Illustration by Ahmed Bilal

The Hitchhiker's Guide to FOMO

To miss out or not to miss out, that is the question.

It is 11 p.m.. I am snuggling on the bed in my comfortable pajamas with wet hair and the ugliest face mask on while peacefully eating french fries and watching Gilmore Girls. I get a text message inviting me to a gathering. Apparently, the jungle is “really fun” so naturally, I exhale dramatically, close my laptop and leave my warm bed to put on my best (and most uncomfortable) outfit. There I was, standing in the mirror, putting layers of makeup on freshly moisturized skin, thinking: “What am I doing? It’s Tuesday.”
You guessed it, the sponsor of that night was Fear of Missing Out (aka FOMO). It’s not new or unavoidable, yet it remains a hot topic for young adults. Some students might feel FOMO because they are not involved in enough activities, while others because they did not catch up on the latest gossip. You either feel it for a moment and move on with your life, or you are like me and let this fear consume you and dictate your decisions. No matter why you feel it and how long it lasts, FOMO stems from dissatisfaction with your life and often results in feelings of helplessness, envy and low self-esteem.
It is likely that what you are so afraid to “miss” is something that is deeply rooted in your perception of what is valuable in life, which does not necessarily align with your actual values. So, why do you want things you don’t actually want? We have all heard it before, the big and scary villain of our lives — social media. Seeing highlights of people’s lives, sometimes not even real, makes you believe they are living a fairytale life with a happily ever after ending. That can be, of course, an exaggeration, but seeing how much fun your classmate is having at all the cute cafés during January Term in Paris is likely to evoke some feelings of misery if you are stuck in Abu Dhabi doing boring homework for a boring professor while eating boring overpriced salmon. You end up wishing you were in Paris, even though you dislike the city, and find yourself longing for experiences that were probably fabricated using the best angles, timings and filters.
Unfortunately, social media is not the only cause of FOMO. Identity and mental health issues also contribute to this fear. All things said, what can you do? Tune in for some advice from a fellow FOMO victim.
Step 1. Accept that it is not ‘normal’ to be able to get everything you’ve ever wanted (and didn’t want).
I paid a little visit to Student Success and Wellbeing, crying over the fact that some first year I don’t know is involved in three SIGs, has an assistantship, got herself a boyfriend and all I did is finally figure out how to order a combo meal without being overcharged. To which my counselor replied that this freshman was probably sitting in the same chair last week crying over the same problem. We all want things we don’t have time for. Yes, even those who have everything you want don’t actually have everything they want.
Step 2. Figure out your fundamental values.
Easier said than done, but you need to dig deep into your consciousness to figure out what you like, want and need. Going into the jungle because all the “cool” kids are doing it or getting a campus job because everyone else already has one are not good enough reasons to make these your core values and goals. You will soon realize you don’t actually want to do things you think you want to do and instead probably have some identity and mental health issues to work on. Get an appointment with a counselor at the Health Center and be straightforward with what you need help for. Speaking from experience, they are great at scratching your brain at the right place and giving you the best templates and guides for self-exploration.
Step 3. Balance your time for rest.
During a session with Student Success, I kept complaining about not having enough time. The counselor looked at my schedule and very subtly hinted that I may be better able to manage my time. There were huge chunks of time I called “rest”, which I used to cover up my addiction to cat videos on TikTok. Rest is very important, but you need to inspect your schedule for procrastination windows.
Step 4. Build meaningful relationships.
Surely, all of us have a couple of friends we hang out with only when in a group, and whenever we end up alone with them there is slight discomfort. There is nothing wrong with spending time with them, however, if your friends are making you feel uncomfortable and you are just scared to have no one to sit with in D2, it is time to unapologetically discard all the toxic, unnecessary and draining people in your life (or at least limit spending time with them). When friendship becomes a competition or makes you feel less like yourself, you are more likely to experience FOMO. Strive for building deep connections with people who are vulnerable with you instead of making friends with that guy that tells fake stories to seem interesting and is “so smart” that he gets the best grades “without studying.”
Step 5. Visit the Nook.
If you don’t have friends yet, it is okay. If your friends don’t understand you, that is also alright. If you have no one to share frustration with, I highly recommend visiting Nook. It is not as scary as therapy and you will be talking to the students who are confused themselves and experiencing what you are going through. Consider them your friend for an hour. It is a very reassuring feeling to complain guilt-free to another student and then hear “Same, bro.”
It’s Friday, 12 p.m. I just finished watching Gilmore Girls in my pajamas with wet hair, taking my face mask off. I get a text message from a friend inviting me to a gathering. I politely decline and happily go to sleep.
Anastasiia Lei-Yang is a columnist. Email her at
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