The Problem with FOMO

The Problem with FOMO


It’s 9:00 PM on a Thursday and you are diligently working away on an essay you conveniently left to the last minute, again.

You can already hear the contagious laughter coming from your neighbour’s house, and your wall shaking with the sound of Billboard’s top 40 pop songs. You become distracted by the bass and instinctively hum along to “Havana, ooh-na-na” while scrolling through your Instagram feed. Of course, the standard “night out” photos are there. Your friends are captured holding their favourite alcoholic beverage and are perfectly posed in front of their kitchen wall that has the best lighting. Finally, your phone buzzes from a text message in your group chat, saying “Anyone interested in hitting up Stages tonight?”. You know the answer here: your essay won’t write itself. That familiar feeling starts to kick in with your response to that text, “I have an essay that needs to get done, have fun without me!”. You set your phone down, turn back to your essay, and try your best to bury the FOMO that will soon begin to consume your thoughts.

“FOMO”, or Fear Of Missing Out, is a clever acronym characterized by that anxious feeling we experience when we know there is an exciting event or place we want to be that is elsewhere. It is a feeling that is often provoked by our favourite social media outlets, where we can easily see the highlights of the night we are missing by the tap of our fingers.

But FOMO doesn’t just present itself when we’re cramming for a test or finishing up last minute readings. Even when searching for something to do for a night out, I find myself searching for the option with the most amount of people, where I am likely to have the best snaps or take the best photos, and where the potential to talk about how amazing and fun the night was will arise again. And with all this on the back of my mind, I still become overwhelmed with FOMO, because I want to experience a little bit of everything.

So, what’s the rationale behind this? While we are all aware that trying to be everywhere at all times isn’t realistic, it is a façade that we are able to promote through social media outlets, like Instagram or Facebook. Our posts offer a highlight of our best moments, therefore portraying that we are living a FOMO-less life because we are having the BEST university experience, or have just had the BEST reading week of all time, or have just had the BEST avocado toast at the MOST amazing vegan restaurant.

While FOMO is an inevitable emotion that we’ve all experienced, there are ways to overcome it. An article published by TIME Magazine titled “This Is The Best Way to Overcome Fear of Missing Out”, outlines the Facebook Illusion, stating that we are easily comparing our lives to others. In this case, FOMO stems from our ability to measure ourselves with everyone around us, or in the case of social media, measure our lives with the perfectly depicted lives of our friends and acquaintances. It’s important to understand that our FOMO is an anxiety grounded by the jealousy of the fun and experience we think everyone is having, rather than what the night out actually includes. Because, deep down, we know that it is another night of drinking with the same people, going to the same bar, and ending the night at the same fast food joint.

My best advice for dealing with FOMO is by simply turning off your phone. This applies to when we are studying or when we are out with friends. Our attachment to social media does not allow us to fully engage in our surroundings and prevents fulfilment when we are eager to finish up an assignment, or when we are trying to be fully present with those around us. Rather than stressing about where you could be, or checking out everyone’s Instagram stories, or obsessing over who has checked yours, focus on the now.

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