FOMO or fear of missing out has become a new reality for me this winter. In pre-pandemic times if I went away for the weekend with my family or out to dinner on a Saturday night I wasn’t too upset about missing plans with my friends as I saw them all week and knew that I would see them soon after.
A new type of FOMO I am experiencing is in relation to COVID. My family and I have been strict about who we see and our COVID-safety protocols and I believe that this is a responsible thing to do. On the other hand, I see people who are a little more relaxed having sleepovers or gathering in larger groups and while I know this is not recommended, I have a FOMO that isn’t necessarily about me longing to be there, but more that I want to do that too, because it looks fun and I want to pretend that life is “normal” again. This mostly comes from social media as I see celebrities or people I’m not as close with living more loosely. We don’t get to see the direct consequences of their actions on social media but we can look to the case count on the news to see the harsh reality more broadly. It’s hard because when you see so many people going about their lives, it normalizes it and you crave those same experiences. As much as I want to go out and have a good time, I have to remember that in my strictness I have been preserving the health of myself and my loved ones, something I don’t want to risk.
On a more personal note, I have been in Florida for a few months now and plan to stay here for the remainder of the winter. Although I know I’m so lucky to be here in a COVID safe environment and that this weather and atmosphere is better for me, I have been experiencing a lot of FOMO when I see my friends together on social media. I have fun in different ways here with my family and recognize my privilege to even be having this issue. I don’t think this FOMO comes from the fact that we are in different states as I am happy here, it’s really because my friend group became my whole world once we were able to safely see friends again over the summer and into the fall. We didn’t all split up for camp like usual and we couldn’t really hang out with other groups and see other friends as we could with our central friend group. Almost every time we would hang out everyone was there as no one was out of town or had other fun things to do. I don’t get to see my friends at school everyday anymore and if I do it’s just in tiny boxes on a screen. I am no longer seeing these people that were my only social exposure and I have trouble coping with that.
In my experiencing fear of missing out I have learned a few good ways to combat both COVID FOMO and Friend FOMO. I remember that I can’t have it all, safety and big fun or Florida and my friends. So I chose to be present and thankful for my safety and situation. I turn my phone off and don’t continue looking at the upsetting social media posts, limiting my exposure. I try to remember that the grass isn’t always greener and people often seem happier on social media then in real life. After all this I do something that matters to me, like watching a movie, going for a walk, or baking a treat, which usually puts me in a better mood. Most importantly, I seek out real social connections, mostly with my mom in person but I also make an effort to call friends and catch up. This clears my head and makes me feel fortunate for my environment and the people who stay a large part of my life no matter the distance.
FOMO is a subconscious reality as we can’t see the people and do the fun things we want without risking our health in a COVID world. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and I encourage everyone to choose others health over their own enjoyment until we get there.