The fear of missing out (FOMO) is an aspect of life that most of us would rather live without. Unfortunately, this feeling is both involuntary and uncontrollable, and has a way of impacting us the most when we’re already feeling down.
Having gotten tonsillitis an impressive total of nine times in the past 18 months, I would now consider myself an expert in dealing with the sinking, disappointing feeling of oncoming FOMO. All the events you planned to go to over the next fortnight disappear into thin air upon hearing the all too familiar sound of your doctor’s sharp intake of breath, as he confirms for the upteenth time: “You’ve got it again!” All my dreams of attending that party where the boy with the buzzcut and the hoop earring was almost definitely going be, or of seeing that band I bought tickets for months ago all get flushed down the toilet as my tonsils once again swell to the size of golf balls.
However, these bad times do genuinely make me appreciate my otherwise perfect health and the good times more – and helps to keep my life in perspective.
In recent years FOMO has also manifested itself in a permanent platform that literally maintains its popularity and makes its money by using and exploiting peoples’ FOMO: social media. I consume seemingly endless amounts of people “living their best lives” through the countless Instragam stories I flick through on a daily basis. It’s not that banal boomerangs of people making the most of Pygmalions 2 for 1 cocktails curated with a thoughtfully chosen “Thank God it’s Friday” sticker deeply resonate with me, but when you’re sitting at home alone watching reruns of Made in Chelsea, it can make you feel a little resentful. No one puts up pictures of themselves eating a full tube of Pringles and crying over The 1975 performances on Youtube but that doesn’t mean people aren’t doing it. But when people are continuously posting moments that are intentionally meant to be perceived as fun or sociable, it can make your life feel boring and uneventful.
No one puts up pictures of themselves eating a full tube of Pringles and crying over The 1975 performances on Youtube but that doesn’t mean people aren’t doing it
Although I have learned to cope a bit better with my own sense of FOMO as I’ve gotten older, I still suffer from severe bouts of it here and there. The most toxic thing about my relationship with FOMO was that at times it dictated what I did, regardless of whether I actually wanted to do it or not.
FOMO goes hand in hand with another equally annoying four letter abbreviation: you only live once (YOLO), which when deployed by friends or peers can potentially pressure you into doing things you don’t want to do. For me, this has never been in relation to anything harmful but rather resulted in me doing things I didn’t particularly enjoy doing or found incredibly boring: for example, when you’re really, really tired and your friend suggests going on a mystery tour bus that night, and you honestly couldn’t think of anything worse but everyone is telling you that you can all “sleep when you’re dead”, and then you pay €45 and end up at an old man’s pub in Naas at 3am and wish you actually were dead. We all know that feeling.
I let this FOMO feeling take the wheel for a while and it did me no favours. For a period of time last year, I was going out to clubs twice a week despite consistently not enjoying it but kept returning because of that nagging fear of missing out. I felt that college was about constantly going out, and it was what everyone else was doing: why would I not be? In hindsight, the idea that the best night of my life would ever be had in Dtwo was, of course, both misguided and ridiculous but FOMO has a way of getting under your skin and making you think and do crazy things.
I felt that college was about constantly going out, and it was what everyone else was doing: why would I not be?
This period of time coincided with the beginning of college, where you are overwhelmed with a new sense of independence and freedom of choice and are simultaneously relentlessly bombarded with Trinity Ents events promising you the “best night of your life” three days a week. The sooner you realise the only good Ents event is Trinity Ball (if you hate value for money, of course), the easier your life will become. I eventually came to my senses and decided I shouldn’t be doing things I didn’t enjoy, but it took me longer than it should have and the FOMO still proved to be a difficult feeling to shake.
A lot of people feel a sense of responsibility to have the best time of their lives in college but it’s a huge weight off your shoulders once you shun expectations in favour of doing what you actually enjoy.
Once you come to terms with the fact that a little bit of FOMO is inevitable in life due to the literally thousands of choices you can make every day, it gets easier. Now, I am able to call it quits when I want to and although there’s a possibility I could meet the love of my life in Dicey’s, I could equally meet him on my bus home or in my local Spar buying some guacamole. And so that’s what I’ll be doing for now.