I can’t remember the first time I heard the term FOMO, but I remember silently remarking upon how accurate it was — and how shamefully relevant it was to my life. Whether scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed or catching up with friends on a Sunday morning after a night of staying in, FOMO certainly has a presence in my life at Yale.
The acronym has now become somewhat ubiquitous, standing for “fear of missing out.” It describes the social anxieties we feel when we, for whatever reason, are unable to attend certain events and gatherings. I’ve always thought of myself as a secure person, generally unfazed by quotidian social dramas. Yet I definitely feel the effects of FOMO, when I get uneasy about missing the most trivial events.
For me, and probably for most of us, FOMO was at its strongest freshman year. Every event was a chance to find new friends, and so everything I missed resonated as an opportunity lost. As a junior I have a close-knit group of friends and I know that staying in to study on a weekend won’t affect that (and for the record, I also now know that friendships aren’t fostered at Toad’s). But still, every so often I get that nagging anxiety, that little voice telling me this weekend, that party, that one dinner I missed was the very best of the year.
For the next two weekends, I will be out of town for family obligations and for whatever reason that is causing me angst. I feel confident in my relationships, so what is causing this anxiety? I think it’s a sense, one not entirely warranted, that the weekends are the only time to truly let go and catch up with friends.
At Yale, our weekdays are jam-packed with classes, meetings and practices. Everybody has her own schedule and extracurricular activities. We often have a sense that we can’t afford to set aside time to simply hang out so it can be easy to go an entire day without seeing some of our closest friends. Even with my roommates, it is rare for all of us to be awake in our apartment at the same time because we are on such different schedules. With all of our varying classes and activities, it is easiest for us to rely on the weekend to see each other and catch up.
All too often, we try to separate our social life from our academics; we study hard on weekdays so that when we are finished we can spend time with our friends without having to worry about work. But there is no good reason for this harsh divide we draw between our hangout time and our studies. In fact, it’s not healthy for us to act as though our academic and social modes are so distinct.
College affords us the freedom to build our own schedules, moving beyond the strict routines of high school. And we should take full advantage of that freedom by integrating work and play, finding a balance between the two. Rather than reserving weekends for socializing, we can carve out time for friends in our daily routines. Go to the gym or the library together, take time to share meals and sacrifice half an hour of sleep to catch up with roommates at the end of the day.
Rather than getting upset about missing the next few weekends at school, I’m going to make a conscious effort to beat the FOMO. After all, I’m realizing I’m not missing out on my only chance to connect with friends — those opportunities come every day. If we build our schedules with more intention and thought, there’s no reason to ever feel we’re missing out.
Ally Daniels is a junior in Berkeley College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.