Stamell first proposed the concept of “Fear of Missing Out” on The Huffington Post in 2002. Since then, many related discussions have been carried out, but most of them are published on non-academic journals. Until 2013, A.k.Przybylski (2013) defined the concept of FoMO in an academic sense. The “Fear of Missing Out” refers to “a widespread anxiety that occurs when an individual fails to get what he wants to know in his absence is mainly manifested in the desire to continue to know what others are doing.". Lai (2016) studied FoMO symptom of 26 healthy adults by using a scale developed by A.K. Przybylski et al. and event-related potential technique (ERP). The results showed that people with high levels of FoMO have more active brain, and are more sensitive to the clues to information about social inclusion. They are also more eager to be acknowledged by others. These traits make their attention more easily attracted by the positive interaction among others, and they are more inclined to gain the acknowledgments from others through social media, which leads to more frequent use of social media. As P. Abel said, FoMO reflects users' emotional experience such as anxiety when using social media (Reagle, 2015). Therefore, anxiety is the basis of FoMO. Anxiety is a temporary uneasiness caused by a particular situation, mainly manifested in the form of a state anxiety (Dossey, 2014). When users login in mobile social media, their moods of anxiety and discomfort will deteriorate (Buglass, Binder, & Betts, 2017). It is the FoMO that caused the worsen anxiety (Wegmann, Oberst, Stodt, & Brand, 2017).
The impact of FoMO on mobile social media users is the main concern of academics (Dorit, 2015). Holly's research shows that FoMO has a negative impact on users' subjective well-being such as emotions, physical and interpersonal relationships (Stead & Bibby, 2017). Several studies demonstrate a high degree of FoMO is significantly correlated to time spent on social media and negative emotions like depression and anxiety, low life satisfaction, low social ability and low interpersonal relationships (Baker, Krieger, & LeRoy, 2016; Elhai, Levine, Dvorak, & Hall, 2016; Oberst, Wegmann, Stodt, Brand, & Chamarro, 2017). It is found that the previous researches on the FoMO and its impacts on users focus on the individual psychological level. The anxiety is regarded as a psychological process, the core element of which is the psychological expectation of uncertainty about the interaction with specific environment, including the individual's perceived psychology (such as fear) and physiological response, is a typical negative emotion (Li, 2016). However, whether FoMO is a mental illness or a compulsive or uncontrolled behavior needs more discussion? Zhao et al. (2017; 2017) pointed out that the traditional definition of FoMO concept focuses more on the ubiquitous social environment and the psychological traits of users. They instead define and discuss the concept of FoMO as an information behavior. Existing research has ignored the different FoMO characteristics of different age users groups. To this end, Ye et al. employed in-depth interviews and event analysis methods to extract the key characteristics of adolescent users' FoMO from five dimensions: situation, purpose, behavior, results and psychology, and considered that FoMO is composed of people's subconscious or psychological anxiety and a set of specific actions, action outcomes and psychological characteristics caused by anxiety. They defined FoMO as users’ information behavior and the consequent results and psychological influence in the context of mobile social media in order to alleviate the anxiety caused by their desire to maintain constant contact with the outside world (Ye& Li, 2018). On this basis, Ye et al. developed a FoMO measurement scale for college students consisting of 30 items of four dimensions: contextual characteristics, behavioral characteristics, outcome characteristics and psychological characteristics. These studies make up for the lack of attention to the special user groups in previous studies (Ye&Li, 2019). FoMO is not regarded as mental disorders anymore but as subconscious, compulsive habits of users.
Most existing researches on the impact of FoMO on romantic relationship concentrate on psychological issues. For example, the usage of mobile social media has a negative impact on romantic relationship (Utz & Beukeboom, 2011), which will lead to tension and conflict between lovers (Fox & Moreland, 2015). FoMO has a negative effect on the subjective well-being of users, especially on individual sentiment and emotional relationships (Stead & Bibby, 2017). Kross et al. (2013) surveyed Facebook users and found that with the increasing frequency of social media usage, users' subjective well-being, including affective well-being and cognitive well-being, showed a significant downward trend. Przybylski also suggested that FoMO can be used as a predictor to mediate the relationship between different levels of happiness (including psychological needs, emotional state, and emotional satisfaction) and mobile social media usage (Przybylski et al., 2013). Beyens (2016) believes that users with higher levels of FoMO tend to replace face-to-face interpersonal interactions with social media communication, which increases the user's loneliness and even the estrangement. This does harm to the psychological intimacy with their lovers in the romantic relationship.
According to the theory of cognitive representations of romantic relationships, the intrinsic representation of romantic relationship is mainly manifested by individual’s cognition, emotion and behavior (Furman & Simon, 1999). Therefore, it is not sufficient to explore the anxiety effect of the user induced by FoMO on the psychological level. It is necessary to further explore the influence of the compulsive social media usage behavior of users triggered by FoMO on their romantic relationship. Relevant research shows that users who have heavily used mobile phones have a certain degree of "Alexithymia" (Billieux, Van der Linden, & Rochat, 2008),which can lead to an inability to accurately understand each partner’s behavior in offline romantic relationships. In addition, frequent switch between various intelligent terminals inevitably cause distraction of users (Hao et al., 2019; Mei, Xu, Gao, Ren, & Li, 2018; Wardecker, Chopik, Boyer, & Edelstein, 2016).
The romantic relationship refers to the love relationship between unmarried spouses. Its three core elements are emotional communication, needs satisfaction and mutual dependence (Wen, Jingjing, Ruizhen, & Fengjie, 2014). Specifically, in this study, post-90s generation’s romantic relationship refers to a mutually recognized, strong emotional connection and interaction that lasts for a period of time, which makes the lover's cognitive, emotional, and behavioral characteristics different from other relationships (like peer relationships) (Liu, 2017). This paper will study the emotional, cognitive and behavioral manifestations of FoMO (Song, Zhao& Zhang, 2017) from the perspectives of psychology and behavioral science, and analyze their impact on the romantic relationship of post-90s mobile users.
Traditional psychology theory holds that anxious individuals are prone to have multiple cognitive and evaluation obstacles, such as misinterpretation of risk factors in the situation and issue false alarms, which lead to their inabilities to systematically process relevant information and then affect their rational judgments (Dhir, Yossatorn, Kaur, & Chen, 2018). Thus, anxiety can result in a decline in the cognitive ability of the user, and insufficient regulation and control of emotions and attention (Becker et al., 2013). Cognitive manifestation of FoMO mainly includes anxiety. Zhao et al. (2017) suggested that we cannot simply define FoMO as a pathological symptom, but should analyze its behavioral characteristics and manifestation from the cognitive perspective. Individuals with FoMO cognitively tend to give priority to threat information in a romantic relationship, and they are accustomed to produce distorted self-recognition of romantic relationship. Moreover, cognitive manifestations of FoMO can cause negative attention bias, which has a negative effect on the relationship and its development. Therefore, we propose that:
H1: Cognitive manifestation of FoMO has a significantly negative impacts on post-90s generation’s romantic relationship.
Secondly, in the romantic relationship, whether emotional feedback is positive or negative matters. FoMO leads to negative emotions (Beyens et al., 2016). This kind of emotional state can reduce individual's satisfaction with the relationship, and even lead to the user's psychological dissonance, which is not conducive to the formation of harmonious romantic relationship. However the positive and stable emotional state helps the improvement of subjective well-being (Stead & Bibby, 2017), and enables the individual to better understand the emotional state of the romantic partner, thus facilitating the development of a good intimate relationship. Based on this, we propose that:
H2: Emotional manifestation of FoMO has a significantly negative effects on post-90s generation’s romantic relationship.
In addition to subjective psychological experience, FoMO is often accompanied by pertinent behavioral manifestation. Neo-behaviorism psychology puts forward that it is possible to speculate on the internal process of the individual through explicit observable behavior (Ye, 1992). This viewpoint to some extent bridges the cognitive psychology and behavioral psychology. Research results show that when users play mobile social media, the gain of individual subjective well-being is driven not only by personal traits, but also by behavioral patterns (Chen, 2006). In the context of mobile social media, post 90 generation users are used to speaking with lovers online through words, images and symbols, while they have a certain degree of alexithymia obstacles in their offline love contacts; They lack of the ability to identify and describe emotions, and are unable to transform emotional ability into action ability, which directly affect the quality of romantic interaction (Chen, 2018). In addition, users with a high level of FoMO are more likely to demonstrate a high level of commitment to compulsive usage of social media (Wolniewicz, Tiamiyu, Weeks, & Elhai, 2018). High frequency of mobile information behavior related to their daily studies and lives makes them unable to be "full of love" in love interactions, which will lead to the lover's inability to meet the required sense of security or "possession" and seriously affects the subjective evaluation of the love relationship satisfaction. It is quite difficult to maintain the relationship in such situation. Based on this, we propose that:
H3: Behavioral manifestation of FoMO has a significantly negative effects on post-90s generation’s romantic relationship.
Research Design and Method
Questionnaire design and scale construction
This paper employed the method of the questionnaire survey to collect data. All experiments were performed in accordance with relevant guidelines and regulations in Chinese academia. In addition, all methods were carried out in accordance with relevant guidelines and regulations in Chinese academia. All methods and experimental protocols, including any relevant details, were approved by Tianjin Normal University. The informed consent was obtained from all subjects.
As for the scale design, in order to measure the FoMO, we constructed the FoMO Measurement Scale, which was mainly based on the FoMO measurement scales developed by Zhao et. al. (2017) and Song, et al. (2017) and Zung’s Self-Rating Anxiety Scale (SAS). The three independent variables of FoMO are distinct with each other. We revised some items according to the mobile social media scenario. Some measurement items in the scale "When there is news about other people on mobile social media, I will immediately notice", "I always check mobile social media from time to time to avoid missing news updates" and "I hope to learn more news about others through mobile social media" are derived from Song, et al. (2017)’s study; Some measurement items "I often chat with my friends on mobile social media when talking to my romantic partner" and "Sometimes if not chatting or browsing on mobile social media, I don't know what I should do" were from the information anxiety scale (Cao,Wang&Mei, 2001). We used post-90s generation’s romantic relationship as the dependent variable. To measure it, we employed the The Love Crisis Sensing Measurement Scale in the questionnaire, which is based on the simplified version of the Experiences in Close Relationship Scale (ECR)-Short Form, ECR-S ) (Wang&Chen, 2013).
After developing the initial scale, we conducted pre-survey and distributed questionnaires to three undergraduate students, three master students and two PhD candidates who were accustomed to using mobile social media and are in love (unmarried), and asked them to give feedback on the linguistic expressions (concise, unambiguous, etc.) and meanings of the items in the questionnaire. We further revised the questionnaire items according to their feed-backs to form the final FoMO Measurement Scale, as shown in Table 1.
When mobile social media displays a message reminder about the person I care about, my heart beats faster.
Even if I don’t use social media to chat with others for a long time or check the updates on it, I can be in normal state.
Sometimes if not chatting or browsing on social media, I don’t know what I should do.
If I talk to my romantic partner, at night and he/she suddenly stops chatting, it will be difficult for me to sleep.
Sometimes I have nightmares about missing important information on mobile social media.
I often chat with friends on mobile social media when talking to my romantic partner.
When there is news about my romantic partner on social media, I will immediately notice.
I always check mobile social media from time to time to avoid missing news updates.
When I see others are happy when using social media and I’m not there, I’ll feel lost.
I’ll be nervous and worried if I miss a call appointed on a mobile social media before.
I worry when I miss some important news on mobile social media.
I will be upset if my romantic partner does not give me a response or a like on social media.
If I am in a " disconnected state", I can’t endure it.
If I fail to respond to some message in time, I will be afraid of being misunderstood by my romantic partner.
I will spend a lot of efforts and time on browsing news about other people on mobile social media, which makes me feel fatigue.
I hope to learn more about others through mobile social media.
Because I often hang around on mobile social media, so it's hard for me to concentrate on other things.
I am sensitive to whether my romantic partner can respond to me in time.
Sample and scoring method description
The formal questionnaire survey was conducted that both online and offline. The survey time is from December 10 to December 25, 2017. The subjects of the questionnaire are post-90s mobile social media users who are in love for at least one year and unmarried. Online questionnaires were distributed mainly by sending questionnaires to college students in a metropolitan university in China. It ensured actual subjects met the requirement of the target group. We distributed paper-based questionnaires to students of the same university (including undergraduate and graduate students) who are accustomed to using mobile social media and are in love and unmarried. $5 rewards were given to each of those who participated in this survey.
We totally collected 312 surveys, including 259 online ones, and 53 offline ones. 38 questionnaires with missing data were excluded, and 274 valid questionnaires were obtained. In order to better carry out data analysis, we re-encoded the data of number 10, 26, 29, 31, 32, 34, 35 reverse-scoring items are re-encoded; 1 was encoded into 7, 2 into 6, 3 into 5, 4 remained unchanged. Among the subjects, 133 are males and 141 are females. 23% of subjects’ age is within 18–20 years old. 36% within 20–23 years old. 41% is within 23–25 years old. The rest are older than 25 years old.
In order to analyze the reliability of the data of this survey, a reliability analysis was conducted on 274 valid questionnaires collected. We used Cronbach's Alpha coefficients to test the internal reliability of the scale. The data showed that the Cronbach's Alpha coefficient of the surveyed respondent's FoMO Measurement Scale and the Romantic Relationship Measurement Scale was 0.8, and the Cronbach's Alpha value based on the standardized term was 0.777, both of which were higher. Therefore, it is inferred that the reliability of this questionnaire is good and has a high internal consistency.