Not missing out on experiencing ‘FOMO’

By Rebekah Devorak | Opinions Editor 

If you’ve ever sat at home alone wondering why everyone else seems to be having so much more fun than you are, you aren’t alone.

According to a 2014 study by Eventbrite, nearly 70 percent of millennials aged 18 to 34 experience “FOMO,” or the fear of missing out. It’s that nagging thought in the back of your head that says maybe you should be out with your friends at the concert in town or trying the trendy restaurant that just opened in another neighborhood instead of working or studying for an upcoming test. It’s the same voice that says you are a lesser person, magically knocked down a few pegs on the “coolness” scale, because you are not out where everyone else seems to be.

That’s even if your better judgment tells you that you are not, in fact, a loser.

Social media doesn’t help much with this, either. In actuality, it makes it nearly impossible to not feel some sort of anxiety about being holed up for hours in the library on a Friday night or waiting tables on the weekends while the rest of campus is seemingly stumbling through the South Side.

It’s easy to forget as we’re scrolling through Instagram in bed that the feeds we see are perfectly polished versions of our lives. Each picture is deliberately and meticulously chosen to represent our best angles. Of course we’re going to show off pictures of the parties we go to and the people we hang out with, instead of snapshots of us lying in bed, bingeing the “Gilmore Girls” series for the third time. Who wants to see those?

While this might seem harmless, these choices paint quite a different picture of our lives than the ones we actually lead on a daily basis. They’re out there in permanence on the internet, forever documented for whoever comes across them, and that’s dangerous. After all, when you stumble upon that girl from your management class’ account and all she has on there are fabulous pictures of her weekly adventures, won’t you wonder why she’s having a better time than you are? Won’t you wonder, if even for a second, what you are doing wrong?

There is some actual reasoning behind the feeling of FOMO and why it affects so many of us, myself included. According to the same study, nearly 70 percent of millennials believe that attending live events make them feel “more connected to other people, the community and the world.” Almost 80 percent say that participating in activities with other people also helps deepen their relationships.

Humans are social creatures. We crave interaction and acceptance from those around us. That feeling is what makes us happy, more often than not. So when we see or hear about others in our social circles going out and experiencing the more lighthearted parts of life while we are alone, the thought pops up again that maybe we are missing out.

But the difficult part about vanquishing FOMO as a college student is finding that sweet spot between doing what you are supposed to and doing what you actually want to. It’s hard not to feel left out when you are working multiple jobs or internships and are constantly studying to maintain a decent GPA. All of those hours dedicated in one area means that they aren’t being allocated to another.

Of course, we should be doing those things — the power internship that will help us get a job after graduation, the exam preparation that will boost us to the coveted 4.0 — because they will help us in the long run, the iconically-vague future. But how do you figure all of that stuff out while still maintaining some semblance of a satisfying social life?

Unfortunately, I don’t know the answer. And I’m not sure if I ever will. But if you’ve somehow figured out the secret formula over the years, please share.

I know that a hefty portion of millennials and I are just dying to find out.