There’s a phenomenon that tends to be common among university students, a phenomenon that for some has never been a problem, and for others can be confusing and frustrating.
I’m talking about FOMO – the “Fear Of Missing Out.” Let’s say your friends want to get together to go out to dinner, or to a club, or some other plan, and you can’t join them because you need to study, or work, or you aren’t in town. There is no reason for you to feel bad about not joining, you’ll simply join next time or do something else, but still, you’re filled with questions: What if they have more fun than I do? What if they get closer to each other and eventually stop inviting me? What if they think I’m boring because I’m staying in? What if I’m missing out?
The truth is that FOMO is a very real and dangerous thing. It can be the root of many insecurities that can lead you down a harmful spiral. In university, once you’re out of the house and not living with your parents anymore, you’ll experience a new-found feeling of freedom, finally doing what you want without having to ask for permission, and so you want to sign up to every event, make a lot of plans with your friends, and go out as much as possible.
Beware! This can lead to bad organization, bad habits, and end in burn out. In an attempt to be able to do everything we want to, we fill our schedules to the last possible minute. In the beginning, this can be fun and easy, always being somewhere with someone doing something; taking pictures and making memories. I must warn you, though, that this feeling does not last forever.
How does FOMO turn into something dangerous? Most likely, you will start to make a lot of plans and accept everything that is proposed to you, with the objective of meeting new people or trying new things. This is a good thing, until you realize that university life is a busy life, and that you have an exam soon, or you need to turn in a project, but that you already said yes to different plans with your friends.
Here is where it gets complicated. You know you need to study and work, but you’re scared that your friends will have fun and you will not be included, and so the FOMO kicks in. You decide on going out instead of studying, you prioritize the wrong things, and suddenly you haven’t studied and the exam is the next day. You don’t know how to organize yourself, because you want to do everything all at once, and that is simply not possible. This can lead to a disregard for grades, self-care, and your well-being in general. It will end up causing you stress and frustration.
If this keeps going and you make plans when you know you shouldn’t, it may become a habit, and you will eventually do things you really don’t want to do, develop bad habits like frequent drinking and smoking, not getting enough sleep, not taking care of yourself, and, before you know it, you could be burnt out without the motivation to do anything.
While this sounds harsh, and it can be considered an extreme situation, I know some people that have gone through this, and it is not easy nor fun. Now, how should we deal with FOMO?
The most important thing to keep in mind is that you can’t do it all. You’re not going to be able to be at every event, go to every party, and see everyone you want to, so get that idea out of your head. As much as a person needs fun and a good social life, we also need alone time, self-care, and a good sleep schedule. You’re going to need to establish priorities and set aside free time as well as study time. Get out your phone, computer, planner or whatever organizational tool you have and use it. Write down your to-do list, separate between what you have to do and what you want to do, because they are probably very different things. Set due dates and allocate your time wisely.
One of the best pieces of advice I can give you is to listen to yourself. At the end of the day, there’s always going to be another party, another dinner, or another event. If you prefer staying in over going out with friends, then do that. If you know you have work to do, then get it done. Otherwise, you will most likely regret it eventually.
FOMO is not a good feeling, and it can be scary. The truth is that, at the end of the day, you need to focus on yourself and what you need to and want to do. You cannot make decisions based on what others might or might not think of you. Your friends and family will always be there to make plans with you whenever you want, but your exams won’t be there ready for you to retake them everytime, and your well-being can suffer if you don’t make sure that you are balancing everything that you want to do.
While you want to have time for everything, sometimes you have to sacrifice some things for others, and that is just part of growing up. Make sure you have fun and enjoy your time at university, but don’t lose track of what matters to you in the process.