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July 10, 2013

Fear of missing out? You're not the only one

Have you heard about FOMO — "fear of missing out"? Most common among the under-30 crowd, it happens when someone feels nervous about not attending social events, like that awesome party everyone else enjoyed last weekend.

People have always been concerned about their social standing, but the explosion of social media has made FOMO a bigger issue, for everyone from middle schoolers newly toting smartphones to adults. Now researchers have developed a quiz to test just how fearful people are about missing out.

Among the questions the FOMO quiz asks are how often someone checks social media ("when eating breakfast?" "when eating lunch?" "in the 15 minutes before you go to sleep?") and how worried he or she feels when friends are hanging out without them. As the intro to the quiz puts it, "FOMO . . . is a relatively new concept where people are concerned that others may be having more fun and rewarding experiences than them. It is characterized as the desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing."

FOMO is often associated with a perceived low social rank, which can cause feelings of anxiety and inferiority. When someone misses a party, vacation or other social event, he or she can feel a little less cool than those who showed up and snapped photos. In some cases, people are even afraid to miss out on bad stuff. FOMO is most common in people ages 18 to 33 — in one survey, two-thirds of people in this age group said they experience these fears. The survey also suggests FOMO is more common among guys than ladies, though it's unclear why.

Research suggests FOMO can take a negative toll on psychological health. Constant fear of missing events can cause anxiety and depression, especially for young people.

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