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Test yourself to see if Facebook makes your life feel boring

Teresa Tanoos's picture
Now you can test your fear of missing out

When you go to Facebook or Twitter to see what you’re friends are up to, does it make you feel like you’re missing out on all the fun? If so, you’re not alone, according to researchers who have come up with a test to measure the modern day concept known as the "fear of missing out" (FoMO).

Given the rising popularity of social media in recent years, keeping up-to-date with our friends and family is easier than ever. The down side, however, is it’s led to the hidden curse of the "fear of missing out" – or FoMO for short.

This relatively new concept called FoMO refers to the concern people have that others may be having more fun and satisfying experiences than them – and is characterized as the desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing.

And now, for the first time ever, researchers at the University of Essex have devised with a way of measuring FoMO that provides a reliable means of determining what people are experiencing.

The “fear of missing out” phenomenon is the subject of a study by the researchers, which will be published in the July issue of the journal Computers in Human Behavior. This is the first time research into the subject has been investigated in-depth, as the “fear of missing out” phenomenon wasn’t even around until three years ago when the popularity of social media surged with the advent of more affordable smart phones.

According to the study’s lead researcher, psychologist Dr. Andy Przybylski, the fear of missing out isn’t anything new, but the rise in social media is – and that offers a window into other people's lives like never before. This can cause a problem for those who have a high level of FoMO because they tend to get so involved in checking social media to see what their friends are doing, that they often ignore what they are doing that’s enjoyable themselves.

"I find Facebook rewarding to use, but how we are using social media is changing," explained Dr. Przybylski. "It is no longer something we have to sit at a computer and log into as we have access all the time on our phones. It is easier to get into the rhythm of other people's lives that ever before as we get alerts and texts.”

Dr. Przybylski adds that we have to learn new skills to control our usage and enjoy social media in moderation. “Until we do, it creates a double-edged sword aspect to social media," he says.

The research team devised a way of measuring a person’s level of FoMO. Click here to take a version of the test yourself and see what your level of FoMO is compared to others who took part in the study.

The study found that people under 30 years old were more likely than others to experience the fear of missing out, as this particular group reported seeing social media as an important tool for them and they were therefore more dependent on it as part of their social development.

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Social factors are also important, Dr Przybylski explained. According to the study’s findings, when someone’s "psychological needs were deprived", that person was more likely to seek out social media – and FoMO bridged that gap – thus, explaining why some people were using social media more than others.

To see what effect FoMO had on people's lives, the researchers discovered that those with a high level of “fear of missing out” were also more likely to give into the temptation of texting and emailing while driving. They were also more likely to become distracted by social media during university lectures and have more mixed feelings about their social media use.

The researchers’ hope this study will prompt more research into the “fear of missing out” and the impact it has on people’s health and wellbeing.

In the meantime, is there anything you can do to thwart falling victim to "FoMO"?

"FOMO happens when we invalidate the experience we're having because we're obsessed with the ones we're not having," says psychologist Arnie Kozak, Ph.D., author of Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness.

To avoid falling into the invalidation trap, Kozak advises reminding yourself that you're seeing only the best parts of people's lives online. Another tip: try turning your darker instincts around. For example, instead of chastising yourself for being boring or left behind, use your FOMO as a catalyst to set realistic goals, says Kozak.

"You can use what other people are doing as inspiration," Kozak adds. "Just leave out the 'I'm not doing that now, so I must be defective' part."

Sherry Turkle, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says that as technology becomes ever more pervasive, our relationship to it becomes more intimate, granting it the power to influence decisions, moods and emotions.

“In a way, there’s an immaturity to our relationship with technology,” Turkle said. “It’s still evolving.”

According to Turkle, we are struggling with the always-on feeling of connection that the Internet can provide, and we still need to figure out how to limit its influence on our lives. To deal with the stress that FoMO triggers, she advises getting a grip and separating yourself from your iPhone.

SOURCE: Andrew K. Przybylski, Kou Murayama, Cody R. DeHaan, Valerie Gladwell. Motivational, emotional, and behavioral correlates of fear of missing out. Computers in Human Behavior, 2013; 29 (4): 1841 DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2013.02.014