Published on The Unibubble:
If you’re anything like me, the pain of staying at home on a Saturday night with the knowledge that all your friends are out having the time of their lives can be likened to being hit and run over by a 12-tonne truck. Opening your Snapchat app suddenly becomes a distressing mission as you are forced to live that party vicariously through a glass screen. Your palms start sweating and heart starts racing as the thought of people having fun without you floods your mind. Whether it be a party, festival, overseas trip or even something as simple as a missed brunch, almost everyone has felt at least a hint of FOMO in their life. That feeling that something, somewhere else is happening that is better than what you are currently doing is known as FOMO, an acronym for ‘Fear Of Missing Out.’
The term FOMO may be relatively new, but the fear dates back to our earliest ancestors. Clinical psychologist, Anita Sanz states that our survival as an individual within a tribe was once reliant upon being “in the know” about threats to our safety and food sources, meaning that missing out on vital information could literally be the decider between life and death.
With the rise of social media, FOMO is more prevalent than ever. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat make it easier to feel as if we are missing out on something important. Pressing ‘interested’ on almost every Facebook event and suddenly having seven events lined up for next Saturday can be a thrilling, yet stressful feeling. Some may say that FOMO is a stupid term millennials invented to blame for their poor commitment skills and social behaviour, but it can often be more serious than what meets the eye.
I have always struggled with creating a balance between my social life and my responsibilities. I will often prioritise social commitments over school or work commitments and as a result, my health, schoolwork, finances, and relationships suffer. Moving away from home and into university accommodation at the beginning of 2017 only increased my high levels of FOMO.
The initial eagerness of meeting new people mixed with experiencing the coolest bars in your new area for the first time can be an exciting time for anyone. But what happens when it’s a year and a half later, with £12 in your bank account and an important test the next morning, do you go out? The logical answer to this question would be a definitive no, but as a FOMO sufferer, I can stand in my room for up to an hour, almost in tears trying to decide whether to do well in my studies or possibly have the best night of my life. It’s as if the devil and angel on my shoulders go to WWIII, but I am the only one to endure the physical and mental pain it causes.
It makes it even harder when you’re forced to listen to your roommates play an intense game of Kings Cup, or the people across the hall belting out music. Being in such close vicinity to likeminded people makes it difficult to rise above and ignore the pressure of engaging in social activities. It may be easier to say no to the group chat, but when your friends turn up to your room with a bottle of vodka the strength to say no quickly diminishes.
To say that all bad things have come from having FOMO would be a lie; some of my greatest memories come from the nights I’ve said “I totally swear I’m staying in tonight, I have work at 8am,” but somehow end up getting home at 5am.
FOMO has also helped me gain many life skills. I have become a professional at quickly calculating the best drink option for a night out, factoring in price, standard drinks, size and taste. I have become a money-savvy drinker over time. Not only am I fantastic at finding the best drink deals, I’ve also become great at lowering people’s expectations by never fully committing to plans in case something better comes up. This skill is bittersweet, but by not fully committing to plans people are not upset when you fail to turn up, or pleasantly surprised when you do.
My most significant realisation that I needed to implement change to lower my feelings of FOMO came when I was in Paris, admiring the Eiffel Tower in the middle of a beautiful European summer day. I was in one of the most iconic parts of the world, but all I could focus on was how much fun my friends back home in Australia would be having celebrating the end of exams. Although I was on holiday in Europe I still couldn’t shake that feeling that somewhere, something else is happening that could possibly be better than what I was doing.
Companies have caught on to how common FOMO is, especially among millennials and have turned it into a marketing technique. An Australian travel company has capitalised on FOMO to promote their latest travel deals. There is even an Australian music festival called ‘FOMO’ which only has one stage to prevent people missing out on a performance.
It’s just one party, one brunch, one trip to Europe; you’ll have plenty of time in the future to do these things. It may be hard, but you’ll have to learn to accept that people will be having more fun than you. You physically can’t be at every fun thing every single time. By dwelling on the positives instead of the negatives it can make the process a lot easier, instead of thinking: “everyone will be having so much fun without me” think: “I’m saving so much money by not going.”
Gratitude has been proven to be beneficial for mental health and creating a happier mindset. Sometimes it can be challenging to be grateful for what you have when all you can think about is that festival you’re missing out on. It may be dark, but a useful exercise to practice is imagining all your favourite things have been taken away from you, e.g. your family, friends, legs, house, Netflix, pizza? You can begin to appreciate the little things in your life even if you aren’t at that festival.
BLOCK THE DISTRACTION:
If it comes down to deleting your Snapchat app for the night, so be it! Sometimes the temptation to check your social media to see how many people ended up attending that party becomes too much and to save yourself the torture, its best to delete your app. Alternatively, make other plans if you know something is happening you wish you could be at. Can’t go out because of work in the morning? Invite some friends over for a board game sesh. Upset because your favourite artist is in town and you couldn’t get tickets? No worries have a Netflix binge with homemade pizza and popcorn.
Although the road to a FOMO-free life can often seem a little rocky, by slowly changing your perspective and distracting yourself with other things, you’ll soon be questioning why you even ever felt like you’re missing out in the first place.