Two dimensions of problematic smartphone use mediate the relationship between fear of missing out and emotional well-being



It has been shown that both fear of missing out (FoMO) and problematic (i.e., excessive) smartphone use (PSU) are negatively associated with indicators of emotional well-being. Moreover, FoMO has been found to be a key predictor of PSU. This suggests that PSU may mediate the relation between FoMO and decreased emotional well-being but this pathway has never been tested. Moreover, in most studies on PSU, the multidimensional nature of this construct has been ignored. The aim of the present study was to address these gaps by directly testing the mediating role of (subdimensions of) PSU in the association between FoMO and emotional well-being. We conducted a cross-sectional study with Estonian participants (n = 426). Using a simple mediation analysis, we found that PSU partially mediated the relationship between FoMO and decreased emotional well-being. Using a parallel mediation analysis, we found that two specific dimensions of PSU were significant mediators of the relationship between FoMO and decreased emotional well-being: Cyberspace-oriented Relations and Physical Symptoms. This suggests that the negative relationship between FoMO and decreased emotional well-being is due to FoMO stimulating (a) online relationships at the cost of offline interactions and (b) Physical symptoms associated with excessive smartphone use. Overall, this study provides a fine-grained analysis of the relationship between FoMO, PSU and emotional well-being.

Fear of missing out; problematic smartphone use; emotional well-being; cyberspace-oriented relationships; physical symptoms
Author biographies

Nino Gugushvili

University of Tartu

Nino Gugushvili is a PhD student in psychology at the University of Tartu, Estonia. Her research interests include digital technologies and their impact on subjective well-being.



Karin Täht

University of Tartu

Karin Täht (Ph.D. University of Tartu, 2012) is a research fellow (psychometrics) in the Department of Psychology at the University of Tartu, Estonia. Her research has mainly been connected with educational psychology.

Dmitri Rozgonjuk

University of Tartu

Dmitri Rozgonjuk (M.A. University of Tartu, 2015) is a PhD researcher in Psychology at the University of Tartu, Estonia, and a Fulbright visiting student researcher at the Department of Psychology at the University of Toledo, OH, USA. His main interests include the impact of digital device and social media usage on subjective well-being, mental health, and academic outcomes.

Maris Raudlam

University of Tartu

Maris Raudlam (M.A. University of Tartu, 2017) was a master student in Psychology at the University of Tartu, Estonia. This study is based on the data collected for her master thesis project.

Robert Ruiter

Maastricht University

Robert AC Ruiter is a professor in applied social psychology at Maastricht University. His research focuses on the broad application of findings and theory in social psychology and cognitive neuroscience in understanding and changing human behavior in different applied settings, including health promotion, disease prevention, safety management, and sustainable environment.

Philippe Verduyn

Maastricht University

Philippe Verduyn is an assistant professor in social psychology at Maastricht University. He conducts research on emotion dynamics, emotion regulation and social network sites.

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