FOMO

FOMO is an acronym for Fear Of Missing Out, which is a feeling of envy or anxiety over missing out or being out of touch with events, experiences, or interactions. The phrase-turned-acronym has become so widely used and popular that Oxford and Merriam-Webster added it to their dictionaries as an officially defined word.


This article was reviewed and updated in January 2022 by Amanda Scheldt.

What is FOMO?

While originating from the fear of missing out, the term has taken on additional connotations. FOMO is the fear of not being included in an exciting or enjoyable activity or event that others are experiencing and sharing. People often don’t want to feel as if opportunities or events pass them by in life.

Patrick McGinnis first created the term in 2004, in which FOMO became a term that has taken greater cultural precedence with the rise of social media. The psychological problem with FOMO is it can increase a person’s stress and anxiety while also negatively impacting a person’s self-esteem. If a person perceives that they are missing out on opportunities, events, or things, they may see a negative impact on their mental health and self-esteem, believing others are experiencing more joy in their lives.

Those experiencing the phenomenon don’t know what they’re missing most of the time, but they worry others are having fun without them. This feeling of missing out on something has been around for centuries but wasn’t formally identified until 1996 by a marketing strategist.

Patrick McGinnis coined the term in 2004, in which FOMO became a term that has taken greater cultural precedence with the rise of social media. It stems from self-determination theory, which is the motivation behind decision-making without external influences. It’s caused by situational or long-term deficits in psychological needs of satisfaction, similar to the concept of “Keeping Up with the Joneses.” With people’s lives being widely documented and shared online, this phenomenon has been amplified. Social media is a feeding ground for FOMO since users only share highlights or positive experiences.

The psychological problem with FOMO is it can increase a person’s stress and anxiety while also negatively impacting their self-esteem. If a person perceives that they are missing out on opportunities, events, or things, they may see a negative impact on their mental health and self-esteem, believing others are experiencing more joy in their lives.

Social media and FOMO

The rise of smartphones and social media has played a critical role in the impact of FOMO on individuals. Nowadays, everyone is online or on their phones, mainly on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, which encourage people to share their lives with others on their friends or followers list. 

From there, social media has primarily become an illusion of most people’s lives, with the majority of people aiming only to share their joyous moments. The more social media has grown, the more FOMO that many younger individuals may possess. 

Furthermore, many social media platforms began selling ads on their websites to generate more substantial revenue due to their free user signups. Companies, marketers, and advertising agencies began utilizing these ads to large audiences to sell their products to services. These ads have created a greater sense of FOMO for people leveraging it to sell their goods.

Effects of FOMO

FOMO creates a psychological dependence on social media sites and an increase of site usage. Users will obsessively refresh their newsfeed to attempt to catch up on a missed event and will start to feel overwhelmed with the compulsion to constantly check their social media to avoid experiencing FOMO. Psychological health and well being are negatively impacted by FOMO, as well as long-term goals, perceptions, mood, life satisfaction, self-esteem, and mindfulness. FOMO can also cause significant stress, which is the host of a multitude of physical health problems.

How to get over FOMO

Social media can be overwhelming for many, especially with increased feelings of unhappiness, in which fear of missing out can lead to greater involvement in unhealthy behaviors. When we more actively engage in social media and the FOMO it can create, we actively allow it to continue. However, there are ways to take to mitigate FOMO. 

  • Create real in-person connections with others. 
  • Alter your focus and attention away from a feed that creates FOMO triggers.
  • Embrace a social media detox and disconnect from social media apps. 
  • Utilize a journal to increase personal admiration rather than public validation.
  • Shift your attention to having more gratitude in your life.
Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal is a freelance business and technology writer covering Internet technologies and online business since the late '90s.

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