Why Do We Fear Missing Out?

Why Do We Fear Missing Out?

An analysis of FOMO

This past Thursday, I sprained my ankle at club soccer practice. I assumed I could continue with my daily schedule until I woke up the following morning and was unable to walk. As I forlornly typed an email to my Writing 1 professor to cancel a meeting, I realized that I would be confined to my dorm for the entire day: no classes, no appointments, and no social outings. I cleared my calendar and hopped down to the lobby, where I hoped I could at least be around people. I learned I have an incredible support system; I lost count of all of the people who have helped me these past few days. (Example: my friend Bilal sat me on his bike and wheeled me to the student health center a mile away, and Natalie, my teammate, picked me up from the health center to drive me back to my dorm. So many people have volunteered to make me an icepack, spend time with me, carry my stuff, etc. Friends visited me from other dorms and made me feel special, and even my dad flew up from Santa Monica to check in on me.)

But, as great as the people here are, it was difficult for me to be stuck elevating my foot on a couch while my friends went to Stories of Sustainability, dinner off-campus, and a Mardi Gras party. I pledged and fundraised to dance in a 24-hour Dance Marathon, but the trek was too far to make on crutches. And, of course, I missed my soccer game at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Even with the excess time I gained, I couldn’t concentrate on my work because I knew I was missing out and wanted to make it up by spending time with other people. The picture that accompanies this article happened when Rachel, a friend from my hall, saw me slugging through my chemistry problem set at an astonishingly slow rate and requested that I keep her company while she baked rainbow cookies. For the first time in two days, I felt useful. I rely on being busy to keep myself grounded and efficient, and I felt lost in the vast sea of unplanned hours that seemed to stretch endlessly before me.

And yet, I still felt like I was missing out, even as I was kneading blue dye into cookie dough and listening to a 2000s summer hits playlist on Pandora with Rachel. When I caught myself wondering what it would be like to dance for 24 hours straight, I asked myself why I was incapable of fully embracing the moment. The feeling isn’t unique to this injury; I find myself struggling to truly be present in situations when there are other, equally attractive options occurring. I know I am not the only person experiencing this; I hear the acronym “FOMO,” or “fear of missing out,” tossed around conversations on a daily basis.

Why do we feel this way?

According to its Wikipedia page, FOMO is “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent,” a sophisticated way of wording anxiety that an exciting event may be occurring elsewhere. The key words here are might and may; these modal verbs simply suggest possibility, though in the moment they seem definitive. Etymologically speaking, FoMO had an alarmingly high usage around 1800, though a quick search of Google Books suggests “fomo” back then was probably (definitely) defined differently.

Numerous online and newspaper articles – and even scientific journal entries – have analyzed the phenomenon. Frequently explained using self-determination theory, the psychological investigation of the acronym suggests “the FoMO phenomenon can be understood as self-regulatory limbo arising from situational or chronic deficits in psychological need satisfactions.” In short, people can choose to adjust their actions to fulfill their desires of competence (usefulness), autonomy (self-freedom), and relatedness (connection with others). This explains why I, and other people, feel antsy in situations when we feel like we’re missing out on other events; knowing that we control our decisions and fearing that we chose incorrectly results in anxious feelings and a longing to be a part of the excitement. After all, some events are unforgettable and beget lifelong memories, and it is often difficult to reconcile missing one such occasion for another one (that is significantly less exhilarating).

FOMO is especially potent at Stanford; the phrase is so commonly used on campus that it is not unusual to express regret at choosing to attend one occasion as opposed to another. There is so much happening all the time that is almost impossible to feel bored, and the sheer number of opportunities available to us is a bit overwhelming. I appreciate all of the choices– this is a great problem to have—but that does not dull the effect that many students here feel. Triple, my first sexion leader in band, offered this piece of advice in a letter to his freshman self: “You must learn to choose.”

I have struggled with learning to choose this entire year, and though it was almost freeing to suddenly have my decisions made for me after I injured my ankle, I simultaneously felt more chained. External conditions aside, it is clear that the solution to FOMO is to be grateful for having so many choices, to fully embrace one decision, and to be present in that moment.

Yet, despite knowing this, it is still extremely difficult to rid ourselves of those anxious feelings. The quote “Don’t miss all the beautiful colors of the rainbow looking for that pot of gold” rings true, but we will probably continue searching for the gold. There are always more things to do, and many of us will keep choosing to fill our time with as many activities as can fit in a schedule.

So, will we overcome FOMO? Some people definitely will, and perhaps it will get easier as time passes. But, for those of us who are unsure, it is important to note that we are not perfect. We will miss out. And that’s okay, because FOMO goes both ways; while it is impossible to be at every exciting event all of the time, it is highly unlikely (while putting in an honest effort) that we will miss out on every single exciting event. Life does not behave like an optimization problem, especially when there are so many variables at play. If we do not accept that we will miss out, then we are setting ourselves up to be unhappy. There are always silver linings, and while some silver linings are shinier than others, they are silver linings nonetheless.

As I’m lying on the floor of my hallway with my leg up against the wall, typing this article and mixing metaphors with an ice pack bandaged to my swollen ankle, I can’t help but chuckle. I’m encouraging everyone to be optimistic and to attempt to overcome FOMO when I spent a good chunk of this weekend wishing my foot would miraculously recover so I could go out. Though this weekend wasn’t the most exciting, I definitely had fun. Three friends brought me dinner on Friday night. One of my RAs taught me how to make a Google form for a dorm-wide kudos program we’re starting. My dad bought enough Chinese take-out for ten people last night. Quite a few people gave me piggy-back rides. My hallmates wheeled me to a Chinese New Year gathering in an office chair. And rainbow cookies! (And chocolate chip cookies that I accidentally let burn… sorry Rachel)

This experience didn’t help me overcome FoMO, but I still managed to have fun. Hopefully, I’ll reach a point in my life when I can consistently devote myself to individual moments. But, if not, at least I won’t miss out on everything.

Cover Image Credit: Janet Coleman-Belin

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18 Reasons Why January Is The Worst Month of the Year

Just wake me up when it's February.

Let's be honest, no one likes January. It's a filler month. The month of gloom and doom and back to school. No one asked for it. And if you're still not convinced, here are a few reasons why January sucks.

1. Christmas is over.

No more Christmas cheer.

2. You have to go back to school.

3. And that means homework

4. Lots and lots of homework

5. You miss your mom.

But don't worry, you can still call her to complain about everything. That's why they invented cell phones, right?


6. It's cold.


7. You can't seem to look cute under all those layers of clothes.

8. You get sick.

And of course your mom isn't there to take care of you. But don't worry, you can still call and complain about how sick you are.

9. And you don't know how to take care of yourself when you get sick.

10. "New Year's Resolutions"

We all know it's BS.

11. Brussels sprouts are in season.

Gross.


12. Valentine's Day decorations are in stores already.

Reminding us lonely people that we are still, in fact, alone.

13. You can't seem to be motivated for anything.

14. There are no good movies out.

Besides Death Cure, cuz heyyyyy Dylan O'Brien.

15. You have no money because you spent it all during the holidays.

16. There is no sunshine.

17. You're a little bit chubby.

Baby got back. And a little bit of front too.

18. And lastly, we all just want to be in bed, but we can't.

Wake me up when it's February.


Cover Image Credit: Emanuel Hahn

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12 Things I Learned During My First Semester Of College

College is one hell of a learning experience

Being a freshmen in college can be terrifying yet exciting. As there are things to learn academically, there are personal things to learn and acknowledge. College is an experience to learn things about yourself and about the world. Here are 12 things I learned during my first semester of college:

1. Be the bigger person

People can be really shitty at times. But, the best thing you can do is forgive and be the bigger person. Don't let people get to you. Being the bigger person will not only make you feel better and help you grow as a person, but it will make you stronger and wiser.

2. It's okay to grieve

Sometimes we are taught to keep all of your feelings on the inside, to not show people your pain and pretend that you are completely fine. That includes pretending you are okay, even when you lose someone dear to you. For example, losing your loved ones can be traumatic and heartbreaking and sometimes, you need to scream and cry and grieve about it. You need to talk about it and take your time to grieve. It's okay to grieve.

3. Ask for help

Most of us know how it feels to be the person that helps everyone else, but won't ask for help themselves, especially when we really need it. Not asking for help when you need it the most can hurt you physically, mentally, and emotionally. When you have a good support system who want to be there for you and help you, take their help. Ask for help. There is no shame in asking for help for yourself.

4. People leave and it's fine

People leave. Friends, family, relationships. People leave. It is hard to accept that your closet friends can leave you without giving you a reason as to why they don't want to be your friends or how your SO says they don't want to be with you anymore and just leaves. When you lose some of your closest friends, it hurts a lot, especially when some of them didn't give me a reason for why they did what they did. However, you learn the hard way that people leave and if they aren't willing to stay in your life, they aren't meant to be in your life. You deserve better.

5. Get toxic people out of your life

If your friend says you need to start wearing makeup because you don't look good without it, end that friendship and tell them to get out of your life. If your relative calls you fat and that you need to lose weight because no guy will date you, get them out of your life. If your SO is abusive, end that relationship and get them out of your life. No one should tell you how to live your life, change yourself for someone else, or hurt you for any reason. If they are toxic and negative, get them out of your life. You deserve to have positive and caring people who will support you no matter what size you are or how you look without makeup.

6. Self care is important

Make sure to put yourself first. Make sure you are helping yourself out and caring for yourself before anyone. It's not selfish, it's necessary. You are a priority. Your life only gets better when you do. Work on yourself and the rest will flow.

7. It's okay to make mistakes and fail

You learn this the hard way. If you are the type of student that always gets A's and B's and having a high GPA in high school, you are up for a rude awakening in college. Not that I'm saying it happens for all students, but majority of them will get bad grades. You are going to do bad on quizzes and exams. At first, you are going to feel that this was not how things were suppose to be. Yet, with making mistakes and failing, sometimes you learn and understand that it's okay to make mistakes. It's ok to fail. Failure is a part of success. Sometimes, we need that eye opener that we need to work harder and make sure to do better next time. We need to learn from our mistakes and not give up because we didn't get it right the first time. A bad grade does not determine who you are and neither does one bad semester or an awful year. You have more than one chance and you can do better. Don't give up.

8. Quit that job if you hate it

Honestly, if you don't like it, quit it. If it's making you mad, sad, or just unhappy then don't wait, quit. Find a new job. You can find a better job that you'll probably like more and maybe even get paid more. Don't continue to feel like you are stuck. Change your surroundings.

9. Get out of your comfort zone

Do the things you have always wanted to do but never had the guts to. Give plasma? Do it. Get a nose piercing? Go for it. Dye your hair blue? You have my blessing. Go crazy. Face your fears. Do what makes you happy and get out there.

10. Find good friends

Having good friends is important to stay sane. It's like having another family. They are there to support you during the fun times but more importantly, during the hard times. Their the ones that won't judge who you are or what you look like. Never take those friends for granted and never let them go.

11. Make time for yourself

All of us are so consumed with school and work and other life problems that we don't have time for ourselves. You worked your butt off to get that GPA and worked a stressful job just to make some cash. You work hard and you need a break. Sometimes you need to stop and take a breather. Yes, school and work is important, but so are you. Make yourself a priority too. Treat yourself.

12. Love Yourself

This is a huge one. Love yourself. You are smart. You are hardworking. You are beautiful. You are kind. You are amazing. You are a unique person and deserve to express your individuality. You all are amazing people and deserve to be treated with respect and love. Never let anyone tell you any different.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

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