FOMO, the acronym for “fear of missing out,” is now a widely used term in 21st century lingo. We have this special new word that describes the acute anxiety and regret of knowing you failed to take advantage of an occasion – or, in more pitiable circumstances, you weren’t even afforded the opportunity to partake in such activities.
FOMO is most often applied in social contexts. It’s almost impossible to avoid, as social media requires us to document evidence of all encounters to prove their existence. Oh, you had to study for your fifth set of midterms and couldn’t attend the football game? All your friends went out last night but conveniently forgot to invite you? Well, too bad: One glance through Facebook will tell you just how much fun everyone had without you. You missed out, bro.
The reach of FOMO, however, extends beyond the social realm, impinging upon our academic and professional decisions. This is especially notable in our Northwestern community, which provides us with an abundance of resume-building options. Not only must we judiciously choose our classes and fields of study, we must also determine which student groups to join, what jobs or internships to have, where to volunteer, etc. The eagerness to overcommit strains our time and opportunity costs abound.
At its core, FOMO is motivated by insecurity. If you’re confident you made the right choice, you’re less likely to believe you were mistaken and therefore missed out on something else. Perhaps it’s a symptom of our generation; when we have instant access to information, regarding people’s lives or any given prospect, there’s always a visual reminder of what we’re not doing. Though the catchy term is often used with self-deprecation and affability, FOMO is an unhealthy trend. The anxiety it causes stems from comparing yourself to others, which everyone knows is a dangerous game to play and an equally easy trap to fall into.
Instead of looking at your peers to gauge your personal satisfaction, turn your gaze inward and evaluate your priorities. You might be indecisive or you might be impulsive, so maybe it’s uncomfortable to make more deliberate choices. There are things beyond your personal control, a fact that will make life easier the sooner you accept it. Decisions are within your control, though their outcomes less so. If your friends don’t invite you to hang out with them, it sucks, but it’s not indicative of your self-worth (maybe consider getting new friends though).
As it’s the start of a new school year, you might feel the pressure to sign up for everything – I’m looking at you, freshmen – but you should abstain from enlisting in things gratuitously. Take some time to learn about the different clubs and groups on campus. Sign up for those most important or interesting to you. Predicate your decisions on maximizing happiness and minimizing regrets. Say NO to FOMO.
This year, NU introduced a new recruitment freeze for all student groups, which will end after the first week of classes. This is a smart move by the University. It will allow new students time to settle into campus and experience a week of academics before they commit to extracurriculars. The Registered Student Organizations Activities Fair takes place on Sept. 27, heralding the end of the recruitment freeze, and it can be an overwhelming event for first timers who don’t know what’s offered or what they’re interested in.
As eager-beaver overachievers, we all know it never hurts to do a little extra homework. If you find you can’t sleep because you’re too excited to join all the things, do some background research before the fair on all the opportunities NU has to offer. A particularly handy resource is Wildcat Connection, the student organization directory. You can read all about dozens of a cappella groups, community service projects, club sports and theater groups. The more information you have, the more informed your decisions will be (and the less likely you’ll be to suffer from FOMO).
This column was updated Sept. 21 at 9:58 p.m.