B1+ Reading Test

Read the text about the Fear of Missing Out, and for questions 1 to 10, choose the correct option.

Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO)

We’ve all felt it: that uncomfortable feeling when you scroll through your social media feed and see photos of friends having a better time than you, or that sensation when you read about a friend’s amazing job that you chose the wrong life path. This feeling is called FOMO, or fear of missing out.

The term was first coined in 1996 by Marketing Strategist Dr. Dan Herman. While listening to consumers in focus groups and interviews, he observed that many consumers mentioned a fear of missing out on opportunities which could bring them pleasure. Later, in 2004, Patrick McGinnis, a student at Harvard Business School, co-edited an article about the growing trend among his peers of being unable to commit to anything, even something as simple as booking a restaurant, for fear that they would miss out on something more exciting happening elsewhere.

Although people have felt FOMO for time immemorial, the growth of social media seems to have exacerbated the phenomenon. For many, it has now become habit to compare your life with others’ lives – or rather the highlights of their lives; something that previous generations could not do so readily. This skews your sense of normal and brings about feelings like resentment, envy and dissatisfaction. What’s more, marketers have seized on FOMO psychology as a means to drive sales. Sales that last a limited time, low stock availability notifications and pop-ups that show other people buying all tap into our FOMO.

Since the FOMO phenomenon was recognised, it has been increasingly studied by scientists eager to discover its trends and impacts. Scientists at Carleton and McGill University, for example, found that, surprisingly, traits like neuroticism and extroversion did not lead to a greater incidence of FOMO. They did, however, discover that negative FOMO feelings were experienced more often towards the end of the day and at the end of the week and that FOMO was experienced more by people carrying out obligatory work, like jobs and study.

This is not to say that people only experience FOMO when engaged in a mundane activity. In a follow-up study, researchers found that participants who specifically selected one activity over another experienced FOMO when reminded about the alternative activity, even if their chosen activity was sociable and enjoyable, and if the alternative was unsociable. Moreover, they experienced FOMO whether they were reminded about the alternative through social media or in conversation.

Interestingly, although FOMO is widely associated with teenagers and young adults and those who use social media, research has found that people of all ages experience it, irrespective of their social media use. Researchers at Washington State University, found that it is more closely linked to factors like loneliness and low self-esteem. However, for those people, social media can exacerbate the problem.

Some psychologists recognise an upside to FOMO, saying that it can motivate you to take action, connect with others and get out of your comfort zone. More often than not, though, FOMO leads to increasing isolation and even FOJI, fear of joining in, in the belief that your own insights or contributions will not be valued.

A rising counter-culture to FOMO, though, is JOMO – the joy of missing out. This includes the pleasure and satisfaction of a night in, doing what you enjoy best, turning off your phone notifications and living in the moment, focusing not on what you lack but on what you have.


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1 The term FOMO was first used...
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