participate in the study and was
compensated $0.20 for completing the questionnaire.
Participants were presented with a prompt asking them to imagine themselves in a
scenario comprised of two parts: an activity that the person had planned to do that evening and
an alternate activity. There were three possible planned activities (completing an assignment,
reading a book, or seeing a friend), and three possible alternate activities (watching a TV show,
going to a party with a reminder from a friend, or going to a party with a reminder from social
media). In the scenario, the planned activity was always chosen. Participants were randomly
assigned to one of the combinations, resulting in a 3*3 experimental design with nine possible
scenarios (see Appendix for all scenarios).
After reading the scenario, participants were asked to report how they would have felt if
they were in that situation; all responses were rated on a five-point likert scale ranging from 1
(Not at All) to 5 (Extremely). Experience of FOMO was assessed using one item (“How strongly
would you feel that you were missing out on the second option?”). Distraction and focus on
current activity were assessed using two items each: “How much would you think about the
second option that night?” and “How distracted would you be by thoughts of the other activity?”
(distraction); “How absorbed would you be in the activity you’ve chosen, knowing that there are
other things occurring?”, and “How focused would you be in your activity?”(focus). Regret was
assessed using one item (“How much would you regret your choice the next day?”). Positive and
negative affect were assessed using the same nine items as in Study 1 (Emmons, 1992), asking
participants how much they would have felt each emotion in the imagined scenario. Finally, all
participants were asked general variables, including age and gender, and how frequently and
intensely they experience FOMO. The definition of FOMO was provided as “being concerned
that others may be having more fun and rewarding experiences than them”, and was followed by
questions on frequency (“How often do you experience FOMO?” with answer choices of Never,
less than once a month, once a month, 2-3 times a month, once a week, 2-3 times a week, daily),
and intensity ( “When you do experience FOMO, how intense is it?” answered on a seven-point
Likert scale ranging from Not at all to Extremely).
Experimental results on FOMO.
Figure 2 illustrates people’s reports of FOMO for each vignette. We first examined the
effects of both the planned activity and the alternate activity by conducting a 3*3 ANOVA
(controlling for age and gender) on FOMO. Results showed that the main effects for both the
planned activity (F(2, 256) = 19.44, p < .001, η2 = .123) and alternate activity (F(2, 256) = 7.18,
p = .001, η2 = .045) but no interaction (F(4, 256) = .29, p = .89, η2 = .003). This suggests that
planned activity (assignment vs. reading vs. friend) affects FOMO to the same extent regardless
of alternate activity, and conversely that alternate activity plays the same role on FOMO across
all three planned activities. There were no significant effects of age or gender on FOMO.
Since the interaction was not significant, we tested our main hypotheses of the role of
alternate activity (hypotheses 1 and 2) and planned activity (hypotheses 3 and 4) across all levels
of the other activity. To test the first two hypotheses, we conducted a one-way ANOVA
examining the effects of alternate activity on FOMO, and included two sets of planned
comparisons. First, to test that FOMO would be stronger when one is missing out on a social
event, we compared the “TV show” condition with the two “party” conditions (contrast codes:
-1, .5, .5). Results of this first planned contrast show that FOMO was indeed significantly
stronger for the social alternate activities, t(265)= 3.14, p = .002, mean difference = .44 (on a 5-
point scale). Next, to determine whether social media played a role in FOMO experiences, we
contrasted the two “party” conditions with each other (contrast codes: 0, 1, -1). This contrast was
not significant, t(265)= 1.27, p = .20, mean difference = .21, supporting our hypothesis that
FOMO was equally likely to be experienced whether or not social media was used.
To test our third and fourth hypotheses, that FOMO would occur whether the planned
activity was an obligation or was pleasurable (H3), and social versus non-social in nature (H4),
we conducted a one-way ANOVA examining the effects of planned activity on FOMO, and again
included two sets of planned comparisons. First, to test our hypothesis that FOMO would be
similar in work and leisure, we contrasted the assignment versus book conditions (contrast codes:
-1, 1, 0). This contrast was not significant, t(265)= .62, p = .54, mean difference = .09, showing
that FOMO was felt to the same extent in an obligatory as in a choice activity. Next, we
examined whether FOMO was similarly present when the planned activity was social in nature
by contrasting the ‘friend’ condition with the other two (assignment and book; contrast codes: .
5, .5, -1). This contrast showed that this was the case, t(265) = 6.31, p < .001, mean difference
=.89, contradicting our expectation that FOMO would be experienced as strongly when one is
already engaged in a social activity. However, follow-up one-sample t-test analyses showed that
the FOMO experienced in the ‘friend’ condition (M = 2.42, SD = .93) was significantly different
from 1 (Not experiencing FOMO at all), t(87) = 14.31, p <.001, suggesting that participants still
experienced some FOMO in this scenario.
Negative correlates of FOMO.
To examine the negative correlates of FOMO, we looked at people’s feelings of missing
out and other related experiences across all conditions. We first looked at the relation between
FOMO and affect.7 Regression analyses showed that FOMO was a significant predictor of
negative affect (b = .29, 95%CI[.21;.36], β = .40, t = 7.32, p < .001; ΔR2 = .11) when controlling
for positive affect, and of positive affect (b = -32, 95%CI[-.45;-.20], β = -.30, t = -4.99, p < .001;
ΔR2 = .06) when controlling for negative affect. To test our hypotheses (H7-9) that FOMO
would be related to distraction, lower focus, and regret, we conducted a series of stepwise
regressions. In the first step, we included positive and negative affect, and FOMO was entered in
the second step. Results (presented in Table 2) showed that as people reported greater FOMO
they also reported that they would feel more distracted (β = .53, p < .001) and less focused on the
task at hand (β = -.27, p < .001). People who reported higher FOMO also reported that they
would experience more regret about their choice the following day (β = .42, p < .001). These
results all held when controlling for condition (see supplementary analyses on
General FOMO.
Finally, we examined the general FOMO reported in our sample. Approximately 15% of
our sample reported experiencing FOMO once a week or more frequently, 35% experienced it
one to three times a month, 36% reported it less than once a month, and only 13% reported never
having experienced FOMO. Age was negatively correlated with frequency (r = -.23, p < .001)
and intensity (r = -.26, p < .001) of FOMO experiences. FOMO frequency and intensity were
moderately correlated (r = .58, p < .001). There were no differences in FOMO frequency (F(1,
266) = .08, p = .78) and intensity (F(1, 266) = .24, p = .63) by gender. People who reported that
they typically experienced more intense FOMO reported that they would be more likely to
experience FOMO in the scenario (r = .31, p < .01), suggesting that some people are generally
more prone to FOMO.
Brief Discussion
This study experimentally assessed responses to FOMO-inducing scenarios in a diverse
sample of 268 participants. Our findings support our hypothesis that FOMO experienced in the
context of social media was the same as FOMO experienced through direct social contact.
Although previous research has shown social media to be important, we found that people
experience FOMO no matter how they find out about the alternate activity on which they are
missing out. However, social media may still play a role in FOMO by increasing the likelihood
that one finds out about alternate activities. That is, it is possible that the manner in which one is
reminded of possible alternate activities does not matter, but that social media may make such
reminders more frequent, leading to greater FOMO.
While there was an effect of an in-progress social activity lessening one’s feelings of
FOMO we found no difference between the two solitary activities (the assignment vs. reading
conditions), demonstrating that when one is alone, there is equivalent FOMO experienced during
both required activities and volitional ones. This suggests that FOMO is not simply a matter of
exerting self-control to continue in a required activity at the expense of another more interesting
one. These results do show, however, that FOMO is an inherently social phenomena – people
experience less FOMO when they are engaging in an activity with another person (although
some FOMO is still experienced), and more FOMO when the alternate activity is social in
Finally, this study provides further evidence of the negative consequences of FOMO.
Participants who reported that they would experience FOMO in the imagined situation also
reported less positive and more negative affect. They also indicated that they would feel more
distracted, less focused on the ongoing activity, and would be more likely to regret their decision
the next day.
General Discussion
The present paper provides an empirical examination of the Fear of Missing Out
(FOMO), an important social phenomenon that may leave many young people feeling alienated
from their current experiences. In the first study, the experience sampling method was used to
assess everyday in-the-moment experiences of FOMO in college freshmen. Results showed that
students experience FOMO frequently, particularly later in the day and later in the week, and
while doing a required task like studying or working. These results suggest that FOMO is not a
trivial phenomenon. Indeed, the sheer number of FOMO experiences in our studies was striking.
In the first study, students reported experiencing FOMO on approximately 16% of all ESM
signals. Furthermore, 16% may represent an underestimate of our sample’s experience of FOMO
(see Study 1 brief discussion for more details). In our second study of a non-student sample,
approximately 50% of participants reported experiencing FOMO at least once a month, with
15% percent reporting weekly FOMO experiences. While age was significantly negatively
related with FOMO frequency in this study, the correlation was small (r = -.23), suggesting that
FOMO experiences are not restricted to a young population.
While it is possible that some characteristics of the FOMO experiences would be
particularly crucial, simply feeling like one missed out on something (whether they were
bothered by this feeling or not) was enough to have important consequences. In Study 1, FOMO
was related to a host of negative outcomes both on a daily basis and over the course of the
semester. Experiencing more FOMO on a given day (relative to other days) predicted greater
negative affect, greater feelings of fatigue, and more physical symptoms on that day. By the end
of the semester, those who experienced more frequent FOMO reported an increase in negative
affect compared to the start of the school year, as well as increased stress and decreased sleep. In
study 2, participants identified that experiencing FOMO would cause a host of negative
outcomes even in hypothetical situations. These outcomes included increased negative affect,
decreased positive affect, more distraction, less focus, and more regret the next day.
Interestingly, in the experience sampling study FOMO was only related to negative, but
not positive affect at both the nightly level and over the course of the semester. Although a great
deal of research combines positive and negative affect to obtain an overall measure of well-
being, others distinguish between them, showing differences from the norm in both positive and
negative affect to be related to depression, while only differences in negative affect relate to
anxiety (Clark & Watson, 1991). It may be particularly likely that FOMO is related to feelings of
anxiety, rather than a lack of happiness over the missed experiences. Even though the term ‘fear
of missing out’ implies an experiential component (i.e., ‘fear’), we only assessed whether
participants thought they were missing out on an activity and did not explore either the nature or
the intensity of the emotions associated with these experiences. Future research should explore in
greater detail the affective and experiential experiences related to FOMO.
As seen in Study 2, one likely downside of FOMO is that it may distract people from
their in-the-moment experiences. Indeed, it is difficult to focus on what one is doing when one is
worried about what one is missing out on. This is particularly interesting to consider in relation
with the growing literature on mindfulness (e.g. Brown & Ryan, 2003). Given that state
mindfulness has been linked to positive and negative affect as well as other well-being outcomes
(Brown & Ryan, 2003), it may be that FOMO affects these outcomes by reducing mindfulness.
Conversely, mindfulness may reduce feelings of FOMO, as a person may be less likely to think
of alternatives when he or she is deeply engaged in what they are doing in the moment.
The question of ruminating on alternatives has been the focus of a growing body of
research on counterfactual-seeking, in which one seeks to obtain information on a forgone
opportunity (Summerville, 2011). While such research has highlighted the mediating effects such
information can have on decision dissatisfaction, the subjective state prompting one to seek such
information has not yet been investigated. It may be that FOMO addresses this limitation.
Specifically, it is possible that the negative experiential qualities of FOMO form the basis from
which people begin to counterfactually seek, doing so in order to mediate their feelings of
missing out. While counterfactual-seeking research has thus far been limited to non-social
decisions, such as card games and product selection, further investigations using socially specific
decisions are needed in order to examine this relationship further.
One interesting discrepancy between the two studies was the likelihood of experiencing
FOMO while engaging in a social activity. In the second study, participants asked to imagine
that they were spending time with a friend reported that they would experience less FOMO than
those who imagined completing an assignment or reading an interesting book. Conversely, in the
first study, participants were not less likely to report FOMO when they were engaged in a social
activity. One possible explanation for this discrepancy is that people do not expect to experience
FOMO in a social situation but do so anyways when they are actually in that situation. Future
research can further investigate the impact of social activity on FOMO experiences.
Although Study 2 showed that people experience FOMO no matter how they find out
about the alternate activity on which they are missing out, social media may still play an
important role in FOMO experiences. For example, social media may provide more frequent
reminders of possible alternate experiences. Alternatively, social media may influence FOMO by
reminding people of not only one but multiple alternate experiences on which they are missing
out. This may result in choice paralysis (Iyengar & Lepper, 2000), which has been found to occur
when an extensive array of choices is detrimental to a person’s ability to make a decision.
Similarly, FOMO may be accentuated when there are multiple alternate options, resulting in
increased distraction, reduced focus, and increased regret. Interestingly, it may also be that
people are using social media to counter the feeling of FOMO by engaging in social one-
upmanship (e.g. I feel left out and inadequate, and therefore will post a picture of myself doing
something fun to make myself feel better). Future research could examine the potentially cyclical
relationship between FOMO and social media to better understand both the FOMO experience
and people’s use of social media.
The current study provides only an initial exploration into FOMO and many questions
remain unanswered. Although limiting the sample in our ESM study to only freshman students
increased our chances of successfully capturing FOMO in the field, choosing to study a group so
prone to FOMO limits the application of our findings to other demographics. Thus, the next step
would be extending our sample to include a wider age range. Specifically, the popular media has
suggested that FOMO is primarily an experience of 20-somethings (Crocker, 2012). It would be
interesting to test this using an experience sampling methodology to determine how age, life
stage, and socio-economic status impact FOMO experiences.
While our results suggest that most people experience missing out on activities, it may be
that some people are more affected by these experiences than others. For example, research on
the impact of choice proliferation has found that in making choices, some people strive to choose
the best option (maximizers), while others are content to choose an option that is ‘good
enough’(satisficers; Schwartz et al., 2002). The maximizers were found to be more likely to
engage in social comparison and particularly susceptible to regret (Schwartz et al., 2002). When
it comes to FOMO, maximizers may be particularly affected by these experiences; future
research could examine the relationship between maximizing and FOMO, focusing on whether
maximizers are more susceptible to experience negative outcomes as a result of FOMO
Both studies suffer from some limitations, including confounds that may have affected
the results. In Study 1, we collected participants’ subjective experiences of missing out at any
given moment, but did not have an objective measure of whether they were actually missing out
on something. Given the importance of social experiences for feelings of relatedness and well-
being, it is likely that actually missing out on social experiences does negatively influence
personal well-being. Additionally, if it is the case that some participants are actually missing out
on social experiences, it would be interesting to consider why that may be the case – is it because
they are choosing to do so (in order to, for example, concentrate on their schoolwork, or to earn
money in a part-time job), or do some other factors, such as social anxiety or limited funds, play
a role? 8 Such other factors could potentially explain both feelings of FOMO and poor outcomes,
and need to be examined in future studies.
In Study 2, our manipulations of FOMO may not have been well-matched on other
factors such as desirability of each activity (e.g., it is unclear how many participants were
actually interested in spending their evening reading a book), or its uniqueness (e.g., it is possible
to finish reading the book another day, but the party is one day only). These additional factors
may have acted as confounds, influencing some of our findings. For example, the comparison of
social (going to a party) vs. non-social (watching TV) focal activity may have been affected by
how time-sensitive the activity was (since the party will be over tomorrow, but you could record
or save the TV show and watch it later), although it may be that not watching a season finale on
time could lead to subsequent FOMO from feeling ‘out of the loop’. As this was the first study
(to our knowledge) to experimentally examine FOMO, future research is needed to further
isolate the qualities of experiences that give rise to FOMO and design better manipulations of
such experiences.
Perhaps most critically, our measures of FOMO in both studies departed somewhat from
other operationalizations of FOMO in the literature. Previous studies have examined FOMO as
an individual difference and focused on the affective quality of the experience (i.e., fear, worry).
As we were predominantly interested in momentary (rather than general) experiences, we
operationalized FOMO as the perceived frequency or intensity of missing out. In both studies,
we used one face-valid item assessing whether participants felt that they were missing out on
something in that moment (Study1), and how strong that feeling of missing out was (Study 2).
Our aim was to obtain participants’ subjective experiences of missing out, rather than the
emotions they felt about these experiences. We expected that someone who does not generally
experience FOMO would not frequently (or strongly) endorse that they are missing out on an
experience that others are having – to them, it would not be as salient. In both studies,
participants who more frequently or more strongly felt like they missed out had more negative
consequences, whether they were bothered by this feeling or not, further reinforcing the validity
of our measures. Future studies could supplement our measure of FOMO with other measures,
or examine in-the-moment FOMO along with trait FOMO to ascertain these parallels.
The present paper provides an initial glimpse into a ubiquitous social phenomenon
largely neglected by psychology researchers. Given the negative consequences of FOMO
experiences, social psychologists need to be at the forefront of understanding FOMO, conducting
research and generating hypotheses that could eventually help people deal with such experiences,
perhaps by altering their cognitions or behaviours in response to feelings of FOMO. This paper’s
discussion offers some ideas for future research directions, but many other research questions
and hypotheses could be generated. Overall, we believe that social psychology has been missing
out on FOMO, and call for more research into this phenomenon.
1 Other research with this sample has examined the effects of momentary temptation, self-
control, and ego-depletion on goal progress (Milyavskaya & Inzlicht, 2017), goal motivation,
desire and self-control (Milyavskaya, Inzlicht, Hope & Koestner, 2015), goal aspirational
content, goal progress, and vitality (Hope et al., 2016), trait self-compassion (Hope, Koestner &
Milyavskaya, 2014), and perfectionism (Harvey et al., 2015). None of the other studies have
examined Fear of Missing Out, and there is no overlap between the content and the hypotheses
of the present study and the other studies that have used this sample.
2 Participants also completed a mid-semester online questionnaire and a second round of
experience sampling data collection in the second half of the semester; however, because of
technical difficulties with the signal distribution platform, many of the signals did not go out at
the correct time, resulting in completion of less than 50% of the intended signals; this data was
thus not used.
3 Additional data was collected at each signal (including desires, goal conflict, and
psychological need satisfaction) but is not relevant to the current paper. A list of all collected
measures in this study can be found at https://
4There were no difference by gender in the experiencing of FOMO, and gender did not
influence any of the other analyses so will not be discussed further.
5 Activities were coded into categories by six independent raters. In order to assess inter-
rater reliability, each of the raters coded the same 200 activities as two other raters. The Kappa
values for inter-rater reliability ranged from 0.83 to 0.91. The remaining 3,097 activities were
distributed equally amongst the six raters and coded independently.
6 As part of the larger data collection, participants completed other personality measures,
including behavioral inhibition and behavioral activation (BIS/BAS; Carver & White, 1994),
self-control (Tangney, et al., 2004), and self-criticism and perfectionism (Powers, Milyavskaya &
Koestner, 2012). Supplementary analyses showed that these were all unrelated to FOMO, except
for the BIS, which had a small positive correlation (r = .17, p = .05).
7 Effects of condition on affect, distraction, focus, and regret were similar to the effects on
FOMO so we do not report them here.
8 We thank an anonymous reviewer for raising this possibility.
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Table 1. Proportion of FOMO experienced by activity.
Mean SE OR (95%CI)
Studying (n=813) .222 .018 1.40 [1.13;1.73]
In class (n=396) .148 .022 0.84 [0.63;1.14]
Eating (n=311) .113 .023 0.61 [0.43;0.86]
Sleeping/resting (n=269) .179 .025 1.06 [0.76;1.49]
In transit (n=348) .158 .023 0.91 [0.71;1.18]
Socializing (n=235) .157 .026 0.91 [0.68;1.22]
Working (n=44) .306 .054 2.18 [1.00;4.75]
Media (n=364) .134 .022 0.75 [0.55;1.03]
Exercising (n=49) .201 .050 1.25 [0.69;2.26]
Other (n=786) .140 .019
Total .160
Note: Odds Ratios (ORs) are reported for the odds of experiencing FOMO in this activity
compared to the overall proportion.
Running Head: FEAR OF MISSING OUT 37
Table 2. Relation of FOMO to distraction, focus, and regret.
Distraction Focus Regret
b 95%CI β t p b 95%CI β t p b 95%CI β t p
Step 1
Positive affect -.26 [-.35; -.17] -.29 -5.62 <.001 .33 [.24; .42] .43 7.38 <.001 -.20 [-.32; .08] -.21 -3.35 .001
Negative affect .72 [.59; .86] .53 10.37 <.001 -.35 [-.48; -.22] -.30 -5.16 <.001 .64 [.46; .82] .43 7.00 <.001
Step 2
Positive affect -.12 [-.20; -.05] -.14 -3.19 .002 .27 [.18; .36] .35 6.00 <.001 -.08 [-.20; .03] -.09 -1.44 .150
Negative affect .42 [.30; .54] .31 6.809 <.001 -.22 [-.36; -.08] -.18 -3.01 .003 .38 [.20; .56] .26 4.09 <.001
Missing out .52 [.44; .60] .53 12.18 <.001 -.23 [-.32; -.13] -.27 -4.52 <.001 .45 [.32; .57] .42 6.93 <.001
Change R2 .16 .04 .10
Note: *p < .05, **p < .001
Running Head: FEAR OF MISSING OUT 38
Figure 1. Proportion of time FOMO is experienced over the course of the week.
Figure 2. Participant’s reports of missing out for each scenario.
Assignment Reading Friend
TV show
Party with social media
Planned Activity
Running Head: FEAR OF MISSING OUT 40
Appendix: Scenarios used in Study 2
Alternate Activity Assignment
Planned Activity
Reading Seeing a Friend
Watching TV You have an assignment due
tomorrow and have committed
yourself to finishing it tonight;
however, the season finale of your
favorite TV show is on as well.
You decide to keep the TV off and
finish the assignment.
You’re halfway through the latest
book in your favorite series and
have committed yourself to
finishing it tonight; however, the
season finale of your favorite TV
show is on as well. You decide to
keep the TV off and finish the
Your friend is going out of town
for a few months and have
committed yourself to seeing them
before they go; however, the
season finale of your favorite TV
show is on as well. You decide to
go see your friend.
You have an assignment due
tomorrow and have committed
yourself to finishing it tonight;
however, there is a close friend’s
birthday party in progress that your
friend just called to ask if you were
attending. You decide to stay in
and finish the assignment.
You’re halfway through the latest
book in your favorite series and
have committed yourself to
finishing it tonight; however, there
is a close friend’s birthday party in
progress that your friend just
called to ask if you were attending.
You decide to stay in and finish the
Your friend is going out of town
for a few months and have
committed yourself to seeing them
before they go; however, there is a
close friend’s birthday party in
progress that your friend just
called to ask if you were attending.
You decide to go see your friend.
Party with social
You have an assignment due
tomorrow and have committed
yourself to finishing it tonight;
however there is a close friend’s
birthday party in progress that you
saw pictures of on Facebook and
Instagram, reminding you of your
invitation. You decided to stay in
and finish the assignment.
You’re halfway through the latest
book in your favorite series and
have committed yourself to
finishing it tonight; however there
is a close friend’s birthday party in
progress that you saw pictures of
on Facebook and Instagram,
reminding you of your invitation.
You decide to stay in and finish the
Your friend is going out of town
for a few months and have
committed yourself to seeing them
before they go; however there is a
close friend’s birthday party in
progress that you saw pictures of
on Facebook and Instagram. You
decide to go see your friend.
... Although FoMO is often a momentary experience in response to a specific event, individuals differ in their proneness to such apprehension, often labeled as trait FoMO (Fioravanti et al., 2021). As such, those high in trait FoMO are likely to experience state FoMO more often and more intensely when they know their friends are having a rewarding experience without them (Milyavskaya et al., 2018). ...
... A recent meta-analysis further demonstrated that trait FoMO is positively and moderately related to both social media use and problematic media use (Fioravanti et al., 2021). Of note, state FoMO is rarely assessed in this research (see Milyavskaya et al., 2018, for an exception). ...
... The few experimental and longitudinal studies in this area have found mixed effects. A vignette experiment comparing situations including or omitting social media use found no differences in state FoMO (Milyavskaya et al., 2018). Similarly, a two-wave survey study found no longitudinal relationships between trait FoMO and problematic social media use (Lo Coco et al., 2020). ...
This edited volume examines the ways in which rapidly changing technologies and patterns of media use influence, and are influenced by, our emotional experiences. Following introductory chapters outlining common conceptual frameworks used in the study of emotion and digital media effects, this book is then organized around four general areas highlighting the intersection of technology use and emotional experience: how people experience, and researchers measure, emotions in response to digital media use; potential emotional harms and enrichments resulting from online behaviors; the socio-emotional dynamics of online interaction; and emotion’s role in engagement with online information. Chapters span a wide range of topics, including psychophysiological and neuroscientific responses to new media, virtual reality, social media and well-being, technology addiction, cyberbullying, online hate and empathy, online romantic relationships, self-presentation online, information seeking, message sharing, social support, polarization, misinformation, and more. Through a social scientific lens, contributing authors provide nuanced, interdisciplinary perspectives on contemporary social phenomena, offering cogent reviews and critiques of the literatures and avenues for future research. In essence, this volume highlights the centrality of emotions in understanding how ever-present media technologies influence our lived experiences.
... Understood as the fear of being excluded from rewarding (social) experiences, FoMO is based on unmet relatedness needs 9 that distract individuals from their in-the-moment experiences 13 and often make it difficult to consciously disengage from any social behavior, including smartphone use. 14 Trait-FoMO has been linked to decreased attention and low self-control, 13,15 increased exposure to social information on social media, [16][17][18] and unwanted or even dangerous smartphone use. ...
... Understood as the fear of being excluded from rewarding (social) experiences, FoMO is based on unmet relatedness needs 9 that distract individuals from their in-the-moment experiences 13 and often make it difficult to consciously disengage from any social behavior, including smartphone use. 14 Trait-FoMO has been linked to decreased attention and low self-control, 13,15 increased exposure to social information on social media, [16][17][18] and unwanted or even dangerous smartphone use. 9,15,19 Online-specific state-FoMO correlates highly with trait-FoMO 20 and is associated with higher engagement in problematic smartphone and (social) media uses. ...
Reflective smartphone disengagement (i.e., deliberate actions to self-regulate when and how one should use one's smartphone) has become a necessary skill in our ever-connected lives, contributing to a healthy balance of related benefits and harms. However, disengaging from one's smartphone might compete with impulsive psychosocial motivators such as fear of missing out (FoMO) on others' rewarding experiences or feelings of loneliness. To shed light into these competitive processes, the present paper disentangles the reciprocal, over-time relationships between reflective smartphone disengagement, FoMO, and loneliness using data from a two-wave panel study among emerging adults (16-21 years of age). Measurement-invariant structural equation modeling suggests that FoMO and reflective smartphone disengagement negatively predict each other over time, indicating a possible spiraling process. In addition, reflective smartphone disengagement was also negatively related to feelings of loneliness. Together, these findings underline (a) how young people's impulsive and reflective system compete with each other over control of their smartphone usage, where (b) psychosocial benefits of reflective smartphone disengagement were validated among emerging adults, potentially helping them to strengthen the benefits and limit the harms of permanent interactions with and through technology.
... There were some valuable examples prior to the pandemic of why it is essential to measure missed and lost opportunities among people varying in levels of FoMO. Most notably, Milyavskaya et al. (2018) conducted an experience sampling study with university students and a second follow-up study with community adults that showed that for some people, experiences of missing out account for a significant proportion of life experiences. This experience sampling study showed that actually missing out was reported about one out of every six times when their student participants were electronically signaled and asked to report on their current experiences. ...
Much has transpired since severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) began spreading throughout the world in 2020. In our previous commentary, we focused on the significance of two specific fears with an interpersonal basis (i.e. the fear of missing out, FoMO, and the fear of not mattering) during a period in which daily routines were disrupted and physical distancing or "social distancing" was implemented as a crucial important public health intervention in response to the coronavirus. In the current article, we examine the current context and review what has been learned about the similarities and differences among people during the pandemic with a particular emphasis on research during the pandemic on the fear of missing and feelings and fears of not mattering to other people. The nature of these constructs as revealed during the pandemic is discussed with a focus on how these attributes reflect insecurity and doubts about the self that heighten susceptibility to external feedback. Key themes include the need to consider FoMO from a broad perspective that includes actual lost opportunities during the pandemic and how individual differences in mattering have been reflected in coping and adaptability and related outcomes. It is clear from our analysis that FoMO and mattering are highly salient and relevant constructs with clear ecological validity in terms of accounting for individual differences in the costs and consequences of the pandemic. The current article is a follow-up to our previous commentary on the global COVID-19 pandemic and its implications for the fear of missing out (i.e., the pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent; Przybylski et al., 2013) and the fear of not mattering to others (see Casale & Flett, 2020). Our earlier article considered the pandemic in terms of it being a unique and unprecedented situation with profound implications for the needs of people everywhere. We noted that, "It is rare for authors to analyze a situation of such magnitude as it continues to unfold" (p. 88). That previous analysis included an emphasis on the pandemic as a time and context in which the situation has a strong influence on people and how it served as a reminder that behavior is a joint reflection of the person and the situation. Our main focus was examining the pandemic and its impact in terms of interpersonally-based fears. Specifically, a central theme was how circumstances such as being socially isolated and physically isolated from other people during the pandemic heighten the salience and relevance of the fear of missing out and the fear of not mattering to people. We look backward and forward in the current commentary. We look back at what has transpired since 2020 with a particular emphasis on research that has been conducted globally on these two constructs during the pandemic. Contemporary research has yielded some unique insights into nature of both the fear of missing out and fear of not mattering to others and associated feelings. Our review of recent research is illustrative rather that comprehensive in that we focus only on a limited portion of the studies conducted from among the vast number of studies on either FOMO or mattering that have been reported in the past three years. Our analysis also considers the implications of costs and consequences of the pandemic as people cope and adapt to them, including profound losses that so many people have experienced. But we also begin by looking briefly at the present and what life is like for many people.
... In other words, it is yet unclear whether FoMO generates NA, or whether FoMO is caused by NA, or if there is a bidirectional association. However, results from longitudinal studies provide an early support that FoMO appears to induce NA over short periods of time (1 week) (Elhai et al., 2020a, b;Milyavskaya et al., 2018). Future research should focus on longitudinal designs and experiments to clarify the direction of this association. ...
Full-text available
The fear of missing out (FoMO) is characterized in the literature as a fear that others are having rewarding experiences while one is missing out, and a constant need to keep connected with one’s social network. Driven by social determination theory (SDT), FoMO has been linked with problematic social networking sites use (PSNSU), negative affectivity (NA), self-esteem (SE), and sleep disturbances. The present study reports findings from 512 individuals (79.1% women, mean age 30.5 years, SD = 8.61). Structural equation modelling (SEM) suggests that the duration of SNS use and the numbers of SNS platforms actively used partially mediated the relationship between FoMO and PSNSU. In turn, PSNSU partially mediated the relationship between FoMO and NA. Furthermore, the present study has extended the literature by incorporating the Vulnerability Model in the FoMO concept, identifying that SE partially mediated the relationship between FoMO and NA, while NA fully mediated the relationship between FoMO and sleeping disturbances. Accordingly, the present has extended previous research findings in showing exercise as a potential protective factor to prevent against FoMO. Practical and theoretical implications are discussed.
... Black joy, doomscrolling, eco-grief, and flightshame all work to merge the source with feeling(s) either as two words, hyphenated, or in combining them into a compound word. FoMO-short for "Fear of Missing Out" has received some sustained interest from psychologists and internet scholars (Buglass et al., 2017;Dogan, 2019;Hunt et al., 2018;Milyavskaya et al., 2018). It is an internet shorthand that links to the cultural practices of using abbreviations to aid in rapid typing. ...
Full-text available
Emotion research that attends to the cultural dynamics of affective life remains underdeveloped. I outline an agenda for an under-studied phenomenon that can orient emotion researchers to the situated, cultural practices of affective life: Neo-emotions. Neo-emotions , when situated within macro-level processes and cultural events, illustrate the constrained yet creative practices that social actors use to address the disconnect between one's emotional vocabulary and dynamic environment. As such, neo-emotions are analytically rich cultural practices that can be empirically explored through sociological, anthropological, historical, and psychological inquiry. I discuss a range of neo-emotions, including doomscrolling, Black joy, and eco-grief, their social antecedents (digitalization, social movements, and disasters/crises) and methodological implications for an interdisciplinary agenda.
... Specifically, on one hand, FoMO may lead to depression. One study used a repeated-method design and found that more FoMO experiences were associated with negative outcomes such as negative mood, fatigue, and decreased sleep (Milyavskaya et al., 2018), which are symptoms of or risk factors for depression (Mullarkey et al., 2019;Roane & Taylor, 2008). On the other hand, depression may be a predictor of subsequent FoMO. ...
Introduction: Abundant literature has shown that depression, Fear of Missing Out (FoMO), and smartphone addiction may have bidirectional relationships, and attention to negative information (ANI) may moderate these bidirectional relationships. However, previous literature mainly analyzed them using total scores, and longitudinal evidence is limited, motivating us to address this gap using moderated network analysis. Method: 2469 secondary school students (female = 1212 (49.09%), age mean ± SD = 13.90 ± 1.56, age range from 11 to 18) were recruited to complete questionnaires, including the ANI scale, the Mobile Phone Addiction Index scale, the FoMO scale, and the Patient Health Questionnaire before and after four-months online learning. The moderated network approach was used to test the bidirectional relationship among depression, FoMO, and smartphone addiction and the moderating role of ANI. Results: The analysis found that the strongest bidirectional relationships were between suicide and withdrawal or escape and between withdrawal or escape and fear of missing situations in waves 1 and 2, respectively. The number of interaction terms among depression, FoMO, and smartphone addiction moderated by ANI was: 4 and 3 in waves 1 and 2, respectively. In addition, the strongest interaction terms were between withdrawal or escape and fear of missing situations and between feeling anxious and lost and concentration in waves 1 and 2, respectively. Conclusions: We identified several significant bidirectional relationships between the symptoms of depression, FoMO, and smartphone addiction and interaction terms moderated by ANI. These findings provide valuable theoretical and practical insights for breaking the cycle between symptoms of depression, FoMO, and smartphone addiction through intervention with ANI.
... For this reason, they constantly check their phones or tech devices and spend a lot of time on social media. However, the increasing desire to control the news on social media and the internet can also trigger depression, stress, sadness, fatigue, or anxiety in those affected (Milyavskaya et al. 2018). ...
Full-text available
Phubbing is a multidimensional disorder in which many addictions intersect due to the nature of smartphones. Therefore, determining the variables that predict the concept of phubbing, the chronic addiction of the digital age, is expected to provide important insights into this behavior. In this regard, the main purpose of the current research is to examine the impact of smartphone addiction, social media addiction, and fear of missing out (FoMO) on phubbing. Data for the study were collected from 208 students at a state university in Turkey. Randomly selected students were reached by the convenience sampling method. The study was conducted in the spring semester of the academic year 2021–2022. The data collection instruments used were a personal information form, the smartphone addiction scale, the social media scale, the FoMO scale, and the Phubbing scale. The obtained data were analyzed using the structural equation model. The research results show that smartphone addiction and social media addiction influence phubbing. On the other hand, FoMO was found to have no influence on phubbing.
Fear of Missing Out (FoMO) is defined as an individual's fear and panic that others may be having more satisfying and rewarding experiences than they are, and the desire to constantly stay connected to what others are doing. It is known to be an important mediating variable in predicting the negative consequences of overuse of social networking sites. In terms of negative consequences, it is also suggested that it has an impact on university students' learning approaches. However, the heterogeneity of FoMO among individuals with different learning approaches has not yet been clarified. Therefore, in this study, latent profile analysis (LPA) was conducted to reveal hidden profiles of university students in terms of learning approaches and FoMO according to the frequency of checking the smartphone during studying. The participants consisted of 1122 university students studying at a state university in Turkey. The study used the Revised Study Process Questionnaire (R-SPQ-2F) to assess deep and surface learning approaches and the Fear of Missing Out Scale (FoMOs) to measure FoMO level. The findings indicate that there are low but significant relationships between the variables. LPA revealed four profiles among university students according to the incidences. The profiles were discussed in the light of the literature.
Purpose Numerous studies have looked at why people attend events which engage in conspicuous consumerism, but they have neglected the fear of missing out on these event-based experiences. This study aims to look at the impact of sensation seeking on conspicuous consumption within the event-based activities. Moreover, the developed model examined the mediating role of the fear of missing out in this impact. Design/methodology/approach A questionnaire survey was conducted, and a conceptual framework was performed to test hypothesized links between the three variables. Findings The findings show that sensation seeking affects conspicuous consumption, and fear of missing out has a mediating effect on this relationship. Originality/value The results of the study give some theoretical and practical implications to practitioners and researchers about aspirational class as elite consumers and high-level attendees of one-off events.
The COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affects African Americans in the United States, including disparate rates of mortality and higher mental health consequences compared to Whites. However, African American young adults are underrepresented in the literature examining psychological distress (i.e., anxiety and depression) during the COVID-19 pandemic. Factors associated with psychological distress are important to examine among African American young adults during the pandemic to better inform culturally appropriate mental health interventions during times of increased uncertainty and isolation. The present study, grounded in the transactional theory of stress and coping, was a secondary analysis of 420 African American young adults exploring gender, age, coping, fear of missing out (FOMO), and COVID-19 news exposure as correlates of anxiety and depression. Results showed that gender, age, level of resilient coping, and experiences of FOMO were associated with psychological distress. Therefore, interventions to reduce psychological distress among African American young adults may need to focus on younger individuals and women, identify adaptive coping skills during times of significant change, and target individuals who experience FOMO.
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Social networking sites (SNS) are especially attractive for adolescents, but it has also been shown that these users can suffer from negative psychological consequences when using these sites excessively. We analyze the role of fear of missing out (FOMO) and intensity of SNS use for explaining the link between psychopathological symptoms and negative consequences of SNS use via mobile devices. In an online survey, 1468 Spanish-speaking Latin-American social media users between 16 and 18 years old completed the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), the Social Networking Intensity scale (SNI), the FOMO scale (FOMOs), and a questionnaire on negative consequences of using SNS via mobile device (CERM). Using structural equation modeling, it was found that both FOMO and SNI mediate the link between psychopathology and CERM, but by different mechanisms. Additionally, for girls, feeling depressed seems to trigger higher SNS involvement. For boys, anxiety triggers higher SNS involvement.
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Concerns have been raised regarding the extensive use of social media sites by young adults and adolescents and the effects this use may have on their mental health and general functioning. However, definitions of health are expansive and diverse. In the present article we assess 3 broad areas of mental and physical health: depressive symptoms, mindful attention, and physical symptoms. Additionally, the fear of missing out (FoMO), which relates to social media use both in its experience and origins, has received a great deal of popular attention recently with relatively less attention from researchers. In order to test the associations between social media use, FoMO, and a range of mental and physical health outcomes, an online study was conducted with 386 undergraduates from a large, ethnically diverse university. Results of this study demonstrated that FoMO was positively associated with time spent on social media. Furthermore, experiencing higher levels of FoMO was associated with more depressive symptoms, less mindful attention, and more physical symptoms. Moreover, time spent on social media was no longer related to depressive symptoms and mindful attention when FoMO was included in the model. Findings from this study suggest that FoMO may be a more revelatory measure than simple assessments of social media use, and is associated with negative health outcomes.
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This survey study among adolescents (N = 402) investigates an integrative model that examines (1) the mediating role of adolescents’ fear of missing out (FoMO) in the relationships of adolescents’ need to belong and need for popularity with adolescents’ Facebook use and (2) the relationships of adolescents’ FoMO with adolescents’ perceived stress related to the use of Facebook. Structural equation modeling results indicated that an increased need to belong and an increased need for popularity were associated with an increased use of Facebook. These relationships were mediated by FoMO. Increased FoMO was associated with increased stress related to Facebook use. These results emphasize the important role that FoMO plays in adolescents’ media use and well-being.
Americans now live in a time and a place in which freedom and autonomy are valued above all else and in which expanded opportunities for self-determination are regarded as a sign of the psychological well-being of individuals and the moral well-being of the culture. This article argues that freedom, autonomy, and self-determination can become excessive, and that when that happens, freedom can be experienced as a kind of tyranny. The article further argues that unduly influenced by the ideology of economics and rational-choice theory, modern American society has created an excess of freedom, with resulting increases in people's dissatisfaction with their lives and in clinical depression. One significant task for a future psychology of optimal functioning is to deemphasize individual freedom and to determine which cultural constraints are necessary for people to live meaningful and satisfying lives.
Self-control is typically viewed as a key ingredient responsible for effective self-regulation and personal goal attainment. This study used experience sampling, daily diary, and prospective data collection to investigate the immediate and semester-long consequences of effortful self-control and temptations on depletion and goal attainment. Results showed that goal attainment was influenced by experiences of temptations rather than by actively resisting or controlling those temptations. This study also found that simply experiencing temptations led people to feel depleted. Depletion in turn mediated the link between temptations and goal attainment, such that people who experienced increased temptations felt more depleted and thus less likely to achieve their goals. Critically, results of Bayesian analyses strongly indicate that effortful self-control was consistently unrelated to goal attainment throughout all analyses.
While previous research has demonstrated that striving for personal goals connected to intrinsic aspirations benefits psychological well-being, the relation between aspirational content and goal progress has remained unexamined. Using a multilevel modeling (MLM) approach in two longitudinal studies, we examined the relationship between life aspirations at the level of the person and the level of the goal, differentiating the ability of aspirations at both levels to predict later goal progress. We found that students made significantly more progress on (and were more likely to attain) their goals that were more intrinsic in aspirational content. These effects were goal-specific rather than person-driven. Study 2 replicated the findings of study 1 and also revealed an interaction between intrinsic aspirational content and progress in predicting goal-related affect. Specifically, we found that making progress on a goal that was more intrinsic in content led to greater feelings of vitality for that goal, while making progress on a less intrinsic goal did not. These findings highlight the benefits of setting goals connected to intrinsic aspirations (even for generally extrinsically-oriented individuals) and the value of shifting towards MLM approaches for research on goal pursuit.