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FOMO: Its Consuming and Destabilizing Reality

Let me paint you a picture: you’re at home bored and alone when you see a picture of your friends out and about having fun in the city. It doesn’t matter where they are or what they’re doing, all you can see is them, together, without you. Suddenly, you feel a heaviness in the air, a pit in your stomach and all you can think is “why can’t it be this easy for me?”

This is the feeling of the fear of missing out. It’s a feeling that can range from a slight sting of temporary sadness to an all-consuming envious and isolating burn.

One would think it creeps up on you, subtly making its way to the surface. Instead, it’s a feeling that comes as a surprise. Perhaps an uninvited guest that ends up staying for too long; some would say one that never leaves. 

How does this uninvited guest show up at your doorstep constantly? How did the feeling surprise me even after I thought I dealt with it?

It’s simple: scrolling the endless void that is social media, something we hold right in our palms, makes us see the best in others and the worst in ourselves. We see what others have and want it for ourselves so we don’t feel lesser than them. And so, the cycle now begins.

The cycle is vicious, determined to turn you into both a green-eyed monster and someone who just wants to not feel alone anymore. 

It’s so easy to be trapped into this fear, to feel small, cornered, isolated and mostly, just lonely. You want to go to the same places, experience the same things, be part of the same inside jokes, the same memories and yet, you’re stuck where you are. 

It’s all you can think about and now it weighs you down emotionally, mentally and physically. From overthinking, to even nausea and a lack of appetite, FOMO has the ability to effortlessly take over your day-to-day life and do a complete 180° on your mindset. It’s destabilizing, it makes you feel there’s something wrong with you: everybody else seems to be having fun, why are you the only one sulking in your self-pity?

While it is almost inevitable to fall down that rabbit-hole of emotions, it’s so important to realize that there is, in fact, nothing wrong with you. It’s hard to remember that what we see of others online is only what they want us to see. The parties, the pictures, the inside jokes, it’s nothing but cherry-picked moments of our lives that we’re most comfortable letting others see. To compare your circumstances with somebody else’s carefully manufactured online image is useless and only feeds into the cycle of envy and loneliness.

It took me a long time to realize that. Of course it’s a fact that I’ve always been aware of in the back of my mind, but to truly confront and accept it was a process. Don’t get me wrong, the path to escape the hold of this fear and envy wasn’t easy, nor was it linear. It had its ups and downs (a lot more downs than I’d care to admit) but it was worth it. It took a lot of self-reflection and learning to let go of my dependence on social media.

Though FOMO can quickly turn into an all-consuming burn, I’m here to remind you that burns can and will heal, but only if treated properly. It won’t be easy, and it sure won’t be fast, but it will go away and at the end of the day, that’s what matters.

And so maybe the next time the spontaneous uninvited guest shows up, you might just stand your ground and won’t welcome them in.

Khushy Vashisht is a first-year journalism student at X University. She enjoys singing, hate-watching Twilight, and reading mystery novels. Her love for journalism comes from wanting to empower the voiceless by bringing new and important stories to light. When she isn't writing, she can usually be found watching true crime documentaries, procrastinating on her readings, or both at the same time.
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