If I see one more person check into the cinema to see that movie I want to watch I’m gonna cry. Someone’s just written a status calling Destination X a cheapie holiday after I saved up for two months to go there for one night. They’re still going though. For half a week. Good for them? Should I like that guy’s photo of the band I wanted to see but can’t or will my insincerity jump out of his notifications and bite him on the nose?
The above ramble is the sort of toxicity I have no time for. Oh wait, nope, I totally do. That’s the problem; it splurges and boils inside my skull as I rush to hide the worst parts of my brain from slopping out and burning a hole in the carpet. How awful am I for feeling down about other people having a nice time?
Solace comes from knowing that I’m certainly not alone; FOMO is well and truly a thing. Recently I told my partner I had FOMO and he asked if it was something to do with my period so if like him you’re not down with the terminology it stands for ‘the Fear of Missing Out.’ It’s rare to find someone who hasn’t experienced the dull ache of scrolling through holiday photos to the melancholy sound of rain pattering down the office window. Are you constantly being updated by a couple going to another event or restaurant and somehow not jumping for joy? This doesn’t mean you’re a bad friend or don’t want nice things for them. In fact, it’s not really about what they’re doing at all. It’s about you, solemnly glimpsing at the best of people’s lives as you sit alone in your pajamas at 6:15pm.
Deep down, we all get that wearing pajamas at 6:15pm is awesome, right? Many articles have addressed FOMO simply as the fear millennials have that they should be having more fun, for example when not attending social events, but I think there’s more to it than that. As a generation we’re settling down later in life and seem to have never-ending opportunities in both our professional and personal lives (another pop-up event, really?). When I asked my friends it seemed like everyone was worried that they’re Less Social than they’re supposed to be yet preferring to spend more time at rented-home than you used to is totally natural. Binge-watching Netflix isn’t to be snarked at no matter how many ‘Oh, home alone again for the third night watching telly, must be getting old’ posts we read or share. It’s interesting we associate this sort of behaviour with an older generation; when me and my friend’s parents were in their twenties many of them had kids. Able to watch what you want on telly? Three nights in a row? No one to take to dance class?! Talk about having options!
There are many millennials for whom FOMO is a different thing entirely. Having kids doesn’t stop people from feeling left out or wanting to travel guys. What about people working two jobs? Night shifts? Minimum wage? I am astonished that FOMO advice never seems to address how to cope with disparities between you and your Facebook friend’s salaries. Even on my own pay (I earn under living wage but don’t have anyone else to provide for) I would consider Netflix a luxury. It is one of the most expensive things I pay for so, yeah, I’m going to use it regularly. And note the examples of FOMO I gave at the top of this article? For many people FOMO doesn’t come down to being less social but simply what they can afford. We all know someone who earns more than us, of course, but whilst someone else will be going on a better, bigger holiday than you it’s always worth remembering most people will never holiday at all. Further afield, our perceptions of ‘missing out’ would seem completely bizarre. Social media can make us feel like we’re hermits because we haven’t drunk mice-flavoured coffee at the new Cat Cafe everyone’s raving about but if you’ve got some snuggly pajamas to wrap up in and a less gross hot beverage, you’re doing okay.
Unfortunately being reminded of our privilege doesn’t make things easier. Urgh. Now I have FOMO annnd I feel guilty, damn it! Of course it’s not silly to feel a bit sad if you see a couple doing amazing things together when you’re unhappily single or unable to go out with your partner. We feel regret if unable to attend our friend’s birthday drinks and left out it seems like everyone else was there. FOMO doesn’t mean you think your friends have perfect lives or that you’re worse off. It’s just that the news feed has a way of reminding us what we want to have in our lives and don’t. And as you can’t control what people post, a jolt of sadness can strike at any time.
I am one of those annoying people who has been saying Maybe I Should Delete My Facebook for months on end but if I had really wanted to I’d have done it by now, right? The truth is I actually like seeing friend’s holiday or wedding photos. (I don’t care if they were the bride or not; my friends are fabulous in general but in particular when someone’s snapped them drunk dancing.) I like making it easy for someone to invite me to an event or show they’re doing. I certainly like Messenger; often a silly gif, long-winded discussion of an article or motivating message from my best friend is the brightest part of my day. The majority of my friends and my partner don’t live that close and it’s our preferred way of communicating. In fact the majority of my socialising is done via Messenger and it suits me!
The Facebook app has not been on my phone for some time but it’s just too easy to go online. Yup, wayy too tempting despite the fact it was upsetting me. It turned out the solution was very simple:
HELP & SETTINGS -> NEWS FEED PREFERENCES -> UNFOLLOW PEOPLE TO HIDE THEIR POSTS
It took me under a minute to get rid of my newsfeed. I have 206 friends so even if you have 1000 it won’t take long. When I absent-mindedly go on Facebook in the early hours, I am left with a blank page – all of a sudden I have space to breath on a website with 1.9 billion users! I am still contactable and can access friend’s profiles but can no longer waste time or my fragile emotional state. Success! You can also delete your own ‘wall’, albums and profile picture if you’d like a super simple approach to Facebook whilst still being able to access the hub.
What if my friend gets a new job or engaged and I never find out? A few weeks ago I found out one of my oldest friends is pregnant. I found out because she sent me a personal message and, after I used more exclamation marks than I care to admit, we agreed I must meet the little fella in September. Sorted. Once I did actually find out a best friend was engaged through their News Feed Announcement; after some uncertainty about our friendship, this was the upsetting moment I realised we weren’t close anymore. I am sure that the majority of my besties would contact me directly if they had news OR they would tell me next time they saw me; being given the opportunity to congratulate someone in person is fantastic. Not having a News Feed means I won’t be the ‘first to know’ about other things and that’s okay. Even with less-close-friends I will find out by word of mouth eventually, the way people used to, and then I’ll send them a belated kind message because I do care about them and they won’t mind that it’s belated because they never told me.
Instagram is another FOMO culprit. I delete the Instagram app in between posting photos; whether you do this for productivity or your ego, it’s a great option. Worried it’s too much faff to keep downloading an app? It takes a couple of clicks which is probably far less time than you spend scrolling down the feed depending on how much you post. It’s hard to access Insta online as well (I personally never have) so not in phone = not in mind. Twitter is easy to access online even after deleting the app so it may be worth unfollowing or muting anyone who is taking up too much space on the feed or stressing you out. They have every right to choose how they use social media. And you get to choose if you read it!
After deleting my Facebook News Feed I proudly showed off my empty feed as if I had just managed to clear out a teenager’s messy bedroom. My brain certainly does feel a little tidier! I certainly don’t advocate that it’s ‘better’ to use social media this way but do be honest with yourself; if the news feed doesn’t make you happy, get rid of it. You can still receive tearful laughing emojis from your mate at any moment and feel less lonely and more nourished than you did before. Social media can be awesome, just make sure it’s fitting around you and you’re not fitting around it!
As for FOMO? Okay, I won’t pretend that it’s gone completely but I am more grateful for what I’m doing rather than worrying about what anyone else is up to. When I take a five minute break at work it is likely that someone else has just got a wonderful promotion or is sunning themselves in the Bahamas. Unawares I appreciate the smell of coffee, the pretty patterns the rain is making on the window and rejoice in the fact that someone has plentifully restocked the loo roll.
If you also experience FOMO, how do you deal with it?