It’s the end of June. That means that for a while now, it has been wedding season, graduation season, job-getting season, and the general season when successful people do their most successful things of the year. If you’re like me, then you’re obsessively–if mindlessly, without knowing how you got there–checking Facebook all day long to see what new and impressive things your acquaintances have done. And, if you’re like me, then you have simultaneously been happy for the people doing these great things while also being rather horrifyingly jealous. It’s not just jealousy of the accomplishments, either. It’s jealousy of the whole experience of whatever is happening, of being there, of participating. That’s right, folks, it’s FOMO season.
For the uninitiated, FOMO is “fear of missing out,” and I think it’s something to which we are all susceptible every once in a while. But at this time of the year, everything seems important–and it often is. I want to be at all of it, and I feel like I’m doing the wrong thing to myself and others when I miss things.
This is actually pretty irrational for a few reasons:
- I’m an introvert. I need a lot of alone time to recharge, and it makes me uncomfortable to be around people (especially crowds). It would actually be pretty harmful if I went to every major event this time of year.
- Nobody goes to everything. Even if it seems like there is that one guy who is at literally every event, it’s just not true.
- Things overlap. Not just during this time of year, but pretty much all the time. As much as I internalize guilt for it, it’s actually not my fault when a graduation, bridal shower, and anniversary Mass are all scheduled for the same day.
- There are plenty of ways to support a person besides going to an event. Sometimes, it is actually more detrimental to attend an event, and it doesn’t help them at all. For example, I might be really excited about your thesis, but if it’s horribly embarrassing for me to go to your thesis defense, I’ll cheer for you on the sidelines. Even if it would be fine for me to go to an event, I can still show support by sending you a card, chatting about it, or taking you out for cupcakes.
As I mentioned, though, the whole FOMO thing is more than just feeling like I’m missing the party everyone else is at. In a completely ridiculous sense, I feel like I’m missing out on the experiences themselves. There is an ugly part of me that is jealous when I’m not graduating or getting married or even just going to a concert. It’s a visceral reaction of which I am not proud. Though I try not to lean into that feeling, I find myself trying to justify it.
And the justifications are always foolish. Two examples, both focused on graduation:
- Every year since I have graduated college, I have been jealous of everyone graduating and all the fun they seem to be having on Facebook. My justification is that my own commencement was not what I wanted it to be because of an illness that lasted for my senior spring. I felt cheated because I didn’t get the experience that everyone else seemed to have, and has seemed to have since.
- I made the decision not to go to commencement at my college this year for very specific personal reasons. Commencement at my alma mater is also reunion weekend, so not going meant that I would miss seeing lots of my old friends. Even though I was confident in my decision, I still felt angry and like I was missing out when I saw all the Facebook pictures.
I think the issue in both cases is that I did not appreciate the experiences I actually had. In terms of my own commencement, I was not actually cheated. There is no prescribed experience to which I was entitled, and the experience I had wasn’t even a bad one. By feeling like I’m “missing out” on a graduation, whether my own or someone else’s, I’m really just holding onto the idea that there is some perfect experience out there. In the second example, when I focus on the commencement that I missed, I don’t properly appreciate the experience I had instead, which was to have an incredible visit with some of my closest friends in New Orleans.
While FOMO is definitely a real thing, what I’m trying to remember this season is that it is ultimately rooted in selfishness and a lack of appreciation for what is right in front of me. I don’t have the answers about how to make the feeling go away. This season, I’m at least going to try to consciously focus my energy on what I have and experience, rather than what I miss. Yes, I will miss things, inevitably. But I am not supposed to have every experience, and the ones I do have are more meaningful than I can fully grasp.