What’s The Opposite of FOMO?
I love people. They have always fascinated and amazed me, and I am learning more all the time about how they think and act. I’m the most fluttery of social butterflies at times, charming my way into job interviews and leadership positions throughout University. smiling at acquaintances around campus, clicking “attending” to dozens of local events, and making small talk like I’ve never been more fascinated in learning what someone’s been “up to”. I’m good at these things. I don’t mind these things. But every single one of them, little by little, takes a little part of my soul and spirit, and
I’ve heard the difference between an introvert and an extravert described as whether being around people sucks your personal energy- or whether you feed off the energy of those people, increasing your own.
These draining daily interactions are sometimes necessary, sometimes unavoidable, and learning to deal with them in a healthy and positive way is important…..
Unless you can avoid them.
I’ve waited 20 minutes for a bus because the first one to pass contained a girl I worked on a group project with in a class two years before. I’ve snuck out my bedroom window to avoid interrupting my roommate making dinner. I’ve casually crossed to the other side of roads, walked into random buildings, and had dozens of animated pretend telephone conversations to avoid those soul sucking run-ins with people I just-barely-enough know. And i’m sure you’ve done the same.
The life of a social introvert involves some challenges that those with textbook social anxiety don’t experience. Since we are involved in communities and have previously made efforts to connect with those we must work with, we feel this incredible obligation to stop and say hello.
And it’s exhausting.
In this age of “FOMO”, millennials are more and more finding themselves feeling this strange longing to be doing something else. Anything else. We are surrounded by options of things to do and social media to ‘prove’ that everyone else is out there doing these things. But what is less noticed, it seems, is the pressure this puts on those of us who don’t really want to be doing anything at all.
I worked a job this summer that involved three intense weeks of organizing and running an orientation program. Every day the orientation leaders spent 8–10 hours running activities and talking to students. And every night, they would gather to discuss where the evening’s hang out would be. It was as if this was their first thought after the painfully long day, the pinnacle of importance for their networking and friendship-making- “what is everyone doing tonight?”
I felt like a crazy person. Like there must be something wrong with me for just wanting, no, NEEDING some time to myself. Didn’t they all just have the same day I did?? I would try to slip away before this plan-making began, but inevitably it would sometimes come down to awkward excuses about having to Skype my sister or clean my room.
And that’s not fair.
When my butterfly wings can barely keep me in the air anymore and my social battery is beeping on empty, the last thing I should feel is guilt for wanting to get the hell away from human faces for a few quiet minutes. Yet every time, my awkward exits prompt a round of “aww well maybe later tonight when you finish your made up activity?!?” and my personal most-hated “come on, you never hang out with us!” (Almost as bad is the “I’m so glad you’re FINALLY hanging out with us” when I eventually give in).
These comments are said as if it’s impossible that FOMO could ever not exist. They are said by well-intentioned people that don’t realize that if I wanted to join their adventure- I would. And I do! When the people and proposition are right and my charge is still full, I will be the first one trying to kick my lazy butt out the door- but i’m not an endless energizer bunny, and I’m able to decide on my own to keep going.
Inside i’m exploding with the desire to leave these situations with a “please stop assuming i’ll attend these excessive social gatherings every evening” or even a simple “no thanks I have a bed that needs to be warmed by approximately 7pm nightly”. And maybe next time, I will.
Because In a perfect world I could simply walk away, social ties intact and the evening to myself- standing tall and feeling proud for having conquered all the small talk and forced smiles of the day. Excited to rejuvenate my capacity for conversation through hours of beautiful deep sleep… feeling my soul and spirit slowly return piece by piece- free of absolutely any fear of missing out.