Despite the growing popularity of social media and the increase in its usage among various populations, the effects and causes of the heavy engagement with social media have not been widely studied. Our research is based on examining the relationship between the fear of missing out and social media usage. As a result of previous literature review, two main hypotheses were outlined, each one relating to a different aspect of FoMO and social media engagement.
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The first hypothesis, for instance, is that the greater the number of social media platforms used regularly, the higher the level of FoMO a person will experience. This idea is mainly based on the increasing number of social media sites and platforms available to users all over the world. As noted by Hughes, Rowe, Batey, and Lee (2012), “All social networking sites facilitate online, social interaction, yet they do not all offer the exact same services or have the same focus” (p. 561). Indeed, there is a wide variety of social platforms today that compete for users by providing unique experiences and allowing to share different information. For instance, Twitter enables users to share short opinions and stories, whereas Facebook allows creating groups to interact with people who have similar interests. Instagram offers users to share photos and videos, whereas Periscope offers a service for long live streams. The act of sharing information, thus, becomes a multi-dimensional process where the choice of media platform depends on the type of information to be shared. Thus, a person who uses an entire variety of social media platforms each day will ultimately see more activities that others engage in than a person who only uses one social media site. Fear of missing out (FoMO) refers to the individual’s anxiety related to missing out on experiences that others are having (Hetz, Dawson, & Cullen, 2015). Therefore, it is possible to assume that seeing more aspects of other people’s lives will lead to a higher level of FoMO, as it will mean seeing more missed experiences and communication opportunities.
The second hypothesis, on the other hand, is that the lower the proportion of their social media contacts that individuals have met in person, the lower the level of FoMO those individuals will experience. FoMO is a social term and, according to most of the definitions, it refers to the experiences that the person’s real-life friends are having. Moreover, social media sites are primarily driven by the desire to maintain a close connection to friends and family members (Alt 2015). One of the studies that can be used to support this hypothesis is the study by Heitz et al. (2015), which examines the use of social media by people who are studying abroad. The research showed that international students’ usage of social media increases when they are away from home (Heitz et al., 2015). Moreover, researchers claim that the goal behind using social networks was different when the subjects were in other countries: “While in the United States, students used social media to pass time and alleviate boredom. […] While abroad, on the other hand, students used social media to communicate with their friends and family back home” (Heitz et al., 2015, p. 265). These findings show how social networking are used to promote the feeling of connectedness between the real-life acquaintances, thus supporting the hypothesis that the FoMO increases when social media users see more people they know personally in their feed.
Overall, the study of the two hypotheses can provide a deeper understanding of the FoMO and its relation to social media usage, thus allowing for further development of the concept in research.
Alt, D. (2015). College students’ academic motivation, media engagement and fear of missing out. Computers in Human Behavior, 49(3), 111–119.
Hetz, P. R., Dawson, C. L., & Cullen, T. A. (2015). Social media use and the fear of missing out (FoMO) while studying abroad. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 47(4), 259-272.
Hughes, D. J., Rowe, M., Batey, M., & Lee, A. (2012). A tale of two sites: Twitter vs. Facebook and the personality predictors of social media usage. Computers in Human Behavior, 28(2), 561–569.