Needs a Flippin’ Title

Since the beginning of life, it has been human nature for individuals to feel discontent or dissatisfied because of somebody else’s belongings or success.One factor specifically that is a part of every human’s life but has recently been studied in the past decade is the fear of missing out, or FOMO. FOMO can be described as a form of anxiety that is caused when an individual feels as if they are missing out on something exciting, particularly “reflecting sensitivity to the social cues”. Many people feel the pressure to keep up with societal norms and if someone is feeling behind, the natural outcome always forms anxiety. However, although FOMO has been directly correlated to social media, there is a common misconception that it is its own phenomenon, but it is no different from a person feeling envy. I want to simply prove that FOMO is a natural, inevitable occurrence in everyone’s life and can be correlated with almost any scenario in life.

 I want to research and prove how a false narrative is being created that it is a new concept caused particularly by social media. Although social media has become so popular and accessible to young teenagers, the idea of FOMO cannot be freshly defined and correlated to social media usage. Let’s take the app Instagram for example. Somebody could be scrolling through Instagram and see an ad of a multi million dollar vacation home and feel as if they are missing out on something they cannot have. However, society cannot blame this on Instagram. Twenty years ago, a person may pick up a magazine and see a similar ad and feel the same way. The purpose of advertisements is to provide a gaudy outlook to make someone feel envious towards the particular product. This feeling of missing out is a part of everyone’s human life and is something that can occur without you even identifying it. Some examples of how simple FOMO can occur is driving by a nice house that somebody may wish they could have, an individual missing a class or school day and worrying about what material they have missed, and many more.  

I reviewed an article published by Jon Elhai that includes a tested hypothesis on depression symptoms in individuals with severe FOMO conditions that pertain directly to social media. This study taken of college students found that depression severity could not be connected to extreme FOMO conditions. It is too premature to make conclusions on a teenage mental health crisis because of the fear of missing out and social media. The studies that are conducted include too small amounts of individuals in these surveys to be applied to a world scale. The new phenomenon that is FOMO must be compared to broad occurrences in life. It is simple to hypothesize that a teenager may feel depressed when they see somebody post themselves on an island, but it is not reasonable to look at it as something different than someone feeling envious towards something not seen on social media. Another reason why social media FOMO is not the only contributor to anxiety is because studies conducted on adolescents have not taken sex into account. This study displays results with sex differences, where men ended up scoring higher on the depression scale while women scored higher on the FOMO severity scale. 

Although social media has been the rage for the past decade, FOMO has been being studied heavily since the 2000’s being attributed to many normal life scenarios which is explained in Alexa Holte’s article The State Fear of Missing Out Inventory: Development and Validation. The article recognizes that there is a gap in the FOMO studies because it has only been studied as a dispositional trait. A study was conducted with 388 adults voluntarily responding to a survey where 34 similar situations to FOMO were given out. For example, one of the choices was “I cannot help but to think that I am absent from a rewarding experience.” However, there was also an option that was counterintuitive to the study: “It does not bother me if my friends are having fun without me.” The point of including this response choice is to illustrate that social media does not have to do with someone feeling anxiety because someone has something they do not, yet it is based on one’s own overall satisfaction of their own life. If someone is dissatisfied with their own life, it is easy to reason that they will feel envy from what others have more frequently.  

When correlating FOMO to social media use, people worry about adolescent’s health and performance because most things nowadays are found through a screen on apps like Instagram, Tiktok, Snapchat, and Youtube. A common theme that this is correspondent with is with friends. Simply scrolling through an app like Snapchat and seeing your friends doing something without you instantly causes a feeling of FOMO. This person feels anxiety because others are having a fun experience while they sit isolated with their phone. It is proven that social media users experience this effect much more compared to those that do not. The fear of missing out on fun experiences with others also contributes to mood swings and other small factors that all contribute to mental health. Although this effect has been examined and existed for several decades, it has increased rapidly with the popularity of today’s internet. Instinctively, everyone wants to do everything they possibly can in order to have fun, but this also comes from the fact that that person wants to make it look like their life is great. If they were to miss anything, it could form anxiety which damages their happiness. In a poll conducted in a study by Benjamin Riordan, 198 students were surveyed the question “what does fomo mean to you?” and 75% of the people surveyed correlated it to social media. However, something to note about these polls is that the majority of people voluntarily responding to these polls are young adolescents, and adults and elderly are not being taken into account.  In the recent 2 decades, FOMO, or the fear of missing out, has been raised to the public’s attention because of the possible correlation between FOMO, depression, and social media. If you were to tell me that you have experienced sadness because your friends are out posting on social media without you, you would be describing one of the many definitions and causes of FOMO. However, although social media has become a staple in most adolescent’s lives, this does not necessarily mean that FOMO only affects people that use social media. The concept of FOMO is a relatively new acronym, being introduced originally in 2004, and later on in 2010 it was reintroduced and researched more heavily because a narrative was made that it had direct links to social media. However, FOMO, the way it is defined, is a psychological effect on the brain and with that information we can conclude that it can be applied to any life scenario in any individual. A simple example of FOMO would be a person who could drive by a nice house and not particularly have the money for something of that elegance. That individual would instantly feel anxious and fear they are missing out on something they could have. 

The fear of missing out is quite self explanatory, defined as one fearing that others are living better lives or possibly they could be missing great opportunities. The need to belong is arguably the leading motivator in a person’s life. When an individual feels as if they do not belong in a particular setting or environment, instant effects hit. FOMO is associated with harmful lingering effects such as poor sleep, anxiety, depression. It can be caused in any age group, but has closely been researched in the adolescent age category. In an article published by PubMed that takes a deep dive into the lingering effects that FOMO can cause, a study was conducted where 101 adolescents experienced fear that they would not be able to sleep, which caused them to have extremely low rates of sleep. Instinctively, everybody wants to do everything they possibly can, but comparing yourself to others only causes harm to yourself. 

The main question that is asked when researching FOMO is why do we feel this way? Ultimately, it is not because of social media or others that cause an individual to feel this way, yet is an independent, self concept. This means that if an individual is constantly comparing themselves to others, they are more likely to experience FOMO. In a case study titled: Why Do People Experience the Fear of Missing Out (FoMO)? Exposing the Link Between the Self and the FoMO Through Self-Construal, the independent, self-construal is when an individual “evaluates other people around them as part of their self.” This inevitably leads to the individual being concerned about what others are doing. This self-construal concept is extremely important because it is the person’s ability to identify and evaluate themselves. 

FOMO is a relatively new concept studied among adolescents, but studies show the basic concept of the fear of missing out applies to all age groups and causes extreme anxiety in the work industry among adults. In an article published by Christopher Budnick titled: The Fear of Missing Out at Work, a narrowed definition of FOMO is taken and applied to individuals in the work industry. Workplace FOMO is defined as a “pervasive apprehension that, relative to other employees, one might miss valuable career opportunities when away or disconnected from work,” which leads to poor performance in work, self dissatisfaction, and the ultimate well being in an individual. They describe relational exclusion as a concept that occurs when an employee feels as if they are missing out on networking opportunities, which could lead to poor professional relationships. In professional businesses, networking with others and building relationships is the most important key to success. These professional relationships that are sustained help someone to get good advice or even a new position somewhere. When an individual misses work whether it be being away on vacation or not feeling well, a survey take

of 324 United States employees stated they felt many different types of ways when they missed out. Some of these examples they stated are “I worry I will miss out on networking opportunities that my coworkers will have”, “I fear that my coworkers might make business contracts that I won’t make”, and “I worry that I might miss important work related updates.” This helps to prove that there are several different lingering effects of FOMO and can cause extreme negative influences on the brain like less motivation, performance, and well being. 

Although I am not trying to prove that social media is the leading factor of FOMO, it is still important to note the effects and research that has been heavily done in the recent decade. FOMO is mostly associated with teenagers and college students, as that is the primary age of social media users. Young individuals who are excessive social media users receive consequential effects on the brain. Since social media has become so popular, it allows people to realize or think about just how much they are missing out on. Apps like Snapchat and Instagram harm people’s self confidence because these apps are essentially a way to post the best moments of your life, rather than your worst. Social media apps cause a false narrative to the life that is being lived. These joy filled posts make somebody feel as if they are missing out on a rewarding experience or uninvolved in an event. In a poll conducted by the Association for Consumer Research, out of 198 participants, 75% of those correlated the fear of missing out with social events or their friends. Human belonging is the driving force for motivation and well being, and social media has caused individuals to be so easily harmed by viewing a false created life on social media.


Alex J. Holte,The State Fear of Missing out Inventory: Development and Validation.”

Andrew K. Przybylski a, et al. “Motivational, Emotional, and Behavioral Correlates of Fear of Missing Out.”  Computers in Human Behavior, Pergamon, 9 Apr. 2013,  

“Association for Consumer Research –”

Christopher J. Budnick a, et al.The Fear of Missing out at Work: Examining Costs and Benefits to Employee Health and Motivation.”Computers in Human Behavior, Pergamon, 10 Oct. 2019

Anxiety and stress severity are related to greater fear of missing out on rewarding experiences: A latent profile analysis

Dorit Alt, et al. “College Students’ Academic Motivation, Media Engagement and Fear of Missing Out.” Computers in Human Behavior, Pergamon, 12 Mar. 2015,  

Gupta, Mayank, and Aditya Sharma.  “Fear of Missing out: A Brief Overview of Origin, Theoretical Underpinnings and Relationship with Mental Health.” World Journal of Clinical Cases, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 6 July 2021

Smith, Richard. Proquest, Jan. 2007, Comprehending Envy-Proquest

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