With the beginning of a new year and school term, we're given a chance to start fresh with a clean slate. One such goal that I believe everyone should strive for is self-acceptance. We live in a world dependent on technology where seeing people broadcast their life is a part of our daily routine. Our eyes are glued to our phones for the latest updates of people we know from high school, college or work. The use of Instagram to post some highlights and the use of Snapchat stories to showcase our daily activities creates a stronger desire to stay connected with everyone else. This is where the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) comes in. It's defined as, "the fear of missing out on something or someone more interesting, exciting or better than what we’re currently doing." It constantly results in unhealthy comparisons among others and poses the question, "What if passing on this opportunity makes me miss out on something potentially life-changing?"
It's hard to not feel left out when we view photos or videos of others engaging in fun activities that can make us question our social lives (or lack thereof). Previous research has proven that the rapid increase in the use of the internet has lead to internet addictions among college students. With this toxic addiction, people are psychologically dependent on the internet, as demonstrated through their intense investment in social media and symptoms of anxiety and depression when offline. Furthermore, Facebook's founding President, Sean Parker, believes that social media has created unintended consequences on societal behaviour and has resulted in increased consumption use.
To help others learn how to overcome FOMO, here are eight students who reveal how they feel about it, with personal advice on how to not let it negatively control your life and your emotions.
1. Nicole, Wilfrid Laurier University
"I personally don't feel anxious like other people might, rather, I might get a little bummed that I'm missing out. I'm the kind of person who likes to do everything and take advantage of every opportunity I get. It sounds silly, but I often find myself going out with friends even if I'm not particularly in the mood for it, simply because I don't want to miss out. I often go over the pros and cons in my head to remember why it's beneficial for me to do something other than going to a party or event. At the end of the day, I'm only nineteen years old and there will be so many opportunities to go out and experience new things well into my twenties."
2. Anonymous, University of Waterloo
"I don't use a lot of social media, generally, and only follow things that I find interesting or people who I care about knowing how their lives are going. I think I keep myself busy and take advantage of opportunities that I am interested in and am content with that."
3. Vanessa, University of Waterloo
"I’m not exactly sure if FOMO affects me -— if it does, it only happens with concerts. If I couldn’t get tickets to a concert of one of my favorite artists performing, I’ll be pretty sad watching snaps of it from people that I have on Snapchat that may have gone to the concert. I don’t necessarily feel anxious about it, just bummed out [about] not being able to attend. I don’t think I’m affected by FOMO. I just accept the fact that you don’t get everything you want in life sometimes, and that’s OK because life goes on. Plus, there will always be more opportunities in the future to attend other concerts/exciting events."
4. Aleksandra, Western University
"I currently attend a college where there is a tight-knit community. This means that everyone knows everyone. I really enjoy the fact that people frequently ask me to do things with them. But so often I have so many responsibilities to do. It's almost like a physical pain each time you have to say no to a friend. All the while, you're imagining them having fun and bonding to a higher degree and you have something else that you must complete. Or sometimes, it's not even the fact that school gets in the way. Sometimes, you just need a bit of time to yourself, and your many extroverted friends will understand you if you make that excuse. And so, the endless cycle of missing out on fun events begins. But I would like you to remember that it's OK to miss some opportunities, as long as you don't miss all of them! As life stretches before us in an endless swirl of open doors and new people, there are always innovative things coming our way."
5. Anonymous, University of Waterloo
"[I experience FOMO] to an extent, but if something were to be happening and I’m doing something else, then it’s OK. Sometimes, when I’m not doing anything though, it may hit a bit. [I] meet up with other people or lay in bed and binge Netflix."
6. Anonymous, McGill University
"It used to [affect me], but not anymore. I became more comfortable with realizing who my friends actually are and if they’re true to me or not. It takes a lot of convincing myself that my friends love me no matter what, and after a certain point, you realize that you can’t be everywhere at once. If it’s a healthy friendship, you’re going to be happy to see posts and pictures, somehow, in some way."
7. Anonymous, University of Waterloo
"[FOMO] provides me with an incentive to go to all these events during my years to come. I deal with it by watching videos and reading information about it to make me feel like I knew what happened there and was virtually a part of it."
8. Sherneese, RMIT University
"I guess it depends on the type of social event going on because I feel FOMO happens even when people don’t necessarily enjoy these events. That’s why I feel that I am less affected when it comes to FOMO because even when my friends/people around me are engaging in seemingly interesting affairs, if they don’t interest me I won’t participate even if the majority [does] too. So, it’s basically asking yourself if it is something you want in your life, or simply going through the motions of doing [it] just because the people around you are, also known as social pressure."
Because of social media, FOMO has become more prevalent as people can view the highlights of someone else's life online. This can result in a person spending more time comparing their social lives to others' and leave them unsatisfied with their quality of life. However, while many of us feel influenced by social media to have a better social life, it's important to note that every person's definition of "being social" is different, and there's no specific quota every person must follow in order to truly feel personal satisfaction.
Remember, New Year's resolutions are a set of goals that you need to progressively work towards. You can't expect yourself to magically develop good habits. Instead, learn to take baby steps. FOMO is a feeling that might not go away in an instant, but with proactive measurements, you're bound to learn how to appreciate the way you dictate your life and spend time with others without letting social media control your feelings. I encourage you to put yourself out there and motivate yourself to socialize, create lifelong memories and experience new events in a positive way -— just be careful not to make unnecessary comparisons to what you see on social media for the sake of competing against others and for inner fulfilment. As Sean Parker says, "I use these platforms, I just don't let these platforms use me."
Lead Image Credit: William Iven via Unsplash