Live Through This

Saying No to FOMO

A roundtable about feeling like everyone’s hanging out without you.

FOMO triggers are everywhere (but especially on social media).

Facebook. Snapchat. Someone showing you a hilarious group text you weren’t privy to, a group uniform, a casual overheard conversation in the hall—all triggers. My grossest FOMO feelings can be linked directly to Instagram, which makes me feel as if every single person I know just did/ate/wrote/dressed as/attended something AMAZING and I should be doing that, too, but I’m not.

Scrolling through the Insta feed of all the great things that my friends are doing makes me feel as if I should have (in no particular order): made a green smoothie for breakfast instead of eating Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch, drawn crazy-good nail art on my fingernails, gone running next to a large body of water, drunk humongous margaritas out of a fishbowl with everyone last night, taken a selfie of me ’n’ my snuggliest pet having a cute night in (with jammies and snacks!), and worn a new pair of killer boots with a pair of perfectly mismatched tights. I did not do any of those things last night, but they look really fun, and now I’m convinced I missed something by not doing them. And that is my own shit – it would be wonderful to be able to look at pictures of my friends being happy and simply be happy for them as they have heart-shaped eggs for breakfast, but I cannot. I WANT THE HEART-SHAPED EGGS, DAMMIT.

TAVI: I can’t tell you how many times I say the title of Mindy Kaling’s book out loud by accident: “Is everyone hanging out without me?” This is probably because people only instagram their best moments instead of their worst or so-so moments.

JENNY: Looking at social media definitely triggers FOMO… why wouldn’t it? It’s basically a massive collection of everyone you know well and not-well-at-all’s most photogenic, show-off-able moments. The comments section of FB and Instagram are also a total breeding ground for inside jokes, making me feel like, “Oh crap, I should have been there.”

HANNAH: It was pretty bad for me in high school. I joined Facebook in my junior or senior year and I was starting to see friends uploading photos of them hanging out together and felt so left out because no one was inviting me and I wanted to know why. Social networks make FOMO way worse because you’re seeing what everyone else is getting up to and it’s like, “Hey, why didn’t you call me?!”

JULIANNE: My Most Acute FOMO (MAFOMO) occurs when I’m looking at Instagram and seeing my friends doing something that either I was not invited to (WTF!) or that I cannot attend, and they look like they are having the best time while I am stuck slogging through a deadline or something. Another trigger is Twitter, particularly when there are three or four raves in a night and I decide IT’S TOO MUCH so I don’t go to any of them, but later realize the best option would have been to rave-hop to all three. And yet it is too late because I am in my pajamas combatting ice cream bloat.

STEPHANIE: I experienced the most FOMO in my late teens/early 20s. I was underage and all of my friends were older and went to nightclubs and bars. Sometimes I could get sneak in, but sometimes not, so when I couldn’t go, I just spent the whole time wondering what I was missing.

DANIELLE: The worst was when friends started to pair off and do things without me in fifth grade. I remember finding out that one of my friends used to go to another friend’s house on the weekends, just the two of them! And then they started wearing those best-friend broken-heart necklaces, and it just felt like I had been left out of some crucial part of GIRL FRIENDSHIP forever.

But there are ways to combat nasty FOMO feelings.

Since almost everyone feels a fear of missing out about something, and there are plenty of easily identifiable triggers, it follows that there are strategies to reduce the amount of ick that FOMO makes us feel. A big part of intense FOMO is age—it tends (*sad trombone noise*) to be the worst in our teens and early 20s, before we get more experience in the world and learn precisely what it is that we’re “missing” all the time. Also, as we get older, we tend to feel more comfortable and sure with ourselves, and we’re better able to tell those whispering anxious inner demons to SHADDUP.

LOLA: I always call it out, whether internally or with others. I was goin’ through a FOMO period last summer: It was Gay Pride month and I didn’t want to go to any of the parties because they’re not really for me, but then I’d feel the tug of, What if my One True Lez is at that party? What if it’s the one time she EVER goes to ANY party all year, and I’m not there? I realized I was hearing a “should” and knew that was coming from somewhere else, not me. I talked myself back to Earth by recounting to myself how I’ve never met a sweetheart at a party, just through friends or school or the internet. The fear was totally disproportionate to the reality. I tell myself that the first letter in FOMO stands for Fear, and that acting out of fear is always a mistake.

Talking about it with friends always helps, too: They usually have another perspective on the situation that they’ll let you borrow. Once, I brought up that second FOMO episode, about wanting to stay home but being nervous that I would miss out on meeting a babe by not being at the party, to my friend Wes, and he replied, “It’s so silly to me. If you wanna be somewhere, go. If you don’t, don’t go and definitely don’t have shame about it.” Whoa. Whoa.

DANIELLE: I feel like my overall independence was born from FOMO, because I had to learn how to not give even one shit what other people were doing and focus on myself. It was hard at first, but I slowly started doing things on my own, like going to the mall or the movies. In high school I went to concerts on my own, or went to the city to do stuff on my own. After a while, I got to invite people to my things instead of waiting for them to invite me, and I sort of stopped having FOMO altogether. I also have a lot of solitary hobbies, like knitting and sewing, so even if I know people are hanging out and doing stuff without me I can always do something to feel productive and chill. I can’t even remember the last time I had FOMO!

TAVI: When you have your own shit going on, you don’t really care about being in someone else’s club. And having your own shit going on doesn’t have to be like, throwing your own rager/ladies’ lunch/moonbounce party. It can be just reading a book that you are psyched about and that you know will make you a happier and more learned person. A lot of my ongoing projects are not major goals, a lot of it is just like: watch this series on Netflix, work on this art project. It’s the stuff that I know is important to me, stuff that outweighs the middle school insecurity that creeps up when you see people hanging out on Instagram.

SUZY: I made the best of FOMO feelings; while my friends were out getting trashed or seeing some overrated band full of jerks, I’d be at home reading good books, discovering new music and creating art. I look back on those days fondly now, even though I lost some friends and missed out on some awful sloppy sexual encounters. I still have a lot of the stuff I made back then, which eventually helped me get into college and make new friends who I had much more in common with. When you feel like you’re missing out, just find a way to make that time count—not for everyone else, but for yourself.

ESTELLE: I don’t think there’s anything soppy in saying one really great way to defeat FOMO is knowing yourself well. If you want to be more social, for example, then ask yourself some questions—are there particular people you want to hang out with? What are the barriers? I think this applies to most types of FOMO—professional or social or situational. If it’s something you can control, go ahead! Be more proactive, more open, more SAY YES. But if it’s something you can’t control, e.g. why wasn’t I invited to the Benedict Cumberbatch–Michael Fassbender dance-off…well these are just things that will haunt my dreams forever. And I have to live with that.

LAUREN R.: It helps me to remind myself: I’m super introverted and shy, so I need lots of time on my own, and for my sanity, I often need to choose that over Doing All the Stuff. That works sometimes! And if I’m actively in a FOMO funk, I stay away from all social media and do things I love, instead of stewing over what could’ve been.

JULIANNE: The best way to cope with FOMO is let it settle in, and never beat yourself up for feeling it, OR for sitting out on something and regretting it post-facto. Let the fear into you, and then let it out, like some yoga/meditation breathing. If anything’s worse than fear, it’s regret! Stand by your decision to sit at home on the couch if you want!

STEPHANIE: I try to analyze what exactly I think I’m missing and dissect whether it is really all it is cracked up to be. Taking breaks from social media can really help. For example, I did an internet fast this weekend and only focused on my work and what inspires my work (so I read and watched TV instead of stalking Twitter and Instagram during my downtime). This replaced FOMO with feelings of genuine productivity. I still definitely get it as well as professional jealousy (which is sort of different but can run parallel to FOMO), but I think stepping away and thinking about what I’m doing to meet my own goals/achieve personal happiness really helps lessen it.

DYLAN: When I miss a fest or there’s a show in my hometown everyone is at, or something is happening that will just wrench-my-heart-until-it-bleeds-FOMO, I stay off social media for a night and watch a movie instead. I let myself go on in the morning when I’m less sensitive.

NAOMI: Find people who you can have fun with and it won’t matter if your time together isn’t constantly documented through Facebook photo albums. Things will come along when they do—you can’t force it.

JENNY: I don’t think I’ve conquered FOMO. But sometimes when I go to a party that I think I’ll regret if I don’t attend and I stay long enough, inevitably there comes the part of night (after everyone’s taken their Instagram photos) when several people cry drunkenly and/or start babbling drunkenly, and it goes from so fun to so dark, and then for a few days afterward, I’m like, “OK, I can miss this next time.” As a teenager, I had really strict parents—they used to berate me if I asked to go to the movies more than once a year, and because I wasn’t allowed to do anything it made everything seem magical and mythic and great. I didn’t realize until waaaay later, when I had stayed up way too many nights past dawn, that all parties are the same unless your best friends are there with you, holding your hand on the dance floor and hugging you all the way home.

ELEANOR: If someone found the time to take a selfie at the party, they were probably having less fun than if they enjoyed themselves so much that they forgot they even owned a camera. All my best times are probably actually photo-less.

NOVA: I curb FOMO by reminding myself that reading and writing is more productive than being out in the streets at this point in my life. So my FOMO-squashing tip is to prioritize a ridiculously amazing book or professional deadlines.

JENNY: I think part of what makes FOMO so ridiculous is that, in a way, it’s just a fear of not being the person who has everything. You wanna have close intense relationships but you also want to be wearing a sick-ass outfit at the after-party and you also want to be home curled up next to your fam but you also want to go to the diner with your friends but you also want to read all the books you said you would read before you die but you also want to be at the record-listening party lying on the ground in the dark with strangers but you also want to make collages in your room and write songs/stories/whatever by yourself but you also want someone to flirt with you. Sometimes you have to just choose.

Jenny sums up all my fears about missing out—and offers an excellent FOMO-coping strategy! Next time I’m confronted with crippling FOMO feelings, I’m going to take a deep breath and just choose. No regrets! I love that. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go delete my Instagram account…orrrrr maybe just look at it less, like once a week, instead. Here’s to NOMO FOMO! ♦

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32 Comments

  • kat_disco March 6th, 2014 3:30 PM

    Great and totally relevant article! <3

  • magenta04 March 6th, 2014 4:10 PM

    Oh, man! There’s a word for this feeling?? Totally helpful. Thank you.

  • blueolivia March 6th, 2014 4:11 PM

    “all parties are the same unless your best friends are there with you, holding your hand on the dance floor and hugging you all the way home.”
    that’s so true, jenny ☂

  • ASpoonfulOfSugar March 6th, 2014 4:42 PM

    Oh my goodness! You guys always have the most spot-on articles <3 This is kind of high school in a nutshell – everyone worrying about seeming cooler/funnier/hotter/wilder/smarter/prettier than everyone else, and it just gets SO EXHAUSTING haha :D I try to remember that the people who look like they're having the most fun posing in the photos probably have acute FOMO too – I'm not alone:) Plus, if you're a loner sometimes, you have that whole mysterious vibe going on, and that's never a bad thing…

  • Sophiajeanine March 6th, 2014 5:57 PM

    I never knew this was like a thing but I have it ALL THE TIME. My two best friends have known each other since like birth and when they take trips together or hang out together without me and they send me snapchats of all the fun and NOOO I AM SITTING AT HOME WATCHING PSYCH AND EATING ICE CREAM STOP HAVING FUN WITHOUT ME.

  • Laurets March 6th, 2014 6:36 PM

    This is so on point. I have this group of friends who, since the last New Year’s Eve or so, go get hammered together to very cheap liquor every single week. I used to envy them A LOT at first –especially because their parents seem super loose and cool and let them come back in the morning after, while my curfew is 2 AM — but now that I’m a bit more conscious of it all I actually want to stay away from this. They always end up having to clean up someone’s vomit and do generally stupid shit while high. If that’s what they like, fine; I just happen to prefer long bubbly baths and Netflix.
    Also, Lola hit it right on the spot when she pointed how acting out of fear will generally lead to suckiness.
    Once you stop worrying about what other people are doing and focus on what you want to do, the FOMO just kind of disappears.

  • Erin. March 6th, 2014 7:47 PM

    Ugh, it feels like I’ve had FOMO for the last two years, ever since I graduated from uni. Everyone else seems to be doing stuff, and for me it’s a big deal if I go to the library (a ten minute drive from my house). I mean, I can deal with it sometimes, but other times it really hurts. I guess because I’m not the type to document and upload my entire life, my life as represented on the internet seems supes lame compared to others.

    • Erin. March 6th, 2014 8:41 PM

      Though, when I think more about it, I know that the FOMO is like a cover up for an even bigger fear: that I don’t have any friends. That me and my friends from high school don’t have enough in common anymore, and that they don’t need me as much as I need them.

  • wynnndhamm March 6th, 2014 8:07 PM

    This literally happened to me last week.

    Friday night, on Facebook, scrolling through, to see that FIVE of my best college friends had checked in at Chicago airport to visit another one of our college friends.

    I DIDN’T EVEN GET THE INVITE.

    I immediately texted the girl from the group whom I was closest with, plus the one who lives in Chi, and my bff of the group just said “oh…I thought you weren’t really friends with **** anymore…I’m so sorry you weren’t invited! :( ”

    And the other girl didn’t say anything.

    Although initially disappointed, I realized those FOMO feelings were soon subsided by running in a race dressed as Power Rangers with my best friends where I live now.

    NOMO’ FOMO.

  • christinachristina March 6th, 2014 8:21 PM

    Now I really want to be at the record-listening party lying on the ground in the dark with strangers… where is that a thing?! I want to go to there.

    • taste test March 6th, 2014 10:01 PM

      I thought the same thing! does this happen? can I make it happen? where can I find people who will do this with me?

  • laneyjane March 6th, 2014 8:40 PM

    I think Danielle basically summed up all my FOMO feelings which I’m pretty sure I’ve been feeling since birth. I’ve never been a very social person, but I’ve always wanted to be a social person (pretty much an inner civil war). I actually used to get invited to tweenage parties (long before alcohol was served and blunts were passed) but I always turned them down. I obviously made excuses as to why I couldn’t be there, all of them being lies. Eventually people stopped inviting me. Like why send this girl an invite when she won’t come anyways?? I regret this now, but I feel too uncomfortable to try and work my way back up to the party-invite-worthy-level.

  • taste test March 6th, 2014 10:00 PM

    I have serious introvert FOMO- I want to be out doing fun things with cool people, but I actually don’t like being around loud crowds for a long time. this means house parties, dance parties, and concerts kinda make me crazy. but I should be at them having fun and meeting people and stuff :( like, for example, I love the idea of house shows (cool bands! diy venues!), but being surrounded by loudness and high strangers in someone else’s basement gives me all kinds of bad vibes irl. it makes me feel like I’m going be a square forever against my will.

    also, estelle, reading “Why are people looking fabulous at some event while I am literally spilling water on myself at home?” made me laugh and spill water on myself. and laugh harder.

    http://xyzzyzzyzx.blogspot.com/

    • Erin. March 7th, 2014 10:25 AM

      Oh my, this is so me, too. It’s like, I want to go to concerts, but at the same time I hate the environment, which I know ’cause I have tried going, and being in dark, loud, crowded rooms, listening to bad music with the constant threat of being injured in mosh pits is just not my idea of a good time. But it’d probably be different if the music was actually good.

    • honorarygilmoregal March 8th, 2014 3:36 AM

      This is totally me! I want to go to parties or concerts with friends but my introverted nature holds me back. And ugh, crowds.

  • LilyB March 6th, 2014 10:49 PM

    This actually happened to me a few weeks ago when everyone was at a party I wasn’t invited to and was posting pictures. This article totally helps. PREACH!

  • Lillypod March 6th, 2014 11:42 PM

    woah the social media stuff is so. true.
    i don’t have instagram or facebook, i don’t generally document amazing awesome stuff as its happening. so when you look at other people’s IG it seems like they’re having way more fun.
    after wasted hours of scrolling through people’s feeds and feelin like poop, i realized i was being really really stupid.
    because my life is awesome. being alive is awesome!
    I read an interview with Mindy Kaling, and before her mum died she gave her some advice – “You have to be your own best friend” – i really love this.

  • RatioRae March 7th, 2014 2:44 AM

    This is so important to me, I’m always guilty of this.

    http://thegirlwhodrankstars.blogspot.com
    http://ratiorae.tumblr.com

  • eva-stark March 7th, 2014 11:17 AM

    ugh this is exactly how i’ve been feeling for the last couple of years. it is absolutely the worst :(
    but the most recent was when i saw my friend’s picture at the 1975′s concert and i was dying of jealously. I want to do things and I usually don’t have the courage to them or that somehow the timing is always wrong. it sucks.

    but yeah feeling left out by my ”friends” hurts like hell as well. seeing pictures of them having fun and happy without you and all. sigh.

  • thatchocoholic March 7th, 2014 11:22 AM

    I haven’t even read this yet but it’s my life story. I don’t feel that close to my school friends in a lot of ways but have that twisty feeling when I see a picture of them together without me. I’m used to it now and scroll on but YES ROOKIE

  • Bethany March 7th, 2014 1:56 PM

    Aww I love this!

    I think I have two kinds of FOMO: generational FOMO like that each party or gig or festival I miss could be my generation’s Woodstock. An attitude I combat with the Lena Dunham ‘a voice in a generation’ idea that there are lots of different voices that define this age, so I shouldn’t feel bad if I miss a super expensive concert by a band I don’t even like that much.

    Still I definitely think this also works into the whole ‘why am I not a time traveller who can zip thru space attending every important pop culture event in the past century?!’ sort of FOMO.

    The other FOMO is trans FOMO like that by not being cis I am missing out on all the important milestones or something?!

    It sounds silly but I just try to remind myself that my existence is okay and my experiences are not worthless.

    XOX

  • Flossy Mae March 7th, 2014 1:59 PM

    I used to get this terribly, but then I made a coping strategy a few years ago and it hasn’t failed me yet:

    “You only regret the chances you don’t take.” – some quote I found on the internet somewhere.

    I apply this quote to everything, including the FOMO feelings. But the point is that it doesn’t mean that you’ll regret not going somewhere, it’s actually rather open to interpretation. When I’m deciding what to do with my night, I say this quote to myself in my head and whatever choice I associate the ‘chance’ with the one I take. Sometimes that means going to that party even if I’m kind of tired (and actually having a great time dancing the night away) but other times it means ‘don’t miss that chance to finish that TV series with your sister!!!’

    So yeah, that’s my strategy and it really helps to work out what matters to me, which obviously changes depending on how I’m feeling x

  • unicornconnect March 7th, 2014 4:00 PM

    This is my life!!!!

  • dottie March 7th, 2014 7:36 PM

    this article really hits home with me

    even right now im kinda having those feelings cause i know a bunch of my friends are hanging out without me

    ugh those kind of feelings suck and i know i should try to get rid of them but its so hard and i just feel so crappy

    i really liked this article, though, because i feel like it has put to words something i have been feeling for a long time and idk, it just makes me feel a bit better knowing that im not the only one who struggles with these feels and that other people have broke through those feelings, like, maybe i can too

  • maggiemadge March 8th, 2014 1:03 AM

    This article came up tonight when I was feeling FOMO. I had spent the evening eating a lot of rice crispy treats I had made and dinner and watching bad tv. I began to think about all the fun things my peers do with each other outside of school when I don’t even leave my apartment in the evenings. Being new at my school this year has been tricky, especially being a transfer student and being somewhat older than most of the students in my basic art classes (I am going for my BFA! Finally!) I know I am not nearly as talented as some other students in my classes and thus I feel like I am behind. However I remind myself that I have done a lot of different things in the past and I am just now adjusting to my new surroundings. So a night in (or weekend I should say) is okay since I get overwhelmed with social situations. What also has helped me is realizing my passion and it has helped me so much more with working on my artwork. So I’m growing up (slowly but surely). I loved this so thank you Rookie again for this helpful article!!

  • honorarygilmoregal March 8th, 2014 3:34 AM

    This article is so relevant to me! I definitely felt FOMO in high school and still have those feelings in college. It’s good to know I’m not alone and that there are ways to help combat FOMO.

  • Beatoon March 8th, 2014 2:14 PM

    I’ve experience FOMO this winter more than ever, my friends sending me videos and photos on snapchat when litterally ALL the group is hanging out together exept me, showing me all their facebook group I wasn’t invited to … I was really annoy and felt sad every time it would happen. So I decided to stop my FOMO by callling out my friends on being so rude and insensitive. I don’t think it really work well (they haven’t talk to me since, or apologies) but sometimes it just show that those people are crappy friend that don’t consider your feelings. Thank you for this article, it’s really helping since FOMO had cause me so much sadness.

  • vaudevillian March 8th, 2014 4:51 PM

    ever since i left college and lost contact with most of the friends i had there, FOMO has plagued me. and living in NYC hasn’t helped matters. like, here i am in this historic city at the center of everything and all i’m doing on a friday night is watching Louie and writing bad songs in my apartment and falling asleep at 10pm after eating a carton of ice cream in bed… Not really what one pictures their early 20s in NYC looking like. I really would like to make friends here but I don’t even know how to start — either people seem to already have established friend groups w/ no more room or there aren’t spaces conducive to making friends openly available (or if there are, i don’t feel comfortable enough going alone…). though damn, if there are any record-listening star-gazing parties happening i would have to make an exception!

    all of this being said – if anyone finds themselves relating to this and also lives in NYC – let’s hang out!

  • Jane-Eyre March 9th, 2014 6:08 AM

    Thank you so much for this! I’ve been feeling pretty blue about this exact same thing that is going in my life right now :)
    I don’t drink, and all my friends do… (even though everyone is underage, haha.) So it’s like I’m not fun and don’t get invited to anything. I’ve been with these people my whole school life, and now it’s the last year it’s like ‘oh, so NOW you decide I’m a goody two shoes and aren’t cool/rebel/stupid enough to hang out with you? And then you put up a bunch of photo’s on facey without me. Ta.
    It’s not like I’m into that whole getting trashed stuff anyway, but it’s nice to feel included, you know? So THANK YOU I’m glad I’m not the only one :)

  • churchpants March 10th, 2014 1:58 PM

    I totally have this! This year I stayed home to make money while all of my friends went off to college to be the coolest people of all time. Social media makes me feel like everyone has a better social life/shoe collection/alcohol tolerance than I do, and makes me feel guilty for being happy in my non-clubbing life. Like “WHY AM I NOT GOING OUT?!” this article made me realize that “Oh, I’m not going out because clubs make me awkward and I don’t actually like it that much.” It’s weird how friends and strangers can make us feel so inferior because we’re living a life different from their own.

  • julalondon March 23rd, 2014 7:17 AM

    Oh ROOKIE, this is so on point. I wish someone would have told me that when I was in High School. Now I am 22 and still experiencing FOMO. I think it’s Instagrams fault….but of course it’s mine because I let it affect me. I’m glad to know that all of you amazing girls experience FOMO as well..that makes me feel better about myself!!=) Thank you for that!

  • Jenoris May 4th, 2014 1:52 PM

    Ugh, I feel Suzy’s response deeply. I was raised in a really over-protective environment and as a result, my entire grade-school career was one massive blur of FOMO because I couldn’t even go to the movies unless it was for a school trip. I thought with college things would get better but they didn’t. It was like I forgot how to socialize and I ended up having a hard time making friends. The friends I thought I made, towards the end of my second year of college last year, slowly drifted away from me and often went out and did things without inviting me at all. Now that I’ve decided to leave school, I find myself really angry and frustrated seeing photos of those same people (who, mind you, haven’t really tried to keep in touch at all since I left at the end of last year) doing all these great things on Instagram and I feel like I’m stuck in a perpetual state of FOMO. I’ve been slowly trying to let go of this bitterness, and I want to start focussing on not letting my FOMO keep me from being productive, the way it has been. Maybe I need to focus on spending time with people who actually want to be around me instead of being angry and sad over people who never really did. I’m so glad this article is around because I’ve been wanting to articulate this feeling for such a long time but I couldn’t think of how to express it or how it affected me without feeling petty. This is such a great article and all these different viewpoints really made me feel happier and more comfortable knowing I’m not alone in feeling alone in this particular way.