Fear of missing out on fun ‘drives students to plagiarism’

Researcher encourages universities to talk openly about Fomo and the risk it poses to young students

October 5, 2022
Teenage Girl Closing Lid Of Laptop
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Students who fear missing out on fun experiences are more likely to commit plagiarism, break the law and take illegal drugs, according to a US study.

Author Paul McKee and colleagues at Southern Connecticut State University argue that the findings could be used by counsellors to better help first-year students adapt to university life.

The paper, published in the open-access journal Plos One, found that the degree to which a student experiences a fear of missing out (Fomo) is associated with their risk of participating in “maladaptive behaviours”, stopping them from adapting to new or difficult circumstances.

Almost 500 students were asked to complete a 10-part questionnaire to determine how susceptible they were to suffering from Fomo while studying – including how worried they get when discovering that their friends are having fun without them, and how important it is to participate in in-jokes.

They filled out surveys assessing whether they had ever drunk alcohol or taken illegal drugs since entering university, and how often they consumed them.

And the participants anonymously detailed whether they had ever engaged in nine different unethical or illegal types of behaviour during student life, including academic cheating, plagiarism and stealing.

Researchers analysed the findings using standard statistical approaches and by applying a supervised machine learning approach.

They discovered associations between Fomo and nearly all the behaviours they examined, with higher fear levels correlating with increased rates of classroom disturbance and plagiarism.

The team also found evidence of correlation between Fomo and greater use of certain types of illegal drugs – such as stimulants, depressants and hallucinogens – as well as a higher weekly alcohol consumption.

However, they found no evidence to support the idea that it would cause more self-reported cheating.

Mr McKee said one of the most important things universities should do to help was to familiarise themselves with Fomo and the “potential challenges and consequences that it poses for their students”.

“Universities should make an effort to educate and openly talk with their students about what Fomo is and that the social comparisons that often lead to it are not necessarily helpful, healthy or even accurate,” he added.

He also encouraged institutions to promote deliberate time away from social media for students, which he said could lead to increased Fomo.


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Reader's comments (1)

FOMO is a new pseudo-science? Come on!