King FOMO: A personal essay

Illustration of a girl looking sadly out her window at the city lights, while her cat paws at her.
Armaan Mumtaz/Staff

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Sitting at my desk and poring over a new Word file, the phone beside me lights up at 10 p.m.  It’s a good friend, wondering if I can come out tonight with the others. They’ve all dressed up; the plan is set.

I make the tough decision to stay in. No one likes saying no to hanging out with friends or family. No one likes the idea of having to say no to having what would probably be a good time – what Instagram and Facebook and Snapchat and even Twitter make look like a hell of a good time. No one likes the idea of not being in the pictures that start popping up on phones an hour later, the “wish you were there” photos or the videos that have Drake or “Let’s get it started (Ha), let’s get it started (In here)” playing in the background.

FOMO. Fear of missing out. What I’ve come to realize, and what so many of my friends and family and acquaintances have come to recognize, too, is that any FOMO we had before March could not begin to match what would occur during March and beyond. Little did we know that we would come face to face with the king of all FOMOs: the fear of missing out on life in general, the fear that so many of us are feeling amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

For me and for many others, FOMO has also morphed into something else: fear of moving on. It’s a tough and challenging time. It’s a changing time. We do not know what will get left in the past. We don’t know what the future holds.

For me, fear of moving on means letting go of that past, letting go of all the things that didn’t work out before the coronavirus: relationships, jobs, etc. For the first months of the pandemic, I had the greatest fear that I would lose track and contact with my friends – that they would move on, without me. The cold, hard truth: I was right, and I was wrong. The people that genuinely love us and care about us will never leave us. If they are no longer in our lives, this was always meant to be the case. And why would we want to keep in touch with the people who do not want to be a part of our lives? 

The first step to staving off King FOMO (at least for me) was recognizing this. 

Sometimes, exceptions may present themselves. People may need space during this challenging period. If you feel like this may be the case, it is OK to give your friends, families or co-workers space while still offering support. 

For me and for many others, FOMO has also morphed into something else: fear of moving on.

The second step to combatting King FOMO: Try to stay in contact with the people you care about without putting too much pressure on yourselves to maintain these relationships. If you feel like you can make the time and can do so in a safe way, make the most of these opportunities. Take the time to let the most important people in your life know that you care about them because they are most likely feeling lonely too. 

And the second step, continued: If you need to reach out and talk to someone about your own feelings of loneliness (be it a friend, family member or professional) there is no shame in doing so.

We need to consider another thing, more than ever before: We can never know what is happening in another person’s life. We may think that people are moving on with their lives faster than we are or making the most of their lives or the pandemic better than we are – but the truth is, we don’t really know.

That is a third step we can take to kicking King FOMO: remembering that we can never know what is happening in another person’s life unless we walk in their shoes. Also, we all have to remember that nobody’s life is perfect. Regardless of what you see in a picture, via a Zoom call or in a text, we can never really know. 

We may think that people are moving on with their lives faster than we are or making the most of their lives or the pandemic better than we are – but the truth is, we don’t really know.

The fourth step you can take to help conquer King FOMO perhaps seems the scariest: Be purposeful about missing out and moving on by yourself. Sometimes, we need time to reconnect with ourselves alone. We never have to be ashamed of this. It’s OK to take time to work on self-care and self-growth.

None of us can predict the future. No one can predict when or how this pandemic will end. But it will end. Until then, it’s normal to feel all these fears and anxieties wash over you. Your FOMO may be a fear of missing out, a fear of moving on or even a fear of moving outside. Whatever it is, you have got this because you are doing what you can at this time, which matters, even when it seems like your fears and anxieties lord over you.  

Everything and everyone constantly changes and evolves.  We will not stay here for too long, and afterward, we will go somewhere great.

Contact Kristen Hull at [email protected].