Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fear you're missing out? You're not alone

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HAVE you heard about FOMO -- "fear of missing out"? Most common among the under-30 crowd, it happens when someone feels nervous about not attending social events, like that awesome party everyone else enjoyed last weekend.

People have always been concerned about their social standing, but the explosion of social media has made FOMO a bigger issue for everyone from middle-schoolers newly toting smartphones to adults. Now researchers have developed a quiz to test just how fearful people are about missing out.

Among the questions the FOMO quiz asks are how often someone checks social media and how worried he or she feels when friends are hanging out without them. As the intro to the quiz puts it, "FOMO... is a relatively new concept where people are concerned that others may be having more fun and rewarding experiences than them. It is characterized as the desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing."

FOMO is often associated with a perceived low social rank, which can cause feelings of anxiety and inferiority. When someone misses a party, vacation or other social event, he or she can feel a little less cool than those who showed up and snapped photos. In some cases, people are even afraid to miss out on bad stuff. FOMO is most common in people ages 18 to 33 -- in one survey, two-thirds of people in this age group said they experience these fears. The survey also suggests FOMO is more common among guys than ladies, though it's unclear why.

Research suggests FOMO can take a negative toll on psychological health. Constant fear of missing events can cause anxiety and depression, especially for young people.

Psychologists say fears about missing out may be a type of cognitive distortion, causing irrational thoughts -- such as believing friends hate you if you didn't get an invite to last week's party -- associated with depression. For people prone to such thoughts, modern technology may just exacerbate their fears about missing out. So experts say unplugging all those gadgets might not solve the problem as well as engaging in cognitive behavioral therapy or another kind of talk therapy might.

-- The Washington Post

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 13, 2013 D6

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