The FOMO Syndrome: Fear of Missing Out

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Hannah is a sixteen year old from New Jersey. She loves to compete with color guard and marching band, and play piano. She hopes to become a writer one day, and to inspire others to follow their dreams.

As I entered High School, I immediately wanted to join an assortment of clubs and teams while I juggled an honors course load. It was not long before I realized that I could not possibly handle so many activities. However, I was afraid to quit clubs, knowing that I would miss out on a variety of incredible experiences.

As a sophomore, I started to realize that I was becoming increasingly distracted by websites like Facebook, YouTube, and Tumblr, and by the numerous texts my friends would send as I calculated algebra problems and attempted to write quality essays. My mom suggested that I delete my Facebook or that I shut my phone off and block texts while busy. Gasping at her, I responded that I could not do either. I felt that someone may need my help, I may miss an important event, or I would go to school feeling “out of the loop” and confused.

Recently, my classmate was talking about her Twitter account. I asked if it was worth making one, and she told me that she wasted hours of time, but could not imagine missing the frivolous tidbits about the lives of those who she followed. As she said this, I realized that perhaps I was not the only person who feared missing out on information about the lives of others.

Urban Dictionary, a site that defines almost every piece of teenage slang available, knows about this fear too. The Fear of Missing Out Syndrome (shortened to FOMO) is said to be the fear of missing an event, not being invited to an event, or missing out on popular information. In today’s technologically advanced world, it is easy for teens to see when friends are having a get together and “forgot to invite” them, or when everyone else knew that the teen’s best friend had a fling with their long time crush – except for them. However, without technology, it is easy for one to wonder what social events and announcements he or she has been missing merely due to not being connected.

To different people, FOMO will have different effects. For me, the fear of missing out caused me to become addicted and attached to my phone and Facebook. The second I got on the bus after school, I would often browse my newsfeed for interesting stories. For some, FOMO is, in fact, quite depressing. Upon realizing that he or she has not been invited to an event, one often begins to question if their friends actually like them, if they did something wrong, or if they simply are unimportant. Yet, for others, FOMO can be encouraging. For better or for worse, FOMO can inspire people to become increasingly involved in their communities, schools, families, and friendships.

It is difficult to overcome FOMO. However, recently, I tried to take the first step. I noticed that my constant desire to be connected and “in the loop” was becoming distracting and anti-productive. With much difficulty, I deleted my Tumblr, and put my phone on silent as I did homework. As I drew pages of sine and cosine graphs, I shut off my internet, although I allowed myself a Facebook break after every few pages. Although these efforts to stay out of the loop may sound miniscule, I believe that they are progress in my struggle, and the struggle of millions of teens, to increase productivity and fight the fear of missing out.

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