16 Dec NOMO’ FOMO
College fests, cultural events, theatre nights, hanging out with friends, dinners, lunches, or just going out for a cup of tea/coffee, all College students are involved in activities that are meant for a time of refreshment and fun. However, considering the huge number of extra-curricular activities, it may not always be viable for students to go to every single event due to lack of money and/or time, or any other reason. And yet they try. And they try very hard indeed. Sometimes even at the cost of sacrificing what is more important. Why? What is this unseen pressure that makes students not want to skip any activity? It’s not just peer pressure. It’s much more. It’s FOMO. The Fear Of Missing Out. ‘What if I don’t go for dinner with friends and they have a really good time? I’ll miss it’; ‘What if I don’t go for this movie and the others end up having a great time? I’ll miss it’; ‘What if I don’t go for the group study and miss discussing important questions?’; ‘What if I don’t go for EU and all of them go have food without me’ ? The list goes on. The Fear is real and is threatening the peace and joy of many students, both young and old.
As UESI, it is time for us to address this need. Gone are the days when alcohol and drugs were students’ only problems. Now it’s ‘smaller’ issues like FOMO, underlying which lay a variety of ‘larger’ issues like low self-esteem and identity crisis (to name a few) that are causing students much more damage in the long run. Bear with me for a few minutes as I elaborate.
The world that we live in now, is not the same world that most of us grew up in. With the rapid development of technology, there are innovations happening even as we speak. In fact, within the last year itself, there have been a series of mind-boggling inventions or updates made to improve existing technology. Drones have become the new trend with everything from birthdays to weddings being shot aesthetically right from the sky. Quantum computing is now being done to protect people from cyber threats.
While all this modernization has greatly helped the human race, it has also brought with it, its fair share of problems. Take for example the Covid era. Zoom became this popular platform for people to get connected for meetings, fellowships, camps and so much more. This gave us the capacity to be in multiple events or places from the comfort of our homes without having to do the difficult thing and choose where to be. Now while this was really useful at a time when in person meeting was made impossible, it also got people used to being involved in anything and everything without having to say no. I remember a close friend of mine who was attending a work conference, one friend’s bridal shower, and a camp all at the same time! Now here’s when the problem started. Fast forward to 2022, when by God’s grace the virus started to recede and people started meeting again, most of these celebrations were done in person. This same friend now like any of us could only be in one place at a time and that too only if circumstances allowed. What did this lead to? FOMO on everything else.
Let’s now take a look at psychology. Psychologists have defined fear as ‘a natural and primitive emotion that can be experienced by everyone to some degree’. (https://www.simplypsychology.org/what-is-fear.html). It’s very easy for us to say ‘What is the big deal? Stop fretting so much that you can’t go on that picnic’. Understand that the problem is not that the person cannot go, the real issue is the emotion that this person is experiencing knowing that everyone will be there except him/her.
“Will they miss me?”, “Will they talk bad about me?”, “What if they become closer to each other and I’m left as an acquaintance?”
While most of this is imagined, there is no denying that many times these fears do come true.
And these fears are common to everyone. The only difference is the degree of this fear. So while some are not as deeply affected, for others it comes to a point where they keep obsessively thinking about the event they missed which further on leads to more complicated issues like loneliness and overthinking.
If by now you think that FOMO is restricted to students alone, you are mistaken. Adults go through it as well, although what makes it different is how good adults can be at masking their emotions. I know of this one couple who has Sunday evenings reserved for their friends. Now, there’s nothing wrong at all with that. The problem happened when the two could not make it up one Sunday because they got late after Church and had to stay home. By night the WhatsApp group was filled with pictures of their friends having a good time. Both husband and wife felt a pang of regret that they had missed out on so much. “They had so much fun!”. “These Church people always delay things so much. Why can they not be punctual”. Instead of genuinely being happy for their friends, all they ended up thinking about was how they could have been there too. And how somehow the Church was responsible for their misery. Does any of this sound familiar?
Personally, I feel that all people have experienced this at some or the other time. In fact, I have often wondered how the other disciples would have felt when Jesus took his favourite 3 to certain places. Did they experience this fear? Is that fear the underlying reason behind why there was an argument among the disciples on who was the best of all of them? FOMO is therefore a very real and a very serious trend. If it is so much for adults, then we can only imagine how deep it is for students to whom campus and friends, college, Church, and EU are so important. As believing Student leaders, Staff and graduates, we play a vital role in reaching out to ALL students in the fellowship. If you know of someone dealing with FOMO, here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Acknowledge that this fear is something that is deep rooted and the person needs love above everything else
- NEVER judge the person and say things like “Why are you behaving like a child?”
- Don’t just teach students to choose. Teach them why.
- Preaching is easy. What is difficult is the practical side. Help them out and do so patiently. If you have successfully dealt with FOMO yourself, tell them what helped you at that time.
- Be a friend and a good listener, no matter the age difference.
If you are dealing with FOMO yourself, here is what helped me come out of it.
- Understand that you are not the only one feeling this, so you are not alone. Your emotions are valid. It is ok to not be ok. It is not ok to remain not ok. Talk it out to your mentor or any good reliable friend preferably in the fellowship.
- Start prioritizing and understand what the important things in your life are that require your constant attention (studies, family, close friends). Everything else (parties, picnics, even camps) can be something you do when you have the time and resources to do so.
- Do anything else to distract you. Read a book, clean the house, cook or bake, watch a movie, talk to someone, go for a run, or best- take a nap.
- Focus on improving yourself- do a course, learn a new language, read news. At the end of the day, these are skills that will help you in life.
- Above everything else, lean on God. Look for companionship in Him. Ask Him for satisfaction and confidence. Wrestle in prayer. The fear is strong but our God is stronger!
The challenge to counter FOMO is out there for all of us as members of the UESI family. Can we mould our fellowships in a way that students realize their self-worth? Can we try and make our students confident individuals capable of facing the pressures of life? Can we increase their dependence on God? Can we be the person they can trust and talk to? Or are we going to judge them as childish and needy with attention problems? Is that what Jesus would do?
I would write more but my friends are going out for a cup of coffee. And I don’t want to miss it!
Prashansa Jacob finished her postgraduation specializing in History. She resides with her family in Chennai. She loves to spend time with people who encourage her to expand her intellect and understanding of God and His world. Her passion is to spend time with students.