Coming to Terms with FOMO

Kathleen Mackey, Managing Editor

The fear of missing out (more commonly known as FOMO) is a feeling that has always existed but has recently transformed into a phenomenon that seems to plague the young adult generation, and has even legitimized its way into the Oxford Dictionary.

I was first introduced to this concept watching a YouTube video a few years ago and didn’t think much of it but, once I started college, I came to realize how easy it is to fall victim to this “fear.” With the world at our fingertips through social media, we are constantly flooded with opportunities and temptations of things that we could be doing. Speaking on my own behalf, I feel like this constant accessibility to what those around us are doing, on top of the pressure to make the most of our college years, makes us easy targets for FOMO.

I look at it as an internal form of peer pressure — a voice in our own heads that tells us to let external influences persuade us rather than our own instincts. Far too often, I’ve put important work on the back burner because I don’t want to miss out on what could be a fun and memorable opportunity. (I mean, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that sometimes it’s nice to find excuses not to be a productive college student, but I digress.)

It’s rational to feel this way, but it can make us question our own impulses and chase after experiences rather than letting them unfold organically.

FOMO can be looked at in two ways, but it’s important to understand the healthy balance between the two. There’s a side of it that can push you to step out of your comfort zone and experience something new. Alternatively, however, there’s a side that’s more detrimental and can cause adverse effects. A study from the psychology departments at Carleton University and McGill University concluded, in the case of college students, that “more frequent experiences of FOMO were associated with negative outcomes both daily and over the course of the semester, including increasing negative affect, fatigue, stress, physical symptoms and decreased sleep.”

While most people don’t experience such extreme consequences, worrying about the things you’re missing out on makes you devalue you where you are now and distracts you from the present moment and your surroundings.

I don’t think anyone is perfectly immune to the fear of missing out; some are just better at ignoring it than others. So, the question is: How do we avoid FOMO and the regrets/“what ifs” that come with it?

Ann Swindell wrote in an article for Darling Magazine about this ever-present issue and came to terms with it in a way that I think anyone could connect with: “This fear (or FOMO) can have a paralyzing effect on our lives. It can lead us to second guess the value of our jobs, our relationships, and even our own worth. When we let fear guide our decisions, we may say yes to things we don’t actually care about, and no to things that we love because we are afraid that we are missing out on what others value. Even if it isn’t anything that we really desire.”

Being a very indecisive person myself, this seems easier said than done, and I’m certain I will continue to run into FOMO in the future. Ultimately, we need to find the balance between pushing ourselves outside of our routines and comfort zones, and forcing ourselves to do things that aren’t worth our time. Most of all, learning how disconnect from the influences happening around us will help alleviate that post-decision regret and appreciate where we are in the present, instead of dwelling on what people are doing in our feeds.