Oct 18, 2022 – This is just in: college students drink, do drugs, break the law.
Well, this is not exactly news. But here it is: Fear of missing out — dubbed FOMO in the age of social media — can predict these bad behaviors with surprising accuracy. Here’s what researchers from Southern Connecticut State University found in a A new study published in PLUS ONE.
After surveying 472 college students (ages 18-24), researchers found that students with higher levels of FOMO were more likely to engage in academic misconduct, drug and alcohol abuse, and law-breaking.
The research paper says that FOMO is “the chronic fear that one will miss out on the rewarding/pleasant experiences of one’s peers.” It’s most common between the ages of 18 and 34, but anyone can feel it — and most people (about 90%) have it.
“Nearly all of us experience FOMO with the hope of not engaging in any maladaptive, dangerous, or illegal behavior,” says Paul Mackey, a doctoral student in the Cognitive Neuroscience Admissions Program at Duke University and lead author of the study. “However, there is evidence, in this study and others, that those with higher levels of FOMO may be more likely to experience negative mental health consequences such as increased anxiety or depression, or engage in less desirable behaviors.”
Students in the study completed a 10-question test designed to assess FOMO levels. They were asked to rate the correctness of each of the following statements on a scale of 1 to 5:
1. I fear that others will have more rewarding experiences than I do.
2. I’m afraid my friends will have more rewarding experiences than me.
3. I get anxious when I find out that my friends are having fun without me.
4. I get anxious when I don’t know what my friends are up to.
5. It is important that I understand the “in jokes” of my friends.
6. Sometimes, I wonder if I’m spending too much time keeping up with what’s going on.
7. It annoys me when I miss meeting friends.
8. When I am having a good time, it is important for me to share the details online (such as the update status).
9. When I miss a planned meeting, it bothers me.
10. When I go on vacation, I keep following what my friends are doing.
The higher a student’s average FOMO score, the more likely they are to engage in poor behavior.
“The maladaptive behaviors were more likely for someone with 3 than for 2, but more likely for 4 than for 3,” Mackie says.
These included rudeness in the classroom (such as using your mobile phone during class), plagiarism, alcohol and drug use, theft, and giving illegal and prescription drugs. The associations remained even after controlling for gender, living status, and socio-economic status.
In the end, the researchers were able to use FOMO to predict whether a student will engage in academic misconduct with 87% accuracy, drug use with 78% accuracy, illegal behavior with 75% accuracy, and alcohol use with up to 73% accuracy.
This is impressive, especially when you consider that a short and simple examination—including the 10 questions above—can be all it takes to predict these behaviors, Mackey notes.
The new study fits previous search Which linked FOMO to negative outcomes such as anxiety disorders, sleep problems, and increased alcohol use.
Research also links FOMO to social media use.
“There is enough literature available today that shows strong evidence of a two-way relationship between FOMO and social media use,” Mackie says. In other words, “FOMO may lead to more social media use, but more social media use may also lead to FOMO.”
The researchers say more research is needed to better understand the relationship between FOMO and behavior. This can help us reduce its potential damage.