Let’s Talk About FOMO

by Janine Maral, Storyteller for RU Student Life

The first time I heard about FOMO was on Twitter last year, when I saw a tweet by someone I follow and they used #FOMO. I thought to myself, “What’s FOMO? Am I late to the game? Probably.” I clicked the hashtag and found out it’s the Fear Of Missing Out. I remember looking more into it and thinking, “Oh, it’s just another “internet language” acronym you’d find on Urban Dictionary,” but it’s so much more than that. It’s not only just a term that’s part of the internet language, but a problematic fear we face and have faced for ages. To me, it seems like we’ve just never understood how to describe this feeling until our experiences online made it more clear.

FO·MO ˈfōmō/ noun informal
Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.

The most common way we experience FOMO is through social media. You see all those posts about an event last night that you didn’t go to and you feel the FOMO. But, what did you really miss out on? Social media platforms embellish reality. We all do it. An event can be a total disaster or just really boring, but a short video on Snapchat can make it look like it was the best thing that has ever happened and YOU’RE not there. Most of the time, this is not true.

When I used to watch Snapchat stories and see my friends, or other celebrities I follow, doing fun things with their day or evening while I’m sitting in my room watching YouTube, it did used to make me feel like I was missing out. But that was my choice. I chose to spend the day by my desk rather than going out, because when I did choose to go out, I sometimes found myself pretending I was having a great time when I wasn’t.

Don’t get me wrong though, I do the same thing on Snapchat to show my friends that I actually have a life outside of the comfort of my room. But, why does that even matter? Why do we post stories on how much fun we’re having, instead of just enjoying the moment as it happens?

For me, FOMO doesn’t only happen with my social life, but with my academics as well; for example, on the rare occasion when I miss a class, the FOMO is real. I hate missing classes, not only because it’s like throwing your money out the window, but because I fear missing out on the course content. The class matters to me, and that’s why I feel the FOMO.

As I grow up, I realize that I can decide what I feel I’m “missing” out on. The only FOMO I feel is on things I care about. So, it’s up to me to decide if I feel FOMO. I first question, “Do I really care about this event/social activity/experience?” If the answer is no, I do my best to shake off the FOMO, and any negative feelings that come with it, out of my mind and body and focus on the now. Why should I put my energy into thinking about what I’m missing out on? Instead, I put my attention to what I’m doing in the present moment, being in the moment.

While writing this piece, I found this quiz online: “Rate Your FOMO.

I took the quiz out of interest and my result was “Medium.” It didn’t give me much information about what the medium level of FOMO meant, but the actual quiz itself made me reflect on how much I use social media and for what reasons. They give you a question and you rate it based on how true the statement is or how not true it is for you. These are some statements from the quiz:

  • “When I go on vacation, I continue to keep tabs on what my friends are doing.” At first I thought this was just “too far” but I realized that I do this. Last year I went away for New Year with my family, meaning I wasn’t going to spend New Year’s Eve with my friends. I was dreading this day. All my friends were talking about what their plans were when I couldn’t be there. On NYE, I remember checking social media so frequently it was embarrassing. I was spending my last few hours in 2014 on social media instead of in the moment with my family.
  • “When I have a good time it is important for me to share the details online (e.g. updating status).” While this may be true, I don’t intend to make others feel like they are missing out or that “I’m having a better time than they are.” I just want to share my good experiences and I think that’s why others post as well; to share their good times without the intention of making others feel like they are missing out.

Dealing With FOMO

Here’s a few things I’ve found helpful when dealing with FOMO.

  1. Sometimes it’s better to be out of the loop. “Ignorance is bliss” is so true sometimes. You don’t know what’s going on, so you don’t feel like you’re missing out.
  2. Reflect on the experience you are gaining instead. If you just have to watch your friends’ Snapchat stories as they happen to stay in the loop and you begin to feel the FOMO, think about what you’re doing in the moment too and what experiences you’ve gained. You don’t need to compare yourself.
  3. Question it. You are feeling the FOMO based on what you are seeing through the screen of a device. Question whether it’s a true depiction of reality, or how it may have been altered or enhanced.
  4. Mind over matter. Stop overworking and over-thinking your mind on something you view on social media. Put that energy into what matters in your life.
  5. Think about your well-being. Feeling FOMO can mean you are bringing negative energy into your life and feeling some sort of anxiety based on what you are seeing on social media, which in turn, affects your state of mind and your well-being. Focus on bringing in positive energy.

How do you feel about FOMO?