Column, On Campus, Arts

Fear Not: Letting Go Of ‘FOMO’

Social media has made it so we constantly know what people are doing, and inevitably, worry about what we’re not doing.

Spiders with hairy legs, ghosts in movie theaters, Signs, talking to strangers on the telephone, and Halloween—these were the things that I was scared of when I was a kid.

Not being able to go to MA’s with my roommates, not getting an inside joke between the members of my volunteering group, and not showing up to the tailgate my friends are throwing on game day—these are the things that I’m afraid of now.

I may have outgrown my adolescent anxieties about insects and the supernatural, but at Boston College, I’ve adopted a new fear—the fear of missing out.

FOMO is a very real thing. It’s as real as my childhood dread of critters crawling in my basement and of people wearing gory costumes on the last night of every October. It’s a state of mind that has always been around, lurking in our thoughts, but only recently has come to dominate our generation.

On any given day, we’re invited to accept, decline, or say maybe to five separate events on Facebook, cryptically implying we be there or be square. We see people pinning locations to their photos on Instagram, showing off the concerts they’ve gone to, the vacations they’ve taken, and the restaurants they’ve eaten at. Snapchats haunt our iPhones, and each time that little ghost icon starts to dance while it loads our messages, we can’t help but feel a little frightened by the possibility that we missed out on something cool.

Social media has made it so we constantly know what people are doing, and inevitably, worry about what we’re not doing.

We have this compulsive need to “check in” or tweet about each seemingly significant aspect of our lives, almost as if to prove to our peers that we’re not boring, socially inept, or uncultured. Scrolling through the feeds of our countless apps isn’t enjoyable—it’s troublesome, revealing the experiences we weren’t and should have or could have been a part of.

With bigger concerns like maybe taking the GREs or finding a job after graduation, it bothers me that we spend so much energy freaking out about not being at every senior night, Boston outing, or themed party that our friends are going to. There are a ton of things we worry about as students, but shouldn’t some make us more anxious than others? At BC, we’ve learned to prioritize our time, but maybe we should be prioritizing our fears, too.

There’s no denying FOMO’s existence, but I think we should stop denying it the importance we give it in our day-to-day lives. It’s impossible to attend each and every event going on around us—no matter who you are. Besides, if we’re all missing out, are we really missing out on much of anything?

Life is full of experiences that can’t all be ours. With technology, we can share what we do, but I’m not sure if that’s so great. Rather than fostering friendship, social media has come to foster a degree of fear.

This weekend, I didn’t catch the Shwayze concert in the Rat, but I did go to Homecoming. I didn’t make it to Hillside’s Pub Series, but I went to the football game. I made a number of decisions over the past few days about whom and what I would or wouldn’t see. There were things I missed, and things I didn’t.

I’m only human, and I can’t be in more than one place at once. If I could, I’d have to be a ghost, an alien, or something else that my 10-year-old self probably would have been terrified of—and while that’s hard to imagine, I think that that possibility would most likely be way scarier than my fear of missing out.

Featured Image by John Wiley / Heights Editor

October 19, 2014