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The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO): A First-Year’s Tale

What do you do when you first wake up in the morning? Do you take a moment to stretch, hydrate, or enjoy a peaceful breakfast? Well, for most people, the answer might be that simple. As for myself, in my younger years, the first thing I did was reach for my phone. As daylight broke through my window, I was instantly greeted by the glow of my phone screen. It’s almost as if my whole world is contained within those few square inches. With a simple swipe, I enter a parallel universe where everyone’s lives are on display. If there’s no rush to get to school or work, I dive deeper into the digital realm, endlessly scrolling through feeds and stories, trying to keep up with what everyone did and is currently doing.

It consumes me, always lurking in the back of my mind. It isn’t just about missing out on parties or exciting events; it’s more about the uneasy feeling of being left out of the loop as if everyone else knows something I don’t. As a first-year college student, FOMO used to be a constant presence in my life. From the moment I arrived on campus, I was bombarded with invites to join student clubs, attend events, and participate in extracurricular activities. Everywhere I looked, it seemed like there was something exciting happening, and I didn’t want to miss out on anything. I felt the need to constantly push myself, striving to learn more and stay ahead of the game. Every piece of knowledge I acquired felt overshadowed by the nagging realization that there was always more to learn, always something “better” out there that I hadn’t yet grasped.

It was stifling, and I knew deep down that I couldn’t go on living that way.

Saying “Yes” to Everything

To cope with this anxiety, I developed a self-imposed rule of never missing a single day of school. I forced myself to attend every class, even when I was exhausted. I was afraid that if I skipped a class, I would miss out on a groundbreaking revelation. I became a curious and inquisitive student, constantly seeking answers, but doubting my own judgment. 

I tried to attend everything. I went to club meetings, attended events on campus, and even signed up for a few activities that I wasn’t really interested in. I was convinced that if I didn’t participate in everything, I would be missing out on something important.

Am I happy?

Yet, despite all my efforts, I realized that the relentless pursuit of knowledge did not bring me the happiness I craved. Instead of feeling fulfilled, I was left drained and overwhelmed. FOMO had transformed my college experience into a frantic race to keep up, leaving little room for joy and self-discovery.

I remember during my first year when my friends invited me on a weekend getaway. It was a trip I had been looking forward to, a chance for me to relax and unwind after a long and exhausting week. As the date approached, I was invited to yet another networking event that offered career opportunities and connections. FOMO instantly crept in, and I found myself torn between spending quality time with my friends or attending the event to potentially propel my future. In the end, I chose the event, fearing that if I missed out, I would be left behind professionally. However, as I stood in that crowded room, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of emptiness. The event didn’t bring me the satisfaction I had expected. As the day wore on, I longed for a moment of peace and quiet, a chance to recharge. But there was no room for that. I realized then that I had lost sight of what truly made me happy. It was a wake-up call that made me realize that it was time to reassess my priorities.

I began to realize that FOMO was controlling my decisions. I was saying yes to everything without considering whether or not it was something I truly wanted to do. My calendar was packed, and I was constantly busy, but I wasn’t enjoying any of it. The constant pressure to say yes to everything took a toll on my well-being. I felt spread thin, lacking genuine connections and a sense of fulfillment. It was time to break free from the grips of FOMO and regain control of my life.

Was FOMO my decision-maker?

This realization made me wonder — do FOMO-driven decisions lead to authentic experiences, or are they just missed opportunities? When we make decisions based solely on FOMO, we’re not being authentic to ourselves. We’re saying yes to things because we don’t want to miss out, not because we’re genuinely interested in them. This can lead to missed opportunities, as we might pass up something that we would have truly enjoyed because we’re too busy doing something we don’t care about.

At the same time, FOMO can push us out of our comfort zones and encourage us to try new things. It can lead to unexpected and exciting experiences that we might not have had otherwise.

In retrospect, I’ve come to understand that FOMO is not a badge of honor, but a weight that burdens our minds and hinders our true potential. As first years, we need to learn to strike a balance between staying informed and making meaningful connections. It is in embracing our unique journeys, rather than succumbing to the fear of missing out, that we can truly thrive in our college years.

Feeling FOMO? Think Again.

The next time you find yourself reaching for your phone in the morning, take a moment to consider the FOMO frenzy that awaits. Instead, remind yourself of the importance of living in the present and cherishing the moments that unfold before you. After all, it’s not about what we might be missing, but what we choose to embrace that defines our college experience.

As I’ve navigated my first year of college, I’ve learned to strike a balance between FOMO-driven decisions and intentional choices. I’ve started prioritizing my goals and thinking about whether or not a particular activity aligns with them. I’m not saying “no” to everything, but I’m being more deliberate about the choices I make.

In the end, college is about finding a balance between academic and personal growth. We need to participate in activities that help us develop as individuals but also remember to take care of ourselves. FOMO can be a powerful motivator, but it’s important to make sure it’s not controlling our decision-making. By being intentional about our choices, we can create authentic experiences that lead to personal growth and meaningful connections.

Author

Managing Editor at The Seattle Collegian

Anh Nguyen is The Seattle Collegian’s Managing Editor. With a natural curiosity and a love for storytelling, Anh is drawn to the power of storytelling and its ability to connect people. Anh understands the power of using different mediums to convey powerful narratives. She firmly upholds the notion that every story holds the potential to educate, inspire, and spark meaningful conversations.

2 Comments

  1. Francisco Fonseca Friday, September 29, 2023

    Such a good read!
    I think FOMO is just another expression of anxiety. Remember that all humans have anxiety. It has helped us to survive and exist. The great thing about being an adult is that you are in control way more of your senses and feelings. You recognise each feeling and can make an adequate decision for each how to proceed. That is what defines you, I think. Discipline, in some sense. No one ever can be omnipresent, so you must accept the inevitable fact that you are experiencing just a little tiny part of what’s happening in the world. So, control yourself to make it worth it as best as you can possible can. But of course, you can impact a lot of people’s lives as well.

  2. Josh King Saturday, September 30, 2023

    I never realized how much fomo influenced my decision making. It’s crazy how we can get caught up in what others are doing and forget to prioritize our own needs. Such a insightful article

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