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The Science Survey

We've got the news down to a science!

The Science Survey

We've got the news down to a science!

The Science Survey

FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out): Embellished in the Digital Age and More Prevalent Than Ever in High Schoolers

Bronx Science students comment on their experiences with FOMO and how it affects their social anxiety and interactions.
Amanda Ro
Here are some Bronx Science students enjoying catching up during a free period on campus.

High school is infamous around the world for its four years imbued with the stress of trying to excel academically and socially. Bronx Science encapsulates this stereotype perfectly with its popular reputation for being a school of academic excellence, with students who also try to maintain an active social life.

FOMO, the fear of missing out, is one variable that contributes to high school’s immense pressure on students. FOMO is a byproduct of psychological, social, and physical factors that can contribute to a sense of apprehension about missing out on rewarding experiences that others might be enjoying. Rewarding experiences range from scoring well on a test to being invited to a party. 

FOMO isn’t a new concept; it has most likely existed for as long as humans have been able to communicate. However, the digital age has magnified its effects to paralyzing levels. FOMO can create social anxiety that can prevent people from healthily reacting to distressing social situations and instead shutting down. This is currently more common in high schoolers and generation Z than any other age group. However, you have to take into account statistics such as those provided by The American Psychological Association, which published an article detailing how social media drives FOMO and that high school students are the most prominent users of social media. 

Social media platforms profit off of their constant stream of updates and curated highlight reels because they utilize algorithms that directly feed users information they know will maximize user engagement. This may not sound directly harmful, but these algorithms have made social media so efficient that users receive constant notifications and updates about other people’s accounts, commonly their friends or people they’re interested in. 

This specifically relates to FOMO because the increased exposure high school students have to what their friends are doing or what activities are going on without them present can make them constantly feel like they are missing out. This is where the decline in mental health and the increased social unease stems from.

High school specifically, as opposed to middle school or college, is the bridge between childhood and adulthood, and thus is riddled with the burden of having to fit in and adapt socially

Why does the fear of missing out cause such irrational bouts of anxiety and worry?

First, the idea that simply missing a party or dinner could lead to future exclusion is not completely irrational but it does seem exaggerated for the situation. Therefore, even though this isn’t guaranteed to happen in  every case, the fear of “what if” can be the greatest contributor to FOMO. 

Secondly,  FOMO often overlaps with the concept of social comparison. Psychologist Leon Festinger’s social comparison theory states that individuals determine their own social and personal worth based on how they stack up against others. In the context of FOMO, social media serves as a breeding ground for comparisons, fostering a perpetual cycle of envy and dissatisfaction. Thus seeing your friends, or even random people on the internet, accomplishing more than you are even having more fun than you, triggers an emotional response to the fear of being left out, stemming from feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. 

High school students commented on their personal experiences with FOMO. Simone Ginsberg ’26, a student at the Bronx High School of Science shared, “I go to every opportunity I have to hang out with friends because I do not want people to hang out without me.” This is FOMO at its most basic but arguably its most common form. Ginsberg went on to detail how even though she feels very active in her social circle, and regularly hangs out with them, missing one event can make her feel this way.

When asked about her experiences with FOMO in the duration of her high school years versus prior to them, she explained that, “When I was younger I didn’t really think about the world from that viewpoint, but as I got older, I think my social anxiety increased, because I didn’t view it as much of a negative thing when I was younger.” 

Bronx Science student Sarah Rubinstein ’26 also shared her opinion. “Even when it doesn’t seem rational, the idea that you are missing out on something that others are doing gives me anxiety. The feeling that you are left out or that others will talk about you, comes from a place of insecurity,” Rubinstein said. This stems even deeper into how FOMO causes irrational fears, because the sense that people would “gossip” or talk badly about you just because you are not there is not guaranteed to happen every single time you miss a social event.

Beyond Social Interactions: The Multifaceted Nature of FOMO 

While FOMO is commonly associated with social events and gatherings, its influence permeates far beyond interpersonal relationships. In the professional sphere, the fear of missing out on career related advancements can drive individuals to overwork or constantly seek validation. 

This is particularly prevalent in competitive industries where success is measured by external markers such as promotions or accolades. However it is hard to not see the similarity these atmospheres have to the competitive academic atmosphere of high school, since the synonym for performing well at a job, for high schoolers can mean having the highest grades, getting the best internship, or most importantly, competing for spots at the best colleges. 

Therefore, is FOMO really a byproduct that stems from high school to persist with us throughout our lives? Either way, there are still other factors that can change FOMO for a person throughout their life. 

Consumerism plays a significant role in perpetuating FOMO. Marketers capitalize on individuals’ fear of missing out on the latest trends or products by creating a sense of urgency through limited-time offers, exclusive deals, and social proof tactics. The constant bombardment of advertisements and promotions can fuel a compulsive need to keep up with the latest gadgets, fashion trends, or lifestyle trends, even if it means stretching one’s finances or compromising on personal values.

Mitigating the Impact of FOMO

Fostering genuine connections and nurturing meaningful relationships offline can provide a sense of fulfillment that transcends the superficiality of social media. It would make contentment more tangible and lessen the feelings of loss when you miss out on a trend or party.

Additionally, confidence is one of the main factors that influences social anxiety. Confidence can be built through appearance, identity, or even friend groups. If you focus on authenticity, you can learn to become more confident rather than trying to meet societal standards of beauty or popularity. This is especially true in high school since you develop your social skills during your high school years, along with your appearance and personality. 

On the other hand, social media can still be beneficial, as it exposes viewers to a wide variety of people. The billions of people on social media have vastly altering accounts, cultures, and appearances. This pushes the idea of acceptance throughout society because it has forcefully widened society’s view on many of these issues which can make confidence easier for people, even though it can also do the opposite. The extreme nature of social media goes both ways and it can help or hurt someone’s FOMO. However, either way, you have to learn to live around it and manage social anxiety. 

Despite its negative effects, it is important to recognize that FOMO is not an inherent flaw of social media itself, but rather a byproduct of how we choose to engage with it. By cultivating mindfulness and awareness of our online behaviors, we can mitigate the impact of FOMO and foster healthier relationships with social media.

Fostering genuine connections and nurturing meaningful relationships offline can provide a sense of fulfillment that transcends the superficiality of social media. It would make contentment more tangible and lessen the feelings of loss when you miss out on a trend or party.

About the Contributors
Samantha Nair, Staff Reporter
Samantha Nair is a Staff Reporter for ‘The Science Survey’. She wants to write about consequential issues and stories covering the world, for the purpose of not only educating others on engrossing topics, but simultaneously learning more herself. Another motivation of Samantha'ss for journalistic writing is finding the seemingly trivial details of a story and reporting them to avoid misinformation, a problem she believes is potent in our current world. She also delights in capturing narratives all around Bronx Science through photography. She believes this allows memorable emotions and actions of students to not go unrecorded. Some of her commitments and interests include Girls' Varsity Soccer, Girls' Varsity Lacrosse, public forum debate, and the Manhattan Soccer Club. Samantha's hobbies aside from school entail reading, art, and skiing. She loves a multitude of subjects ranging from business, humanities, and STEM, so she is still contemplating a future career path. Samantha's aspirations, however, will never dissuade her love for writing and reporting.
Amanda Ro, Staff Reporter
Amanda Ro is a Staff Reporter and Arts & Entertainment Editor for ‘The Science Survey.’ Amanda finds journalism interesting because it allows writers to voice the truth and shed light on important matters. Journalism is also entertaining because it uncovers captivating stories and lets writers cover important events and make connections with people for a story. Amanda appreciates photography, as well, because photos can convey a powerful story. In her free time, Amanda enjoys running, reading, painting, listening to music, and traveling the world. 
Sam Chin, Staff Reporter
Sam Chin is an Editor-in-Chief and Chief Graphic Designer for ‘The Observatory’ yearbook and a Staff Reporter for 'The Science Survey' newspaper. In addition to the yearbook, Sam enjoys graphic design outside of the classroom. They most enjoy the space that graphic design provides for creative freedom and the ability to bring one’s own writing to life with visuals. From eliminating white space to finding a new technique to emphasize an image, graphic designers have never-ending opportunities. Throughout their years in Yearbook Graphic Design, Sam has learned to appreciate the art of storytelling through a multitude of mediums, from journalistic writing to photography and even short films. In college, Sam hopes to join their school’s yearbook or newspaper program in addition to pursuing a passion in engineering.
Kathryn Wu, Staff Reporter
Kathryn Wu is a Graphic Designer and Student Life Section Editor for ‘The Observatory’ yearbook. She is also a Staff Reporter for 'The Science Survey.' Kathryn finds journalistic writing to be very expressive and enjoys how she can learn a lot about many different types of people through each of their unique stories. In addition to writing, Kathryn finds journalistic photography to be an amazing medium that captures stories visually. Kathryn is known to be very artsy and creative to her friends. Outside of school, you can find her spending most of her free time watching K-dramas, learning K-pop choreography, and singing karaoke with friends. Kathryn’s plans for the future aren’t set in stone and she’s unsure of a specific career path. However, she would love to have a future career in an artistic field whether that is architecture, dance, or some sort of graphic design.
Frances Auth, Staff Reporter
Frances Auth is a Features Editor for The Science Survey. She loves editing Features articles because of the ways in which they represent many different parts of Bronx Science and the city. She is interested in seeing the world from different angles, and Features articles do just that. She loves journalistic writing because it can provide a reader an introduction to a topic that they might otherwise never have found. Additionally, she sees in journalism the distinctive potential to shed light on obscure topics and interesting people. She enjoys journalistic photography because it provides, literally and figuratively, a unique lens into the lives of others. Moreover, journalistic photos are taken from the angle that the journalist chooses, which allows them to be very creative. Outside of Journalism, Frances has a passion for research and learning about the world, which has helped her thrive in debate. She is also on the Girls' Varsity Cross Country team at Bronx Science. Frances loves reading, and her favorite book is George Orwell's 1984. Another book that she highly recommends is Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game.'
Bianca Quddus, Staff Reporter
Bianca Quddus is a Managing Editor and Advisory Editor for ‘The Science Survey’ who enjoys writing about culture and the arts. The aspect that she most loves about journalism is its emphasis on informative and creative storytelling. Bianca also recognizes her opportunity as a journalist to amplify the voice of those often forgotten. She believes that journalistic photography is a fundamental part to journalistic writing as it adds depth to the stories and brings them to life, telling what couldn’t be told in words alone. Bianca is a passionate clarinetist and a student at the Juilliard Music Advancement Program. Bianca wishes to study the intersections between music and the brain and music cognition. In her free time, Bianca enjoys reading, cooking for friends and family, watching old movies, and going to concerts.