While college-aged teens will get the blame for breaking quarantine in order to not miss out on the new school year’s parties, a new study found that age doesn’t factor into FOMO, but three cogs of self-perception — loneliness, low self-esteem, and low self-compassion — were the reasons for causing FOMO.
The study, conducted by researchers from Washington State University and published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, interviewed more than 400 people across the US and asked them questions about their self-worth, life satisfaction, and social media use.
Millennials and Gen Zers often get associated with FOMO due to their reliance on social media, but researchers from Washington State University said that social media alone wasn’t a good measure of FOMO. The reasoning is social media can create different appetites for how we view things and that can vary depending on who is looking at a piece of content.
“We’re not all equally prone to the Fear of Missing Out, but for those who are, social media can exacerbate it,” Washington State University psychology professor Chris Barry said in a statement. “Social media allows you to witness what other people are doing and what’s going on in their lives. If there’s already concern about missing out, then there will be distress at seeing that on social media.”
Obviously, taking a break from social media or stepping away from it entirely would help squash FOMO, but that’s easier said than done.
Barry and researchers did not that FOMO is not an “overwhelming social anxiety” because it did not relate to someone’s life satisfaction.
“FoMO is not an adolescent or young adult problem, necessarily. It’s really about individual differences, irrespective of age,” Barry said. “We expected FoMO to be higher in younger age groups, particularly because of the tremendous amount of social development happening at those times, but that’s not what we found.”
In the COVID-19 age, FOMO could be one of the factors for why the virus continues to linger — and it’s impacting people of all ages, argues Anita Kanti, author of Behaving Bravely: How to Mindshift Life’s Challenges.
“It’s clear that regardless of age, many people are experiencing the ‘Fear of Missing Out’ and I believe that it’s one of the reasons we are seeing young college adults willing to risk contracting COVID-19 to attend parties,” Kanti said. “We’re also seeing older people who don’t want to miss out on birthday parties, weddings, or vacations… FOMO definitely impacts people of all ages, and I’m glad the research is catching up to this fact.”
For those struggling with FOMO, Barry suggested reaching out to others in order to help isolation.
“To do something about FoMO, individuals can foster a greater sense of real connectedness to others which will lessen feelings of isolation. You can also try being more in the moment, concentrating on what is in front of you as opposed to focusing on what else is going on out there,” he said.