Psychology

Measure Your Fear of Missing Out with This Science-Backed Quiz

Social media has affected us all in ways we don't fully understand yet. It could be harming our memories or shortening our attention spans. It's linked to depression; it's also a way of masking depression and pretending everything is hunky-dory. One thing that's pretty well established, though, is that even a casual scroll through Instagram can fill us with pervasive dread, otherwise known as FOMO.

Related Video: How Search Engines Affect Your Memory

What Is FOMO?

FOMO stands for "fear of missing out." It's a relatively new term — by one account, it originated at Harvard Business School in the early 2000s — but at this point, it's ubiquitous, and it's not going away. It's been Oxford-Dictionaries-official since 2013 (just like "twerk").

It's no coincidence that FOMO and social media have risen to prominence at roughly the same time. Social media sparks awareness of all the most exciting things other people are up to, and using social media correlates "robustly" with FOMO, according to a 2013 study.

As the researchers put it: "On the upside, [social media platforms] provide a multitude of opportunities for interaction; on the downside, they often broadcast more options than can be pursued, given practical restrictions and limited time."

In other words, social media exposes us to multiple lifetimes-worth of music festivals, love stories, and photogenic feasts. This makes many people feel inadequate, hyper-aware of all the things they don't have the money or time to enjoy, and afraid they're not having cool enough experiences with the time and money they do have.

This makes social media sound like a real recipe for unhappiness. Yet according to the same study, people experiencing FOMO use social media almost compulsively, checking it during class and even while they drive. If you have to miss Burning Man, you have to at least stay up to date with what other people are doing at Burning Man — or so the FOMO logic goes.

In this way, FOMO can become a vicious cycle, constantly drawing people back to the very source of their FOMO. And it can have a substantial negative impact on some people's lives and mental health.

The Quiz

So what's your FOMO level? Find out by completing the Fear of Missing Out scale. Developed by an international team of psychology researchers, the scale is made up of 10 statements, like "When I go on vacation or take a trip, I like to keep tabs on what my friends are doing back home." You respond to each statement on a scale from "Not at all" to "All the time."

Other statements address other facets of FOMO. For instance, how do you feel when you miss a party? When your friends have inside jokes you don't get? Your final result will be a score between zero and 40, and a category: "Severe FOMO," "Medium FOMO," "At risk for FOMO," or "No FOMO."

Even if you score in the "Severe FOMO" range, don't stress too much. This is just an online questionnaire; your result isn't the same as a clinical diagnosis or a doctor's advice. It's just a starting point, a sign you might want to talk to a professional or reconsider your habits. There's no shame in getting sucked down an Instagram rabbit hole, as social media is addictive by design. But there's no shame in missing your friends' stories for a few days, either.

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Giving Twitter the side-eye? Maybe you'll want to read Jaron Lanier's "Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now." The audiobook is free on Audible (and bonus, it's a lot harder to take a #ThoughtfulThursday selfie with). We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Mae Rice October 4, 2018

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