The upcoming weekend is said to be the best of the entire quarter, and all your friends have already talked about what time they’ll be leaving, what they’ll be wearing and where they’ll be going. There’s only one issue: You can’t go.
Instead, you spend the weekend constantly scrolling through Snapchat and Instagram for updates on everything your friends are doing. Your feed is flooded with pictures and videos of everyone having the best time ever — that is, the best time without you. These are the all too familiar feelings of FOMO, short for “fear of missing out,” a cycle that many college students find themselves stuck in.
There will always be certain events or moments that we have to miss out on. Whether it’s the result of being swamped with schoolwork, going out of town, coming down with a fever or maybe just not being in the mood to tag along, FOMO makes skipping a social situation all the more miserable. Along with the alleged blows to one’s social life, the constant worrying associated with FOMO can be harmful to one’s self-perception.
FOMO causes us to believe that in our absence others will become closer and we will be forgotten about.
When adjusting to college life, one of the most common culprits of FOMO is party culture. Partying can sometimes be presented as the best possible way to make friends and get out of your shell quickly. Everyone longs for the sense of security that comes from having a group of friends once they get to college. For this reason, FOMO can easily sway someone who was initially on the fence about going out if they are under the impression that everyone else may be going. No one wants to be the one person who chose to stay at home and missed the opportunity to meet new people. Whether or not drinking is a part of your college experience, there is undeniably an expectation that you will “go out” if you want to improve your social life.
Personally, I can admit that I don’t always see the appeal in drowning myself in alcohol or dragging myself out of my sweats into something form-fitting. Nevertheless, I can definitely look back on this school year and remember nights when I forced myself to go out because I was afraid of appearing lame and losing potential friends. It can be hard not to get wrapped up in the fact that social life in college seems intertwined with party culture. It’s easy to fall into the habit of associating social activity with how much you go out.
Instances of FOMO that may be even more detrimental to self-esteem involve casual hang-outs with friends. Knowing that you won’t be able to go when your friends ask you to get lunch or coffee always comes with self-deprecating concerns. It can be easy to believe that whatever interaction you’re missing out on will be significant. I used to be anxious to leave town for a weekend out of fear that I would return to find myself out of the loop with my circle of friends.
FOMO causes us to believe that in our absence others will become closer and we will be forgotten about. In returning to your friends after missing a small event, it can be hard not to feel like you’re on the outs. Even an inside joke that you aren’t involved in or a reference to something you missed can make you feel like missing one instance changes everything in your friendships. Isolating feelings like these not only make you worry incessantly, but they also strike a blow to your confidence in social situations going forward.
The only effective method I have found to combat the unhealthy impact of FOMO on self-esteem is to know your personal values and trust the people you surround yourself with.
As frustrating as the FOMO effect may be, this year I have come to realize that these feelings of self-doubt and anxiety are almost always misleading. That one party you missed was most likely not nearly as fun as social media made it look and probably resembled any other night you have experienced in the past. You may have missed a few minor occurrences here and there, but the night most likely followed your typical format consisting of a poorly lit party packed with sweaty college kids and ear-shattering music. On the other hand, if your friends are truly your friends, then missing an opportunity to hang out in order to hibernate in the library or go home to see your family will not change your relationships. Trust me, if it does, then they were never real friends to begin with.
The only effective method I have found to combat the unhealthy impact of FOMO on self-esteem is to know your personal values and trust the people you surround yourself with. It is important to define your personal priorities and come to accept that it is OK if they override your social lives at times. In reality, college comes with four solid years to make memories and enjoy one’s social life. Although missing little moments here and there may seem catastrophic in the moment, there are always more opportunities down the road. I suggest taking the time to take care of yourself, know when school needs to come first and commit to your pressing obligations, without putting so much stress on what will seemingly improve your social life. If the main drive behind every decision you make is the fear of missing out, you are only harming yourself in the long run.
Paige Holloway addresses the constant anxieties associated with FOMO in college life.