It’s Saturday night. Your friends are all getting ready for the night ahead, and you’re sitting at your desk blankly staring at your notes for the upcoming exam on Monday. As you try hopelessly to ignore the blaring music from the room next door, all you can think about are the Mod parties you could be missing out on tonight by staying in. But your test is more important- it’s 30% of your grade. But there’s less than two months left of school, and hey, you’re only young once. Yeah, the studying can wait.
We have all experienced FOMO or “fear of missing out” at least once in our college experience. Whether it’s our own FOMO or that one friend in the group who would rather fail each and every class than miss out on any form of social gathering, FOMO can arise in anyone. So what exactly is it that creates that lingering pit in our stomach urging us to forego all of our priorities to join the masses? Recently, The Huffington Post came out with an article exploring the internal and external factors attributing to this fear. As it turns out, FOMO is real.
Not surprisingly, one of the most indicative sources of FOMO is social media. As if Facebook wasn’t enough, we now have tweets, instagrams and ‘yik yaks’ (which is quickly becoming a BC phenomenon) reminding us of all the great times we aren’t having. It’s easy to become swept up in the often-illusionary photos or statuses informing us of everyone else’s fun. Jenny Giblin, a New York psychotherapist, illustrates that FOMO arises from a fear that we are not good enough. When we see our friends or classmates posting about all of their experiences, we have a tendency to reevaluate our own lives and compare ourselves to these images of others. These thoughts lead to an anxiety that can force us into a cycle of insecurity and stress. What begins as harmless Internet surfing can quickly spiral into doubts of our own self-worth.
Fortunately though, FOMO is not some irreversible condition. It is simply a formulation of our own thoughts. And while we don’t recommend skipping out on every Saturday night Mod party, sometimes it’s the right thing to do. So for those times, here’s a few simple steps you can take to push that fear from your mind:
1. Take a break
Staring at your blank Microsoft word document creates the perfect opportunity for your mind to wonder to what all your friends might be doing. If you’re cooped up all night studying, make sure to give yourself 10 minutes off every now and then to take a walk, listen to some music or grab a snack. Having that time to relax will keep you focused on the task at hand.
2. Turn off your phone
Having your phone out right next to you pretty much guarantees you will be checking it at regimented 10 second intervals. As it turns out, our phones really do come with off buttons! What’s more, the separation from the outside world can be a surprisingly liberating experience.
3. Count your blessings
Facebook stalking often clouds us from seeing the many blessings we have in our own lives. Take some time to sit back and appreciate all the great things you have surrounding you each and every day. Sure, you might not have been invited to that upcoming concert, but were all those people at the last great concert you went to? Probably not.
4. Treat yourself
If you know you’ll be missing out on an event or night out with friends, do something for yourself the day before. Whether it’s grabbing lunch at your favorite local sandwich shop or buying that pair of shoes you’ve wanted forever, doing something solely for your own happiness can take away the pressure to compete with the happiness of others.
The easiest way to not think about what everyone else might be doing is to not think at all. Instead of getting wrapped up in your thoughts, take the time to clear your mind with 15 minutes of meditation or yoga.
As college students, we’re all exposed to various levels of FOMO on a regular basis. No one wants to miss out on a fun night, but, when you have no choice, make sure to remember that life will go on.