Treat yourself better: let go of FOMO

In an age where it appears as if we have more ability to connect with others than ever, fear of not establishing a connection is still our biggest problem. Perhaps our overexposure to each other is causing connection to backfire – with every single aspect of our lives now digitally documented, it becomes impossible for people not to anguish over the party they missed when Instagram is filled with little snapshots of every bit of the fun. 

FOMO (fear-of-missing-out) has become a massive problem, and the first few weeks of university are driven by nothing else. We are told, “you must make friends! Go to everything!” because without getting out, and meeting people, you can’t find people that you want to make friends with. We are possessed by our need to bond with our flats or course friends; to make at least one meaningful connection with someone who we can cling to until we eventually find our feet and don’t feel alone and overwhelmed. In the first week, I went to absolutely everything that my flat went to, just because I wanted to make sure that I didn’t get left out of the bonding. As time goes on, I’ve learnt that just because I miss a club night here and there, or don’t hang out in the kitchen until 4am, that doesn’t mean that my flatmates and my friends will stop liking me. 

The hardest thing about FOMO is that it is founded on a grain of truth – friendships are formed by hanging out and doing things with each other. When you miss out on those things, you often miss out on experiences – you don’t get to hear each other’s gossip, or witness your friend downing a bottle of tequila and throwing their clothes all over the floor. Things like this, and experiencing them with each other, gives you something to talk about and bond over – “hey, do you remember when Jack ran naked through the halls?” is a moment that two people can bond over for life.

However, missing out here and there doesn’t equal social isolation. Never ever hanging out with anyone of course leads you to a) missing out and b) not meeting anyone or knowing anyone well enough to call them a friend, but taking time to yourself or saying ‘no’ to things that your friends and flatmates might want to do that you don’t doesn’t mean you won’t have friends. 

Suffering from anxiety my whole life has often left me agonising over missing out. I would spend days after declining an invitation wishing I had accepted, thinking that my friends would eventually stop liking me or move on with their lives without me because I was never present. Eventually, I realised that these moments I had taken for myself, when I didn’t want to go somewhere just because my friends were, made me happier because I was being true to what I wanted. My friends understood – we all have things we don’t want to do, and anyone who ‘punishes’ you by becoming more distant when you don’t go to everything with them isn’t really a friend. 

Friendships are formed on the basis of mutual liking. We can bond over films, music taste, clothes, art, football, our courses, our hometowns, our languages. We don’t need to spend 24/7 doing the exact same things that our friends do, going to every party and club night or spending every evening together until someone eventually caves and goes to bed first in order to make meaningful connections. Putting yourself first – your health, your wellbeing and your desires – is often more attractive to the people you want to be your friends than feeling as if your only choice is to make yourself uncomfortable. 

In 2018, we need to learn to treat ourselves better, and letting go of your FOMO could be one more step towards happiness.