There's a New Epidemic Sweeping the Twenty-Something Nation

By now you’ve heard of “YOLO”, right? You Only Live Once. You’ve seen it on t-shirts at the Jersey Shore and you’ve heard former frat boys gleefully exclaim it as they do shots at the bar. I’m here to tell you that there’s a new epidemic that’s replacing YOLO in both severity and contagiousness. It’s called “FOMO” or Fear of Missing Out. I can’t quite be certain where this epidemic originated. Some might say it began when Scott Disick referenced it on Keeping up with the Kardashians, but I can’t verify that. However it began, it’s serious and it looks like it’s here to say.

What exactly is FOMO you ask? Let me give you an example:

Your friends ask you to go out on a Friday night. You had a long day at work and you’re tired and you know you’ve got some serious gems waiting for you on your DVR. You’d rather hang out with your cat and a bottle of wine. You pass. The next day you go on Facebook and see pictures of them doing shots with a D-List celebrity, looking like they’re having the best time that one could legally have. You instantly get a feeling deep in the pit of your stomach. That feeling seeps into your soul. “WHY didn’t I go?” you ask yourself. “That looks like so much fun.” You try to reason with yourself: “I was tired. I’m poor. I don’t have money to go out every weekend.” These reasons soothe your restless nerves for a bit, but there’s still that aching feeling that you missed something. But what? Doing shots with a stranger you’ll never see again? A night out with people who love you even if you were lame? A night that could easily be recreated next weekend? No one can be sure. You just feel like you missed out. To avoid this feeling, you go out the next weekend even though you’re kind of getting sick and might have a negative amount of money in your bank account. That, my friends, is FOMO. Fear of Missing Out.

Need another example? You have a great job in a small city. The city is lame and kind of boring, but you’re working on the career you’ve always wanted. But wait. What’s this? All of your friends are living together in Manhattan? But…that looks kind of fun…shoot. Okay, okay. They probably spend tons of money and have no life savings. And it wouldn’t make sense for you to be in Manhattan anyway. You want to be a reporter. It’s good for you to be in Small Town, Montana. Self, it’s totally fine. But maybe you could just browse for internships in Manhattan just to see what’s out there. You’ve always done better with friends around. And they look like they have so much fun and really have a nice support system going. FOMO alert! FOMO alert!

This Fear of Missing Out is dangerous for a few reasons.

1.) You’re always plagued with quiet yet persistent regret, even if you can’t be sure what you’re regretting: You’re content with your life. Things are good. But you feel like you should be regretting something anyway. That’s no way to live.

2.) It makes you make decisions you wouldn’t normally choose: You want to stay in and sleep but your FOMO takes over and you opt for another sleepless night just in case something awesome happens. It doesn’t. You don’t meet the man of your dreams. You end up sleeping all afternoon the next day. But you have no FOMO. Is it worth it? Probably not.

3.) You start trying to live other people’s lives: You see the pictures on Facebook. You hear the stories when you catch up with a friend. It makes you wonder if you’re making the right choices for yourself. The answer is probably yes. It’s okay to take a different path than your college friends or your high school friends. Yeah, your roommate might be living the dream in LA working on a talk show. Or maybe she’s making huge money in New York working on Wall Street. If that’s not your dream, then there’s no FOMO necessary. Do you and do what makes you happy. You’re not missing out if that’s not what you truly want to be doing.

Sometimes it gets hard to separate the FOMO from the “my gut is actually trying to tell me something and I just have to figure out what” because they can feel similar. Try to separate the two. Do you really want to be living in that place doing that thing or do you just think that’s what you should want? Do you just feel like you should want that job or do you actually want it and you’re scared to admit it to yourself? Whatever the answer, live without fear of missing out. Live for yourself and your own choices.

Do you ever suffer from FOMO? How do you handle it? Do you have a hard time separating Fear of Missing Out from gut instincts that might be hard to decipher?



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  1. What a great post! As usual, I can totally relate to what you’re writing about. I experience FOMO quite often- usually it’s going out with friends like the example you mentioned. I’ve found that I didn’t really worry about this until after college, but now it’s become a problem.

  2. Sarah Eutsler says:

    I have FOMO a lot lately, especially about living in Indianapolis! I love Indianapolis, it’s my home, there are lots of great things going on, lots of great people, and lots of opportunities to do great things here. BUT every time I see someone I went to school with move to Chicago or NYC (and there are A LOT), a tiny part of me thinks, “Hmm….maybe I should plan to do that in a few years. Maybe I should get the whole big city living experience in at some point because what if I’m missing out?” In reality, I love big cities on visits, but they really overwhelm me. And it’s so different than any lifestyle I’m used to. While part of me worries about regret, the other part of me knows I’m exactly where I need to be and doing exactly what I need to do. Besides, by doing freelance work and having an online business, there’s always opportunity for future travel because all I need is my laptop to work. It’s a lot better to be able to live in a city with a great cost of living and travel to those places than pay outrageous amounts of money to live in a shoe box forever and not really be able to have the money to enjoy the city.

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