Thursday 27 December 2018

FOMO and how to deal with it

An anonymous student from Bath University shares their experiences of dealing with FOMO and the effects on mental health.

Ah, FOMO. The Fear of Missing Out. Might not be a technical term, but it means a lot to a lot of us. I used to get it bad, to the extent that I no longer knew if I was going to parties and events because I actually wanted to or whether I was going to avoid FOMO-induced Instagram scrolling.

FOMO made me feel terrible. It was almost debilitating. If I wanted to stay at home on a Friday night and watch Hocus Pocus while eating a tagine, I should have been able to without feeling boring. And most of the time, I didn’t feel boring. I was OK with my decision – until the next day when I looked at my phone and saw 6-second clips from the R&B room in Bridge. The only thing that could make me feel better at that stage was a 6-second video from Zero Zero – no one wants to be in Zeros, ever.

And that’s when I realised that the articles and headlines we see everywhere are right – it is because of social media. Dealing with FOMO first and foremost comes down to how much time you do or don’t spend scrolling after a ‘big night’ (i.e. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday). It’s simple – the only possible reason you can think everyone else has more fun than you is that you look at pictures of everyone else having more fun than you. Or what seems like it, anyway.

But social media fun is exactly that. It’s fun – on social media. It’s a snapshot; a millisecond during which a bunch of people quite literally position a bunch of other people and props under perfect lighting. To prove they have more fun than you.

I know I’m guilty of doing it. I know you probably are, too.

What changed everything for me was one pre-drinks I went to. I’d seen these girls’ pictures every Saturday night, so I chose to go this time because I knew if I declined once more I’d never be invited back.

It started off well. I shuffled into a seat around a table of twenty, and the drinking games started. Ring of Fire and all that. Decent chat and good music.

But within 5 minutes, the games stopped. The group of 20 had sectioned themselves off into 3s before starting their snapping process. And this is when I realised how far what I saw online every weekend was from what really went on.

It was a big revelation for me – I was now seeing the real-life version of what I’d been scrolling through. And it was so different. What looked like epic fun turned out to be small clusters of friends and randomers holding phones above their faces for 2-minute time slots at angles that would hide all signs of a double chin.

I know I’m writing the obvious, but this one pre-drinks made me realise that I’d been missing out on nothing at all. I’d been fretting and talking myself into my lows for no reason.

So what am I suggesting?

Next time you have FOMO, firstly go to that party. But instead of trying to convince yourself that you’re enjoying it (although if you are enjoying it, great!), take a big (but subtle) look around and observe the sh*t out of everyone. Watch people’s actions and expressions and judge whether or not that picture you see tomorrow morning is what you’re seeing at that exact point in time. Because you probably don’t realise that you’re talking yourself into feeling FOMO so much that you’re not thinking about what’s actually in front of you.

The more I look around me, the more I see people starting to take a break from their phones. Snapchats are almost non-existent and Instagram posts are becoming fewer (though Stories are definitely on the up), which means there’s less to compare yourself to. Friends don’t whip out their phones as much, we (try to) put our devices away at the table, and we leave computers up in our rooms when we cook. There are signs of improvement.

And now, there’s ‘Screen Time’ on iOS. I shocked myself into spending less time on my phone in general by looking at Screen Time, and I suggest you do the same.

But before actively trying to spend less time on your phone, first admit you get FOMO. It’s normal to care about what people think. It’s normal to want to seem ‘fun’ and ‘outgoing’.

And then, go to a party and watch people take photos. I hope it gives you the same revelation it did me.

This article has been reposted from Student Minds Bath

Student Minds Bath are currently running two major campaigns: "Look After Your Mate" and "Time for Tutees". The former was run nationally a few years ago. Bath's campaign feels this still needs work at the university, hence aiming to encourage students to open up to their friends and support each other's mental health. The latter campaign revolves around personal tutoring and improving the system for both students and staff with regards to mental health. Not enough students feel they even can open up to their tutors in the first place and those that do are often unsure of what they can expect from their tutors and/or where the boundaries between them and their tutor should be.

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