FoMO? No, DoMO! "The Desire of Missing Out" Debuts

Millennial lexicon touts the fear of missing out (FoMO) but neglects DoMO.

Posted Jan 19, 2017

While the expression FOMO or "Fear of Missing Out" is widely used, the "Desire of Missing Out" a.k.a. DOMO is not. Perhaps it is taboo but DOMO is likely more common than most people think. Millennial lexicon, i.e., FOMO, has normalized the need to belong (Baumeister & Leary, 1995) or what is known as affiliation motivation (McClelland, Koestner, & Weinberger, 1989) in academic psychology. Clinical as well as social and personality psychologists have long recognized the need to belong as a key dimension of human motivation and central to conceptions of personality functioning. It is viewed as healthy and even universal with a longstanding evolutionary, biological basis. Consider early hunter-gatherer communities struggling to survive in the wilderness. They fared better in groups. 

…what FOMO may be about is the desire to fit in, to gain social approval, to achieve social status by fitting in with those “in the know”...


Source: Shutterstock

 FOMO provides millennials – or anyone else prone to emoticon overuse or those with a propensity for using acronyms born of social media – a socially acceptable short-hand for expressing concerns and anxiety over being socially excluded. It is not just the fear of missing out of an “event” whether it be a concert, party, movie, tweet, or profile update; rather, what FOMO may be about is the desire to fit in, to be popular, to be socially desirable, to gain social approval, to achieve social status by fitting in with those “in the know.” In short, FOMO reflects what academic psychology labels the need to belong, perhaps in a heightened form molded by the influence of social media.

What about those individuals - solitary yet content in pursuing their artistic, creative, philosophical, scientific, musical, or other interests - who prefer to stay in?

What about DOMO: The Desire of Missing Out? What about those individuals who prefer to skip out on the party, dinner, concert hall/bowling alley, or loft party? What about those individuals who rather stay in, home – perhaps alone, solitary yet content in pursuing their artistic, creative, philosophical, scientific, musical, or other solo interests? The college student or twenty, thirty, or forty-something who doesn't want to go out and mingle or make an appearance at the next party does not adopt a socially desirable attitude.

Shutterstock with Winarick edits
Source: Shutterstock with Winarick edits

Social desirability (Crowne & Marlowe, 1960) is a technical term in academic psychology that refers to a response bias in favor of responding in way that is perceived as "normal" or "healthy" on self-report personality tests. Social desirability has also been conceptualized as the ‘need for approval.’ Evidently, millennials feel comfortable expressing these perfectly normal, albeit anxiety-based, healthy needs, i.e., FOMO, which is something laudable.

In contrast, admitting DOMO may not be a socially desirable response. DOMO (the desire of missing out) stigma may suppress its true prevalence in academic research and explain why there may be DOMO's among us who remain in the shadows as compared to their vocal FOMO peers.

A Brief Psychodynamic Look at FOMO and DOMO

Within psychodynamic theory, the drive for social connectedness has long been postulated by object-relations theorists as equal to the classical Freudian drives of sex and aggression in strength. A diminished drive for social relationships has been viewed as a marker of character pathology in general (e.g., narcissistic personality disorder, paranoid personality disorder, and schizoid personality disorder). However, Winnicott (1958) conceptualized the capacity to be alone as a developmental achievement and a sign of maturity and mental health, signaling a view of DOMO as possibly adaptive.

Empirical research on DOMO/FOMO relevant traits: Psychometric methods

Empirical studies in academic psychology have used two primary ways of measuring DOMO and FOMO: explicit/self-report scales and implicit/projective measures (see McClelland et al., 1989, for a review). Implicit measures of the need to belong include the quantitative content coding of narratives generated from TAT-like narratives. In fact, computerized linguistic quantitative content coding procedures have been developed for measuring FOMO (a.k.a. affiliation motivation) implicitly (see Schultheiss, 2013). Explicit/self-report questionnaires of traits theoretically relevant to FOMO have proliferated for some time within academic psychology. Consider the constructs of interpersonal dependency as measured by the Relationship Profile Test (Bornstein et al., 2002), the need to belong as measured by the Need to Belong Scale (Leary et al., 2013), and sociotropy as measured by the Personal Style Inventory (Robins et al., 1994). All of these constructs are FOMO-related.

Could DOMO be the next FOMO?

It remains a possibility that the Desire of Missing Out or DOMO could find its way into millennial style discourse, normalizing the need for distance. However, it may be an uphill battle in both millennial culture and academic psychology as DOMO has a long history of being associated with psychopathology e.g., schizoid personality disorder. Measures of personality traits theoretically relevant to the DOMO construct are much fewer and far between as compared to its DOMO counterpart in the empirical literature. However, a lack of desire for social relationships as well as a lack of pleasure derived from interpersonal interactions has been operationalized most recently with the explicit/self-report measure known as the Revised-Social Anhedonia Scale which taps the construct of social anhedonia (Bailey et al., 1993; for a related discussion, relevant to schizoid personality disorder, see Winarick & Bornstein, 2015).

The DOMO construct has been defined herein as a need for distance and space, a trait-like personality variable that fits under the category of motivation. DOMO contrasts with the need to belong and affiliation motivation. Being low on the need to belong and affiliation strivings are theoretically related to being high in DOMO but they may not be identical to it. Along the same lines, social anhedonia may be similar but not identical to DOMO. These are empirical questions and future research on the content – as well as construct and criterion - validity of DOMO is needed.  

How do you know if you have DOMO or FOMO?

You probably don’t need a personality test to tell you the answer but just in case, you can click: Need to Belong Scale to obtain the test. If you have concerns about your DOMO or FOMO, you can always reach out. 

The views expressed in my blog are my own and do not reflect those of any institutions I am affiliated with.


Bailey, B., West, K. Y., Widiger, T. A., & Freiman, K. (1993). The convergent and discriminant validity of the Chapman scales. Journal of personality assessment, 61(1), 121-135.

Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: desire for interpersonal attachment as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological bulletin, 117(3), 497.

Bornstein, R. F., Geiselman, K. J., Eisenhart, E. A., & Languirand, M. A. (2002). Construct validity of the Relationship Profile Test: Links with attachment, identity, relatedness, and affect. Assessment, 9(4), 373-381.

Crowne, D. P., & Marlowe, D. (1960). A new scale of social desirability independent of psychopathology. Journal of consulting psychology, 24(4), 349.

Leary, M. R., Kelly, K. M., Cottrell, C. A., & Schreindorfer, L. S. (2013). Construct validity of the need to belong scale: Mapping the nomological network. Journal of personality assessment, 95(6), 610-624.

McClelland, D. C., Koestner, R., & Weinberger, J. (1989). How do self-attributed and implicit motives differ?. Psychological review, 96(4), 690.

Robins, C. J., Ladd, J., Welkowitz, J., Blaney, P. H., Diaz, R., & Kutcher, G. (1994). The Personal Style Inventory: Preliminary validation studies of new measures of sociotropy and autonomy. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 16(4), 277-300.

Schultheiss, O. C. (2013). Are implicit motives revealed in mere words? Testing the marker-word hypothesis with computer-based text analysis. Frontiers in psychology, 4.

Winarick, D. J., & Bornstein, R. F. (2015). Toward resolution of a longstanding controversy in personality disorder diagnosis: Contrasting correlates of schizoid and avoidant traits. Personality and Individual Differences, 79, 25-29.

Winnicott, D. W. (1958). The capacity to be alone. The International journal of psycho-analysis, 39, 416.