Spring on Campus

A student discussion group for Bisci 3 meets on Old Main lawn, enjoying the warm weather on Thursday, April 4, 2019.

College introduced me to a whole new extreme of FOMO, or “fear of missing out.” Thrown into a town with endless things to do, I was constantly uncertain how I wanted to spend my time.

This vastness of State College with continuous happenings and friends encased me in feelings that I was not doing enough or spending my time wrong.

I have memories from my freshmen year of extreme cases of FOMO. Sitting in my dorm room with my friends, I had my phone arched to my face and clicked through social media stories on my phone.

Click — my friends from home are together closer to our hometown. Click — a friend from class is at a party without me. Click — my night with friends didn’t seem to be enough anymore.

These feelings of FOMO are so strange. They constantly compare the current moment you are in to the possibility of being somewhere else.

FOMO is actually so common that it is analyzed by psychologists, and is even a dictionary term. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as the “fear of not being included in something (such as an interesting or enjoyable activity) that others are experiencing.”

The reality that social media is continuously updating what your friends are doing, all the time, is one that society — myself included — is constantly adjusting to. There are many studies that show social media’s effect on self-confidence and direct relation with FOMO.

Scientists at Carleton and McGill University studied the psychological aspects of FOMO on first-year college students. In this study, they discovered that FOMO was mostly present later in the day and near the end of the week.

The study also said, “social media may influence FOMO by reminding people of not only one but multiple alternate experiences on which they are missing out.”

In March 2018, Snapchat updated their app with Snapchat Maps, which allows individuals to see friends’ location whenever they turn their “snap map” on. These advancements are useful in some scenarios for safety and convenience, but to me it feels like we are delving deeper and deeper into a “Black Mirror” episode.

I try to remind myself when feelings of FOMO come along, that all moments reflected on social media are misleading. Whether that be a cheesing selfie of my friends or a ridiculous video of someone’s fun night, the most entertaining moments are usually the ones captured. Frankly, hanging out with my friends or binge watching episodes of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” can be just as entertaining as some of my nights out.

My self-realization that FOMO isn’t worth the insecurities was a big part in avoiding the wandering feelings. Psychology Today suggests finding activities that make you feel good about yourself. For me, that is calling some friends over to cook or watch a movie, going to the gym or having a spa day.

In the transition to college, your social life becomes your home life. With roommates and friends in class, there is no more fake excuse of “my mom wants me home” — your friends are your home. This is why you demand reassurance from peers — and when they are having fun without you, it can feel detrimental to self-confidence.

For me, my feelings of FOMO also become lesser as I figure out my priorities. When deciding on a night out, I try to convince myself to go out with friends in fear of missing out, when my body tells me to stay home and attempt “adulting.”

I think the lesson to be learned is to not listen to societal expectations 24/7. Something I am working on now, especially in this past Syllabus week, was to not think about what my other friends were doing and to live in the moment that I was in.

Life is happening all around you at all times of the day. If you are constantly checking social media, where others are or what they are doing, you are never going to be happy where you are.

As for myself, I plan to turn off the “snap maps,” ignore the stories, and fight the FOMO.

If you're interested in submitting a Letter to the Editor, click here.