Sara Schonfeld | Say no to FOMO


Sara, Struggling | Why we shouldn't let fear of missing out run our lives


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Sara Schonfeld
Sara, Struggling

Photo by Sara Schonfeld


One of the best things about sorority recruitment is the endless bonding hours with freshmen. I enjoy hanging out with these young ’uns.

Often, though, I miss out on the terminology. I’m not as with the lingo as I used to be. It happens. I am a senior, after all.

“I suppose it’s just FOMO,” one of my biddies told me sadly one night, shaking her head in regret.

I gave her a strange look, one eye narrowed and my eyebrows squinched, until she spelled it out for me.

Fear of missing out, of course, isn’t a new concept. But I hadn’t realized it had reached the same acronym status as the other catchphrases I usually end up searching on Urban Dictionary. It left me feeling, once again, like an old fogey.

Kids these days, with their saggy jeans and their texting and their MOFO-FOMO-YOLO.

I suppose the coinage of the term, to a degree, makes sense: FOMO is something much more immediate in our generation.

If you don’t go to that party, you’re going to see immediate status updates, photos, Snapchats.

Had I been born, as I so often wish, in early 19th-century England, my anti-social tendencies would not have led to such immediate consequences. Social media gives FOMO a sense of urgency.

I feel like our generation lives in actual, literal fear of missing out.

Symptoms include: obsessively checking phone for texts, DMs, IMs, Snapchats; scrolling through Facebook to see just who has RSVP’d; and any use of the phrase, “You’ll regret it if you don’t go.”

Sometimes I feel like I end up blackmailing myself into going on social outings. There’s this little voice that says: But think of everything that could happen!

As a creative writing minor, what could happen quickly becomes a complex fantasy constructed in my head. Regardless of the actual content of these daydreams, FOMO makes it seem necessary.

If I go to this mixer, I could meet that cute kid from my Spanish class, and he might just invite me to his formal. Do I want to go to this formal? Not particularly, but FOMO makes the whole concept sound extremely appealing.

My usual script for such a party goes something like this: When I get the invitation, I ignore it. Fastforward to the night of the shindig, and I spend approximately two hours debating whether I want to go.

My mind does a quick calculation. Fun anticipated = (friends attending) x (anticipated food) – (height of heels in inches) x (distance from dorm).

Sometimes I go and I’m extremely happy. This is great. Thank you, crippling fear of missing another sing-along to Ke$ha’s “Timber.”

And there are times when FOMO is a good kick in the seat of your pants. When I was in Hawaii and wasn’t sure if I wanted to snorkel, the little twinge in my gut told me I had to. It answered the question, “Yeah, so I’m studying abroad in Spain, do I really have to go see a bullfight?”

But sometimes, even if I realize that my fun quota is a very negative number, FOMO will dictate my actions. Like a puppet on a string, I’ll end up at this party, complaining about my sore feet.

This time, I have already decided. This Thursday night, I’ll be clicking “no” on the Facebook invite. I’m not going to let FOMO control me.

I’ll be at home working on my thesis, since part of it is due the following afternoon. But I’ll keep Facebook open, and through the magic of my newsfeed, I’ll experience the party from the sidelines.

In general, none of those four-letter acronyms are the best indicators of good decision-making.

Think about it. Has anything good ever been preceded by a cry of “YOLO!”?

If you answered yes, please reevaluate all your life decisions and check to make sure you still have all your limbs.

Sara Schonfeld is a College senior from Philadelphia studying English. Her email address is s.schonfeldthedp@gmail.com. Follow her ?@SaraSchon.

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