Fear of missing out, or FOMO, has come to represent a lot of what ails us in an increasingly connected, digital world — but although it’s often somewhat nebulous as a concept, it turns out that there’s actually a science-backed test that can tell you if you have FOMO. It’s called the fear of missing out scale, and because I derive a strange sense of enjoyment from using myself as a guinea pig for online personality tests, I decided to give it a shot and share my results with the internet. Here’s how it went.
First, a little background: In 2013, researchers at the University of Essex began looking into ways to measure the relatively recent phenomenon of FOMO. Led by Dr. Andy Pryzbylski, the research team first drafted 32 items drawn from both popular and industry writing on FOMO which reflected the “fears, worries, and anxieties people have in relation to being in (or out of) touch with the events, experiences, and conversations happening across their extended social circles.” Then they recruited 672 men and 341 women between the ages of 18 and 62 through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk marketplace and instructed them to complete first basic demographic questions, then answer the 32 candidate items. Participants ranked each item on a five-point scale, with one equaling “not at all true of me” and five equaling “extremely true of me.” The results allowed the researchers to narrow down the candidate list to 10 items that accurately measure “low, moderate, and high levels of fear of missing out construct as an individual difference.” They dubbed these 10 items the "fear of missing out scale."
(The full paper detailing this research is available to read online for free, by the way; it’s super interesting, so check it out here.)
The FOMO scale is available at a few places online; I found the most accessible one to be on Psych Central, so for the purposes of today’s experiment, that’s what I’ll be using. It’s worth noting before we begin that online tests should never be used to self-diagnose yourself with any sort of condition, whether we’re talking about mental health or physical health; if you're concerned about something, definitely go talk to a medical pro. That’s where all diagnoses should come from — not the internet.
For the curious, though, here’s what happened when I took the FOMO scale online. Ready? Here we go.
As is the case for all of Psych Central’s quizzes and tests, this one starts by asking for my demographic information. So… that’s me. Hi, everyone. Nice to meet you.
Then the quiz proceeded to ask me questions about things like…
1. How Actively I Keep Up With The Joneses
Nope. Too busy doing other things for that.
2. What Happens When I Go On Vacation
I go on vacation to get away from everything, so… definitely not.
3. How I Feel About Missing Get-Togethers
This is where I start to get a little conflicted. I suffer from a little bit of social anxiety, so sometimes it’s difficult for me to actually make myself go to get-togethers in the first place; however, I usually enjoy them while I’m there, and sometimes I feel like I missed something important if I didn’t manage to get myself there. I’m kind of like Randal Graves in that respect: I hate people, but I love gatherings. Isn't it ironic? Generally, my level of FOMO in these situations depends on whether or not I’ve witnessed any photos or posts about the get-together on social media, though, so do with that what you will.
4. How I Feel About Other People’s Experiences
Kind of, but that’s probably less about FOMO for me and more indicative of imposter syndrome.
5. How I Use Social Media
Given that my social media posting appears, at most, once every couple of weeks, nope.
This, apparently, means that I do not have FOMO. Like, at all. For the curious, here’s what the scale itself is like:
Once upon a time, I was probably a little more plagued by FOMO than I am now; as I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve realized that I’m actually a relatively solitary person and that it’s more important to me to have a few really strong relationships than a ton of acquaintances. Additionally, I’m pretty sure that my few FOMO-y symptoms are actually indicative of other things — as I mentioned, imposter syndrome is something that still periodically plagues me, although I’m working on it. It's a process.
Speaking of “working on it,” FOMO is another one of those things that you can work on if it’s really bothering you. Talking to a mental health professional is pretty much always a good idea; they can help you figure out what the root of your insecurities might be and help you develop strategies for coping with them. There are also a number of habits you can enact in your daily life that might help provide the kind of shift in thinking that will alleviate FOMO.
And hey, you know what? You’re awesome, whether you’re hanging out with your friends or just chilling on your own. Don’t ever forget that.