- a feeling of anxiety or insecurity over the possibility of missing out on something, such as an event or an opportunity
FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is something I think we’ve all experienced. I remember the second or third night of college I was feeling particularly homesick and stayed in my room. After a little while I realized that my dorm floor had gone quiet. The next day I was scrolling through Instagram and saw that everyone in my hallway had gone out without me, and no one bothered knocking on my door to see if I wanted to join. At the time I was devastated, but looking back now I realize I was upset they left me out, not because I had missed anything. I wasn’t a huge fan of most of the people on my floor, so I don’t know how much fun I would have had anyway. But it’s the principle of the matter, right? Realistically, if they had asked I probably would have either begrudgingly said yes or told them no. Also I later learned that people initially associated me with my crazy roommate, which is why they passed on inviting me out. I don’t blame them.
Even though I have three roommates, I’ve spent a majority of these last few weeks doing stuff alone in my downtime. One roommate plays softball and is always with her team, another lives close to the school and has been gone Thursdays-Sundays, and the third roommate is the one who left her food on the stove for four days. Unfortunately, things have only gotten worse with her and she wants to move out, which is a record for the fastest I’ve ever had a roommate leave. I think I’m going to write a book on how to be a great roommate. Lesson #1: don’t go out on a Wednesday night with your friend and then have said friend throw up all over your bathroom Thursday morning. Common courtesy, people. I’m hiding my toothbrush in my room because I’m so paranoid she hates me and is sticking it in the toilet…
I’m not sure what I expected when I decided to move 552.8 miles away from home to a grad school where I didn’t know anyone in state I’d never been to before. I guess I was just assuming everyone would look at me and think “Wow! That girl I’ve never seen before seems neat! I should invite her to my party.” Needless to say, that didn’t happen and the first week was difficult. My apartment is right next to two other ones, so I can hear everything ranging from the loud parties on Friday nights to the fire alarms going off at 1am. Both are equally irritating. Having been through a similar situation at the beginning of undergrad I realized that I just haven’t found a group of friends here yet, and in the meantime I can either mope in my room or go out and do things alone. So far I’ve done stuff like visited the ice cream place across the street multiple times, read on the quad, found some running trails around campus, written letters to friends, and am currently looking at making pottery sometime next week at a store close by. All of this without any forced small talk, which is my favorite part.
Even if we don’t admit it, we all encounter FOMO. If you’re like me and occasionally wonder what’s wrong with you because no one’s inviting you do to stuff, here are a few tips for combating it and learning to be a little more comfortable alone. Spoiler alert: there’s nothing wrong with me, and I’m sure the same can be said for you too. It’s easy to forget about all the times people did invite you to do stuff and just focus on the times you weren’t invited. Sometimes we just accidentally get left out.
1. Stay off social media. This is really where FOMO stems from anyway. What did people do back before social media when they were wondering if friends were having fun without them? They probably thought about it for about ten seconds and went on with their day. This might not be correct because I was born in 1995 and don’t remember a time without the internet, but I’m assuming people didn’t think about it too much. Although I take that back. I distinctly remember accidentally clicking on the AOL shortcut on our computer, listening to the screeching sound of dial-up, getting a popup rudely announcing the internet wasn’t enabled, and then getting annoyed my parents wouldn’t let me install the disk AOL mailed to us that had 100 free hours of internet. Seriously, all I wanted was to waste my life away playing RollerCoaster Tycoon. Why was that icon so close to the useless AOL one on the desktop? Also why were we basically the last people I knew to get internet, mom and dad? I know you read this. But I digress.
Watching the Snapchat story of your friend who got a full ride to an Ivy League law school and seeing all the parties she’s at with all her new friends isn’t going to make you feel better about your slow (but steady) progress making friends at your non-Ivy League school. I speak from recent personal experience. Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter aren’t inherently bad, obviously, but I’ve taken a few hiatuses from them and realized one thing after I’ve taken a step back: at the end of the day, who REALLY, TRULY cares about your life? Aside from family and a handful of friends, the answer is no one. Nothing like a dose of harsh reality on a Wednesday night. I’ll like pictures of my friends’ recent engagements or wish them happy birthday, but I can’t say I’m overly interested in the lives of 95% of my friends on Facebook. I talk to my parents multiple times a week, I’m pen pals with three of my close friends because I really, really love getting mail, and I can’t remember the last time I’ve gone more than a day not talking to Sister Celiac WHO’S IN COLLEGE, BY THE WAY. Jeez this blog is old. It’s not that I’m ignoring the rest of my friends, but you can realistically only be close to so many people. The next time you see pictures on Facebook of a party you weren’t invited to, remember that if they considered you their friend they would have invited you or found other ways to be in touch. It’s probably not because they hate you, they just can’t possibly be friends with everyone. That being said, don’t waste your time and energy stressing over people who are the reason FOMO exists.
2. Expect to be uncomfortable. Since all three roomies are MIA I decided to get breakfast this morning alone. Doing things alone is scary and I still feel judged that people think I’m the weirdo with no friends. Trust me, the more you do it the easier it gets.
3. Realize there’s nothing wrong with a security blanket. If you’re still not super comfortable with the feeling of being alone, bring along a book or your phone or your knitting stuff. I’ve been super into cross stitching lately and am hoping to start a new project soon. Would I feel kinda kooky cross stitching alone at breakfast? Probably. But what about watching Green Day music videos or take Buzzfeed quizzes at breakfast while I feast on my all-you-can-eat bacon? Much more comfortable. There are no set rules about how you spend your time, so don’t feel bad if you need to be on your phone to be comfortable at first. Just stay off social media (see tip #1).
4. Go somewhere by yourself at least once a week. Once you realized you’re going to be uncomfortable and you’re armed with your security blanket, plan weekly outings by yourself. One thing I miss about undergrad was the fact that the college was right in the middle of the downtown area. I was only a few blocks from restaurants, a bowling alley, movie theater, and art gallery. Once I was okay going to a movie by myself, I would go to see two or three movies a month. Because the only thing that makes the Lego Movie funnier is sitting in a theater with 50 kids opening day while they laugh even harder than you. For more ideas on places to go alone watch this:
So what’s the alternative to FOMO? JOMO. Joy of missing out. Learning to be comfortable being by yourself. Eventually you’ll find yourself having an appreciation (preference?) for alone time. I think I have a healthy balance of time socializing with people and doing stuff alone, but I’ve finally gotten to the point where it’s liberating realizing I don’t have to rely on others for fun. So take some time to go to a park, see a movie, or go to dinner alone. There’s nothing better than eating a giant plate of pasta with no one trying to talk to you while your mouth is full.
One last thing to also keep in mind is there is a huge difference between being alone and being lonely. You can be surrounded by 100 people and still feel lonely, whereas you can be alone and be more content than you would be at that party full people you don’t really consider friends anyway. At the end of the day yeah your Ivy league friend might be having more fun than you are at that party, but what she’s not showing you is how stressful law school is and how she isn’t even friends with most of those people. So while she’s living it up right now at fancy parties with rich kids, I’m enjoying my relatively stress-free counseling classes and staying up late laughing with 2/3 of my roommates. I’ll keep you updated on whether or not my toothbrush actually ends up in the toilet. Sending thoughts and prayers my way is highly appreciated.