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Fear of missing out: prevalence, dynamics, and consequences of experiencing FOMO


Fear of missing out, known colloquially as FOMO, appears to be a common experience, and has recently become part of the vernacular, receiving frequent mentions in the popular media. The present paper provides a multi-method empirical examination of FOMO. In a first study, experience sampling was used to assess FOMO experiences among college freshmen. Nightly diaries and end-of-semester measures provided data on the short and long-term consequences of experiencing FOMO. Results showed that students experience FOMO frequently, particularly later in the day and later in the week, and while doing a required task like studying or working. More frequent experiences of FOMO were associated with negative outcomes both daily and over the course of the semester, including increasing negative affect, fatigue, stress, physical symptoms, and decreased sleep. A second experimental study investigated FOMO on a conceptual level, distinguishing FOMO from general self-regulation and exploring its links with social media.

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  1. 1.

    Other research with this sample has examined the effects of momentary temptation, self-control, and ego-depletion on goal progress (Milyavskaya and Inzlicht 2017), goal motivation, desire and self-control (Milyavskaya et al. 2015), goal aspirational content, goal progress, and vitality (Hope et al. 2016), trait self-compassion (Hope et al. 2014), and perfectionism (Harvey et al. 2015). None of the other studies have examined fear of missing out, and there is no overlap between the content and the hypotheses of the present study and the other studies that have used this sample.

  2. 2.

    Participants also completed a mid-semester online questionnaire and a second round of experience sampling data collection in the second half of the semester; however, because of technical difficulties with the signal distribution platform, many of the signals did not go out at the correct time, resulting in completion of less than 50% of the intended signals; this data was thus not used.

  3. 3.

    Additional data was collected at each signal (including desires, goal conflict, and psychological need satisfaction) but is not relevant to the current paper. A list of all collected measures in this study can be found at

  4. 4.

    There were no difference by gender in the experiencing of FOMO, and gender did not influence any of the other analyses so will not be discussed further.

  5. 5.

    Activities were coded into categories by six independent raters. In order to assess inter-rater reliability, each of the raters coded the same 200 activities as two other raters. The Kappa values for inter-rater reliability ranged from 0.83 to 0.91. The remaining 3097 activities were distributed equally amongst the six raters and coded independently.

  6. 6.

    As part of the larger data collection, participants completed other personality measures, including behavioral inhibition and behavioral activation (BIS/BAS; Carver and White 1994), self-control (Tangney et al. 2004), and self-criticism and perfectionism (Powers et al. 2012). Supplementary analyses showed that these were all unrelated to FOMO, except for the BIS, which had a small positive correlation (r = .17, p = .05).

  7. 7.

    Effects of condition on affect, distraction, focus, and regret were similar to the effects on FOMO so we do not report them here.

  8. 8.

    We thank an anonymous reviewer for raising this possibility.


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This research was supported by a grant to Richard Koestner from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and the Fonds de Recherche du Québec - Société et culture (FQRSC-Quebec). Marina Milyavskaya was supported by a fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

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Correspondence to Marina Milyavskaya.



See Table 3.

Table 3 Scenarios used in Study 2

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Milyavskaya, M., Saffran, M., Hope, N. et al. Fear of missing out: prevalence, dynamics, and consequences of experiencing FOMO. Motiv Emot 42, 725–737 (2018).

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  • Fear of missing out
  • Experience sampling method
  • Well-being
  • Self-regulation