Alan McStravick for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
If you´ve ever been faced with having to decide between two options, chances are you have experienced what is simply and psychologically referred to as the “Fear of Missing Out” (FoMO). This phenomenon, according to researchers from the University of Essex, has become more prevalent with the ever-present nature of the Internet in our day-to-day lives. And for the first time, the ability to accurately measure FoMO has been devised.
FoMO is generally understood as a concern people have that others may be having more fun and rewarding experiences than they are. With the rise of websites like Facebook and Twitter and their easy accessibility on our tablets and phones, individuals are able to keep current on their friends movements like never before. This ability has led to the hidden curse of FoMO.
The Essex research team, with colleagues from the University of California and the University of Rochester, will be publishing their findings in the July issue of the journal Computers in Human Behavior.
The researchers claim theirs is the first study to examine this phenomenon in depth. As FoMO really only came to light in the last 3 years, with respect to the pervasive nature of the Internet in our daily lives, the team focused their research on a subject group of individuals under age 30.
Lead researcher and psychologist Dr. Andy Przybylski claims one of the main issues regarding individuals with a high level of FoMO is that they may choose to become so involved in monitoring their social network friends´ activities that they will often ignore what they are actually enjoying themselves.
“I find Facebook rewarding to use, but how we are using social media is changing,” claimed Przybylski in a statement. “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 than ever before as we get alerts and texts.”
“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 said.
The international collaborative research team was able to devise a way of measuring an individual´s level of FoMO. They have even put a version of their test online that compares your own level of FoMO to those involved in the study. To test your own level, go to ratemyfomo.com.
Study subjects who were more affected than others typically saw their use of social media as being an important tool making them more dependent on social media as part of their social development.
Przybylksi pointed out that social factors are important indicators. If an individual´s “psychological needs were deprived” they were more likely to seek out social media. Additionally, FoMO was able, in those individuals, to bridge this deprivation gap. This offered a viable explanation for why certain people use social media more than others.
The researchers point out their findings show people who exhibit a high level of FoMO are typically more likely to give in to the temptation of both checking and composing text messages and e-mails while driving. Additionally, they will allow social media to distract them from important daily tasks like university lectures. Overall, these individuals present more mixed feelings with regard to their social media use.
As this is just the first such study to have been conducted, the research team hopes further study will be conducted into the phenomenon of the fear of missing out and how it affects an individual´s general well-being.