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Tips and tricks for managing the ‘fear of missing out’ in unversity

Jesse Colautti | Fulcrum Staff

Illustration by Tina Wallace

THE SYMPTOMS ARE obvious. You break out in a cold sweat, your stomach begins to turn, and your mind starts to race 100 miles a minute. Suddenly, all you want to do is stare out the window and check Twitter all night. If this describes you, don’t panic; you are just one of the many university students encountering the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).

I had never heard of FOMO until first year. A friend joked that I had become ill with FOMO because whenever we decided to watch a movie on a Saturday night, I would check my phone at a ridiculous rate. The term struck a chord with me because while living in residence, everyone seemed to show symptoms. No matter how much someone wanted to lay low for an evening, screams and music from floors above and below led to doubts, restlessness, and usually bad nights for anyone in the vicinity that wasn’t participating.

Feeling like there’s people out having more fun than you isn’t really a new concept, but I was surprised to find out that the term FOMO itself extended beyond my group of friends. Journalists and psychologists have started talking about FOMO as a new type of social disorder—a consequence of the social media age.

I guess in the olden days—before the likes of Instagram and Twitter—the decision to take the night off was quick and relatively guilt-free. If you could avoid physically seeing or hearing the party, then you could spend your night in blissful ignorance and remain worriless.

Our lives today are shared so instantaneously that it is becoming harder to hide ourselves from the rest of the world. Deciding to take a night off now is a bigger deal because each alternative is laid out for us on some type of social media. It’s as if we now have constant access to the multiple realities of what our night could have been. How could you not second-guess yourself?

Although it may not be possible to avoid FOMO in university, I have come up with some pretty good ways to keep the symptoms at bay and to at least enjoy comfort food and old movies in peace.

Ignorance is bliss, but you have to work for it

If you truly want a night away from it all, don’t give yourself the opportunity to feel guilty about it. Go relax at a place other than residence, turn your WiFi off, and for God’s sake put your phone in your closet. I promise the rest of the world will be there in the morning.

Reasonable expectations

Just because you’ve decided to take a night off doesn’t mean the rest of the world has. Don’t expect all your friends to be mourning your absence, or for there to be nothing interesting on Twitter. Be confident in the decision you made. I guarantee that being torn between all your other options will lead to many worse nights than if you had just invested yourself in the one you chose.

Remember why you wanted the night off in the first place

Everyone needs a day off once in a while. Maybe there are people out there having more fun than you, but take a deep breath and remember why you thought taking it easy was a good idea in the first place. You’ll have plenty more opportunities to go out and make others jealous. So enjoy the moment—and the comfort food.