digital art by Julia Poppa
Each week as Friday approaches, my mind maps out all the friends I can hang out with and all the events that I can attend over the upcoming weekend. From the moment school ends on Friday afternoon, I find myself mindlessly checking social media, seeing what everyone else is up to and then comparing their lives to my own. My brain spins endlessly with different events that I am missing out on.
FOMO, or “Fear of Missing Out,” first struck during my freshman year.
As a self-proclaimed optimist, I always think that any remotely interesting event will be the best time of my life. Of course, it does not always hold true, but that doesn’t stop me from saying yes to all invitations.
For me, there is nothing worse than declining an invite, only to hear everyone else laughing at inside jokes the next day. I therefore jump at every chance I get.
But it can become exhausting and perhaps even a bit unhealthy.
Time Magazine defines FOMO as “the uneasy and sometimes all-consuming feeling that you’re missing out“ and adds that nearly 75% of young adults suffer from it.
The culprit is very likely social media. On platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and TikTok, access to an inside view of our peers’ lives is remarkably easy. When spending one’s waking moments scrolling through those apps, we might begin to feel disappointed in our own lives. It can be hard to remind ourselves that social media typically features only the highlights. Openly or subconsciously seeking validation, users post the images and videos that showcase only the perfect parts of their lives.
Of course, social media brings many advantages to modern communication, but the downfalls can be serious. The addictive platforms can have a drastic impact on mental health. Seeing friends having a great time in our absence can weigh heavily on our self-esteem and trigger anxiety. A nagging internal voice asks why we are not having as much fun as they are.
To ensure that I am not missing out on anything, I take matters into my own hands. I call or text anyone who is up for doing something. As I believe that last-minute plans are always the best, it usually does lead to fun activities with my friends, but sometimes I lack the energy to even be myself around them, even though I am the one who invited them in the first place.
Instead of realizing the importance of spending valuable time alone, I have a constant need to always be running in and out of the door. To you, this might not seem like a terrible thing, right? Although I do consider myself an extrovert and find joy in being around my friends, it also proves the point that I struggle to enjoy my time. I sometimes find myself not wanting to be left by myself, because social media has taught us that solitude is strange, even though the benefits of time spent alone are widely noted.
In these moments when I feel that I must reply “yes” out of fear that I will regret not going, I need to take a step back and remind myself that, if it probably will not matter in five years, then I should not be hung up on something so trivial.
I am not saying that the solution is to delete social media or stop participating in events with your friends, but rather to stop comparing yourself to other people, especially to those online. Of course, it’s much easier said than done, but by putting down the phone a little more each day, you will start to experience TOMO, thrill of maximizing (the enjoyment of) oneself.
And I’d bet it is something you will not regret.