FOMO and the Consumer: Two Essays Examining an Antecedent and a Consequence of Fear of Missing Out

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2021-05

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Abstract

#FOMO is commonplace across social networking sites, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The fear of missing out (also known as FOMO) has been given various definitions by authors in popular culture (e.g., Kiander 2020; Scott 2020). In academia, however, the most prevalently used definition of FOMO is from Przybylski and colleagues (2013, p. 1841), who defined it as the “pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent” and characterized it as “the desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing.” Although both market surveys and academic research have concurred that FOMO is a ubiquitous social phenomenon, they have yielded only correlational results. In addition, current empirical studies of FOMO come from social psychology, human-computer interaction, and cyberpsychology, hence they provide limited practical implications for marketing and consumer behavior. This dissertation thus seeks to address those research gaps in the following ways. First, my research adopts a social identity lens to study an antecedent and a consequence of experiencing FOMO in consumer-centric contexts. Second, the use of the experimental method to manipulate FOMO (measured as incidental FOMO) helps to establish causal relationships. My current work thus contributes to both consumer research and the FOMO literature. In Essay 1, I study how online reminders of social identity influence consumers’ FOMO experience. Building on FOMO and social identity literature, I hypothesize that when reminders of social identity are present (vs. absent) in social networking event posts, consumers are likelier to experience greater levels of FOMO toward the target event. This main effect is replicated across a variety of scenarios, such as a local crawfish event and volunteering with a nonprofit. My findings also suggest that the experience of FOMO influences consumers’ interest in and word of mouth for that target event. Furthermore, my research draws upon regulatory focus theory to test the moderating role that promotion focus (vs. prevention focus) has on the relationship between social identity reminders and state FOMO. Through careful experimental design, I rule out alternative explanations such as inherent consumer interest in the event and the mere desire to spend time with friends. Essay 2 draws upon past research from a variety of literature, including FOMO, social identity, and endowment effect, to test the idea that greater valuation of identity-linked products is a consequence of experiencing incidental FOMO. Across a series of scenario-based studies, my results suggest that consumers experiencing high (vs. low) FOMO report higher valuation of identity-linked products such as university-branded keychains, mugs, and backpacks. Specifically, the effect of FOMO on those valuations is sequentially driven by associative motivation and possession-self link for identity-linked products. My results also indicate that collective self-esteem positively moderates the relationship between FOMO and associative motivation. Finally, I rule out alternative explanations such as post-decision regret, social exclusion, and perceived self-threat.

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Keywords

FOMO, Fear of missing out, Social identity, Identity-linked product

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