Have you ever checked Facebook and seen 10 of your friends signing up for a housewarming party you haven’t heard of yet? Have you ever had a group chat blow up as friends meet up for a pizza night, but you get stuck working the closing shift? Have you ever passed up a party in favor of catching up on some sleep, only to throw on a snazzy outfit and some cute shoes, and race out the door anyway? If so, you’ve fallen victim to FOMO.
FOMO, or the “fear of missing out”, happens when a person experiences fear or guilt based on the possibility that an event happening nearby. They thus miss out on a potential social experience, whether by choice or necessity. For some, getting FOMO becomes as easy as opening Snapchat and seeing your friends went for dinner at that new sushi place you really wanted to try out.
These days, the fear of missing out plagues our lifestyles more than ever thanks to a recent rise in relevancy. Researchers at Carleton and McGill University found in two 2018 studies that FOMO dictates many of our choices, often later in the day and towards the weekend. Furthermore, a 2018 study conducted by Credit Karma concluded that in a test group of over 1,000 Americans aged 18 to 34, about 40 percent of participants go in debt to keep up with their friends’ activities and lifestyles.
These 5 ways college students learn the meaning of FOMO will have you saying “same” so fast.
1. Opening Facebook and checking your nearby events
Facebook is FOMO’s natural habitat because your timeline can turn into a photo album of missed chances and lost opportunities. It gets harder to check your notifications and not also mark yourself down as interested in every Rocky Horror performance during the next six months. “I feel like social media is the main catalyst for FOMO because we’re constantly berated with seeing the restaurant that someone went to, or the music festival that someone went to,” Tulane University senior Hannah Elliot said, “I feel like it’s really kind of continual.”
2. Heading abroad and missing all your favorite food festivals
Another time where you could experience FOMO comes when you head overseas for a semester. Seeing photos of your friends living it up at the Oak Street Po-Boy festival while you can’t attend will make you want to pack your bags and head straight for the States. Likewise, your friends back home probably wish they went with you on that sweet weekend trip to Madrid during their spring break instead of hanging out with their siblings back home.
3. Going home for the summer and missing out on crazy adventures
Summer vacations: the best and worst times of the year. After a semester filled with midnight McDonald’s runs and impromptu beach trips, we get to sit back and watch our friends’ summer vacations instead of living it with them. We settle for lying in bed and watching Queer Eye reruns on Netflix until the fall rolls around rather than embrace the crazy randomness that always happens on campus with your crew.
4. Taking some time off by passing on that party you heard about all week
Even the wildest of college students need a weekend to ourselves so we can recharge our batteries. FOMO strikes here: a Disney movie marathon in full swing with you and your five best friends, but you still have a teeny-tiny voice in the back of your head wondering if those crazy guys down on Hilary Street will throw the biggest bash of the year. “It doesn’t happen often, but mainly when I’m talking to other people, I kind of have an… ‘am I enjoying my college experience to the greatest I can’ [moment]?” Tulane University senior Rachel Berwald said.
5. Sacrificing an awesome night out to keep that GPA up
Giving up a great night of good times for a boring night of studying will happen at least once throughout a typical college experience, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Confining yourself to the library in order to pull that all-nighter for a bio essay due tomorrow gets rougher knowing you turned down an awesome 80s date party with all your sorority sisters. “I had a chemistry test once and I couldn’t go anywhere that weekend,” Tulane University sophomore Maddie Sullivan said. “I needed to do it, but it wasn’t fun.”
More Situations Where FOMO will get the best of you
Written by Fatoumata Sall
6. Even the responsibilities you choose to have get in the way sometimes
You have a mandatory meeting with your fashion club on Wednesday at 8 p.m. and your friends went out for ice cream—yummy. You want to go but unfortunately, you can’t. Even though you love your extracurricular activities, you can’t help but think about other social opportunities. Boston College senior Mouhamed Diallo said, “FOMO does not care what it is you’re doing if you have the smallest inkling desire to do something else, chances are FOMO is coming and it’s probably going to get to you.” As a person of integrity, you will go to the meeting and ask your friends to bring you ice cream. Or perhaps ask them to go at a different time. You can always have ice cream another time.
7. Not skipping that totally skippable class
Let’s face it—sometimes lectures drone on and on. Either your professor talks very slow or simply sucks at teaching already boring material. Let’s say your friend texts you and says, “Yo, let’s ditch class.” Hmm… sounds tempting. However, depending on your professor, do not forget that you can get caught, your grades might get hurt also. BC junior Veronica Thomas said, “Don’t let ‘being cool’ stop you from going to classes. One day you will look back and regret it when final season hits and you missed an important lecture that could make or break your exam.” Also, tuition certainly isn’t cheap so you better get your money’s worth and go to class. You’ll see why it was all worth it in the end when you receive that diploma.
8. You find yourself having to eat alone
You have a group assignment for your African Diaspora class due soon, but all of your friends somehow met at the dining hall out of nowhere. You obviously have some work to do. You struggle with staying true to your commitment to your group. You could simply call a group member and act sick and go out with your friends. At this point, you begin to think about what you should do. BC sophomore Gabby Swanks said, “Always prioritize what’s more important to you and what will make you a better person.” Keep calm and go to your meeting. You’ll have plenty of time to see your friends afterward.
9. You choose beauty rest instead
You’ve had the most challenging week ever and you need a good ol’ nap. Your friends, on the other hand, decided to go out into the city. Even though you would love to kick it with your friends you put your body first. BC sophomore Mikaela said, “I experienced FOMO every day in college because I was so afraid of not ‘living my best life’ but there will always be another party, game, dance. It’s not the [end] of the world.” Understand the importance of self-care by listening to your body and get some rest.
How can I reduce my FOMO?
Put down the phone and take a break from Facebook
If getting FOMO comes as easily as opening Snapchat or Instagram, then stowing the social media away for a little while might save you some grief. Take a break from Facebook and catch up on your econ essays, watch a Reese Witherspoon movie or meet up with some friends at your favorite sandwich shop. This way, you don’t have to worry about busying yourself, but you can still create new opportunities that reduce that stress.
Tell your friends if you can’t keep up with them
Throughout college, students have plenty of time to experience the best and the worst of what their schools have to offer. When the temptation of forcing yourself to do too much comes, the simple act of letting a loved one know will alleviate that pressure. Your FOMO could feel a lot worse if you take on too much and end up double, triple or even quadruple booked. Take some time and catch up on rest and relaxation. Even if a mental health day makes you miss a frat party, rest assured that five more will come just around the corner. “I personally just convince myself that I don’t need to go out all the time,” Tulane University senior Leigh Miller said. “I personally have some days I would rather stay in, and that’s okay.”
**Updated on September 26, 2018 by Fatoumata Sall to include more FOMO-inducing situations