Fear of missing out

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Mobile phones now enable people to remain in contact with their social and professional network continuously. This may result in compulsive checking for status updates and messages, for fear of missing an opportunity.[1]

Fear of missing out or FoMO is "a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent".[2] This social angst [3] is characterized by "a desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing".[2] While others[who?] defined FoMO as a fear of regret,[4] which may lead to a compulsive concern that one might miss an opportunity for social interaction, a novel experience, profitable investment or other satisfying event.[2] In other words, FoMO perpetuates the fear that we have made the wrong decision on how to spend our time, as "you can imagine how things could be different".[4]

From the perspective of psychological needs, FoMO results from low levels of psychological needs satisfaction.[2] Self-determination theory (SDT) asserts that relatedness or connectedness with others is an influential psychological need that influences people's psychological health.[5] Through this theoretical framework, FoMO can be perceived as a self-regulatory state which arises from situational or long-term lack of psychological needs satisfactions [2] A study by Andrew Przybylski found that the FoMO condition was most common in those who had unsatisfied psychological needs such as wanting to be loved and respected.[6]

With the development of technology, people's social and communicative experiences have been expanded from face-to-face to online. On one hand, modern technologies (e.g., mobile phones, smartphones) and social networking services (e.g., Facebook, Twitter) provide a unique opportunity for people to be socially engaged with a reduced "cost of admission".[2] On the other hand, mediated communication perpetuates an increased reliance on the Internet. Sometimes, fomo is spelled "phomo" just to give it a more scientific look but it still means the same thing. A psychological dependence to being online could result in anxiety when one feels disconnected, thereby leading to a fear of missing out [7] or even pathological Internet use.[8] As a consequence, FoMO is perceived to have negative influences on people's psychological health and well-being, because it could contribute to people's negative mood and depressed feelings.[4]


Fear of missing out (FoMO) refers to the apprehension that one is not in-the-know or one is out of touch with some social events, experiences, and interactions.[2] People who grapple with FoMO might not know exactly what he or she is missing, but can still hold a fear that others are having a much better time or having a much more rewarding experience on the spur of the moment.[3] FoMO could result from a variety of social activities in which one is absent, such as a conversation, a TV show, a wedding, a party, or a delicious restaurant in town.

FoMO could simply exist as a pervasive mental state, but it can also lead to different physical reactions (i.e., sweating) and real-world behaviors.[3] According to a survey conducted in the U.S. and U.K., the majority of adult Millennials (age between 18 and 34) expressed that they want to say yes to everything due to the fear of missing out; over a half of the respondents said that they barely invest sufficient energy or time in delving into topics or new interests.[3] Moreover, FoMO serves as a motive for an escalating usage of social media,[9] which could distract people from learning in the classroom[2] and operating motor vehicles.[2][10] Furthermore, unhealthy digital habits, such as constantly checking on emails and social media updates, could be developed and thus lead to insufficient engagement in the present social interactions.[3]

Besides its impact on real-world social activities, FoMO could also influence the formation of long-term goals and people's self-perceptions.[3] Around half of the respondents stated that they are overwhelmed by the amount of information which allows them to stay up to date and it is almost impossible to not miss out on something.[3] Through the process of relative deprivation, FoMO is also found conducive to people's dissatisfaction of their experiences and a feeling of having less.[3] Moreover, FoMO also plays a negative role in people's overall psychological well-being.[2][4][11] FoMO is believed to trigger negative social and emotional experiences, such as boredom and loneliness, through social media usage.[12] Consistent with earlier research, an empirical research on FoMO in 2013 found that FoMO has a negative effect on people's overall mood and life satisfaction.[2]

In terms of the cognitive effects, FoMO could further instill a belief that an interruption is no longer an interruption but a connection.[13] People are constantly looking for something more interesting or a better connection with others without realizing that it does not always better, but just different.[13] Moreover, the importance attributed to a potential possibility of social interaction or the continuous stay in-the-know is so intense that safety risks could even be ignored.[13] For instance, it is normal to find people texting while driving.[13]

Causes and correlates[edit]

From the theoretical lens of psychological needs, FoMO could be attributed to situational or long-term deficits in psychological needs satisfaction.[2] The prevalence of contributes to an increasing transparency of other people's social life and an escalating amount of real-time information.[14] According to uses and gratifications theory, people actively choose and use social media to fulfill their specific needs,[15] such as their needs for information or staying connected with others through socializing.[16] For people who grapple with FoMO, social media involvement could be attractive, because it serves as a convenient tool to be socially connected with a relatively low cost.[3][17] However, social media could not completely substitute face-to-face communication. Therefore, people with FoMO end up with a higher level of loneliness and isolation, which leads to more FoMO.[18]

Self-determination theory contends that an individual's psychological satisfaction in their competence, autonomy, and relatedness consist three basic psychological needs for human beings.[5] People with lower levels of basic psychological satisfaction reported higher level of FoMO; in other words, a significant correlation was identified between basic psychological satisfaction and FoMO.[2] In addition, nearly four in ten young people reported that they experience FoMO sometimes or often.[3] FoMO was found to be negatively correlated with age and men are more likely than women to report FoMO.[2]

FoMO in the media[edit]

The Curse of the Blitz[edit]

“The Curse of the Blitz” is well known by fans of an American TV series "How I Met Your Mother".[3] The curse often makes the character miss out fun and amazing events especially when he or she just leaves. The curse could foster a strong anxiety of FoMO which makes the character continuously trying to make sure that he or she does not miss out anything.[3] In one clip, the curse made Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) miss out amazing events, including a coin toss that defies the laws of physics.[3]


It is hardly rare for advertising and marketing campaigns to employ the appeal of FoMO in an era of new technology. Brands and companies usually inform their customers of the "can't miss out" experiences or deals, for instance, AT&T "Don't be left behind" campaign, Duracell Powermat "Stay in charge" campaign, Heineken "Sunrise" campaign, etc.[3] In Heineken "Sunrise" campaign, excessive drinking was construed as a possibility to miss out the best parts of the party rather than a risk to personal health.[3] However, there are also a tendency for brands to counter FoMO in their advertisements and campaigns, such as Nescafé's “Wake up to life” campaign.[3]

FoMO is also perceived to foster higher TV ratings. Real-time updates about one's status and major social events allowed a more engaged media consumption experiences and a faster information dissemination.[3] Real-time tweets about the Super Bowl are considered to be correlated with higher TV ratings because of the appeal of FoMO and the prevalence of social media usage.[3]

There are some cases in which the person is really obsessed about even normal situations. As an example, one may have a check-list of all the new best-sale books in the past year, and gets freaked out to buy all of them, read all of them, and just keep up pacing with the book world. These people mostly forget about the quality, and just stick to the quantity of e.g. the books that they are obliged to read. Numbers are very important for them rather than events and the contents. Encountering a small community of friends, they always want to have something to tell, and that is why they mostly are constantly control-freaked about everything.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Anderson, H. (April 16, 2011), "Never heard of Fomo? You're so missing out", The Observer 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Przybylski, A. K., Murayama, K., DeHaan, C. R., & Gladwell, V. (2013), "Motivational, emotional, and behavioral correlates of fear of missing out.", Computers in Human Behavior 29 (4): 1841–1848, doi:10.1016/j.chb.2013.02.014 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r JWT (2012), Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) (PDF) 
  4. ^ a b c d Wortham, J. (April 10, 2011), "Feel like a wall flower? Maybe it’s your Facebook wall", The New York Times 
  5. ^ a b Deci,E.L.,& Ryan,R.M. (1985), Intrinsic motivation and self-determination inhuman behavior, Plenum Press 
  6. ^ Claire Cohen (May 16, 2013), "FoMo: Do you have a Fear of Missing Out?", The Daily Telegraph 
  7. ^ Jonathan K. J. (January 29, 2009), Internet Addiction on Campus: The Vulnerability of College Students 
  8. ^ Song, I., Larose, R., Eastin, M. S., & Lin, C. A. (2004), "Internet gratifications and Internet addiction: On the uses and abuses of new media", CyberPsychology & Behavior, 7 (4): 384–394, doi:10.1089/cpb.2004.7.384 
  9. ^ Kandell, J. J. (1998), "Internet addiction on campus: The vulnerability of college students", CyberPsychology & Behavior 1 (1): 11–17, doi:10.1089/cpb.1998.1.11 
  10. ^ Turkle, S. (2012), Alone together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other, Basic books 
  11. ^ Morford, M. (August 4, 2010), "Oh my god you are so missing out", San Francisco Chronicle 
  12. ^ Burke, M., Marlow, C.,& Lento,T. (2010), "Social network activity and social well-being.", Postgraduate Medical Journal 85: 455–459, doi:10.1145/1753326.1753613 
  13. ^ a b c d Grohol, J. (February 28, 2015), FOMO addiction: the fear of missing out. 
  14. ^ Amichai-Hamburger, Y., & Ben-Artzi, E. (2003), "Loneliness and internet use", Computers in Human Behavior 19 (1): 71–80, doi:10.1016/S0747-5632(02)00014-6 
  15. ^ Katz, E., Gurevitch, M., & Haas, H. (1973), "On the use of the mass media for important things", American Sociological Review 38 (2): 164–181, doi:10.2307/2094393 
  16. ^ Park, N., Kee, K. F., & Valenzuela, S. (2009), "Being immersed in social networking environment:Facebook groups, uses and gratifications, and social outcomes", CyberPsychology & Behavior 12 (6): 729–733, doi:10.1089/cpb.2009.0003 
  17. ^ Ellison,N.B.,Steinfield,C.,&Lampe,C. (2007), "The benefits of Facebook ‘‘friends’’:Social capital and college students’use ofonline social network sites", Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 12 (4): 1143–1168, doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2007.00367.x 
  18. ^ Dossey, L. (2014), "FOMO, digital dementia, and our dangerous experiment.", Explore Journal of Science and Healing 10 (2): 69–73, doi:10.1016/j.explore.2013.12.008