FOMO – aka the “fear of missing out” – can have a positive impact on well-being when it leads to social media use that increases social connections, according to a new Baylor University study.
James A. Roberts, Ph.D., The Ben H. Williams Professor of Marketing, and Meredith David, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business in Waco Texas, coauthored the study, “The Social Media Party: Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), Social Media Intensity, Connection, and Well-Being,” published in the International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction.
Roberts and David collaborate often and are nationally recognized experts on the effects of technology and social media on relationships and well-being.
For this collaboration, the researchers conducted two studies consisting of 565 college students from a large U.S. university to determine the effect FOMO has on social media use, social connection to others and psychological well-being. FOMO is defined in the study as apprehension that others might be having a rewarding experience from which one is absent. According to Roberts, approximately 75% of young adults struggle with FOMO.
“The human need to belong is an innate drive that dictates much of our behavior. Social media capitalizes on this need to belong,” Roberts said. “Social media has a dual nature. It lets us interact with others, which is good, but it also exposes us to more social opportunities than we can take part in that fosters a sense of missing out and inadequacy.”
The study found:
• FOMO is a significant predictor of subjective well-being, and social media intensity had a slight significant effect on well-being.
• Social media is an omnipresent conduit for attempting to make such connections.
• It is likely that FOMO encourages the use of social media to stay connected.
From the first study of 107 college students, David and Roberts gathered data to measure FOMO, social media intensity and social connection. Although FOMO typically has a negative connotation on social interactions, the study showed that the fear of missing out can lead to greater feelings of social connection.
“We found that FOMO might actually have a positive impact on social connection through its impact on social media intensity and attachment,” Roberts said. “FOMO drives our use of social media to connect socially with others. Being socially connected leads to happier people.”
The second study of 458 college students used the same measures, but also included an assessment on subjective well-being (happiness). The study tested their complete conceptual model in which subjective well-being is an ultimate outcome of FOMO (through its impact on social media intensity and social connection).
Roberts said that social media can be a positive resource to help those with FOMO create social interactions, if it is being used actively through online actions such as posting, liking and commenting.
“The problem is that people often turn to social media but use it passively – such as creeping on people or viewing pages without interacting – which can then lead to lower levels of happiness because creeping does not foster social connection,” Roberts said. “FOMO can lead to happier people if it drives people to use social media to connect but not simply to ‘creep’ on others.”