Too often, the fear of missing out (FOMO) is caricatured as le Mal du Siècle (the evil of the century) of the supposedly shallowest generation ever: ours. In the early 19th century, European students were disillusioned and melancholic because, being born too late, they had missed the chance to take part in the French Revolution and in Napoleonic Wars. We are nowadays disillusioned and melancholic because, having an already-packed schedule and numerous commitments, we have missed that particular event during which, surely, everybody had the time of their life.
Several common assumptions about FOMO need to be discarded. The term was popularized in 2013 and appeared in the context of the rise of social media. However, it is doubtful that this psychological tendency did not exist before “news feeds” and other online “stories” ‒ in fact, they probably only expand it. If FOMO was only a matter of excessive use of social media, this social anxiety would have vanished quickly when well-meaning personal development articles and blogs stated the obvious: “Social media profiles and real life are two different things.”
According to this advice, you would be better off curbing the time you spend on social media, not frantically checking your phone during lectures and tutorials. However, it does not automatically dispel the FOMO, which proves that social media is the reflector rather than the root of the problem.
It is undeniable that our college years leave us quite vulnerable to this form of anxiety, up to the point that, last February, the DCU branch of Bank of Ireland infamously promoted a free and experimental short-term “FOMO loan” to “enable” its student customers to finance their attendance at social events on campus.
It is true that our time at university is associated with high expectations and significant costs. Students are therefore frequently led to the idea that they have to “make the most out of college”. When you are confronted with such an abstract imperative, it is easy to feel that you are not doing enough and constantly missing opportunities.
However, it would be unfair to consider the buoyancy of Trinity campus life only as an aggravating factor of FOMO. In that respect, the diversity of societies multiplies the chance of finding events that really interest you and that do not have to take place late at night. To prevent yourself becoming overwhelmed, it could be a good idea to list on paper events you would really like to attend, rather than letting endless notifications bundle up on your Facebook account. Besides, since practicing mindfulness is one of the bests way to fight back FOMO, why not join the daily sessions of DU Meditation?
Finally, if you want to get involved in meaningful and absorbing activities, you can browse through www.studentvolunteer.ie/trinity to find chances to volunteer on and off campus.