FOMO: An Epidemic

by Kathryn Willgus

Imagine the scenario: it’s Thursday evening, and you plan to spend your night studying for your midterm that you have Friday morning at 9 a.m. Your phone buzzes, and the notification paralyzes you: Facebook: Event in one hour: “TNT: Uncle Remus Performs.”

Oh. My. God. Uncles Remus is playing! How could you forget about this? You can’t miss this opportunity. I mean, it’s not every day that you get to see John Cochran (C‘15) play live. You begin to calculate the weight of your midterm on your semester grade and how many A’s you’ll have to make on chapter quizzes to make up for the C that you’re predicting for tomorrow’s exam.

We’ve all been there. Missing Tuesdays at SAE, Wine Wednesdays in your best friend’s suite, Thursday Night Throwdowns at Beta, and getting stuck with dorm duty on a Saturday night (especially when Sigma Nu has a jam band) all leave us feeling a little empty inside. Fear of missing out, or FOMO, is a serious epidemic among teenagers and young adults, especially here at Sewanee. I have often heard people say that they find themselves stressing out just as much over their weekends and parties as they do over the typical school week.

It’s hard for people here to make a conscious decision to take a night off, whether it is voluntary or otherwise. Why is it so hard for students to give up a single night of binge drinking the same warm, cheap beer and listening to the same over-played, deafening songs? FOMO is probably a real thing at every school, but I think Sewanee is a special case. We are a small, tight-knit, loving community where just about everybody is friends with one another.

Our fraternies’ parties are open, so almost everyone parties with one another too—which is another thing most of us love about our community. However, when you are free to go to any party you want to and yet are stuck with the decision to not go to any, life can become stressful. The fear of missing out is felt so strongly at Sewanee because, not only would you be missing a huge event, but it’s easy to feel as if you will be the only one missing said event.

Another reason Sewanee students do not want to give up their weekends is because most of us feel like we have more than earned them. Sewanee academics are unlike many other schools, where your professors and administration actually care if you skip class and whether or not you are doing well. An average Sewanee student’s course load is very rigorous. Therefore, we work hard and we play hard. After almost five hard days of class, people want to be able to blow off some steam, get obliterated and not have to think about the other 75% of their week. Now, how would you feel if that opportunity were taken away from you? If that 75% became more like 90%? Not happy, I would presume.

My last and final argument about the FOMO epidemic is simply that life is hard. Here at Sewanee, we live in a bubble, on top of a mountain, where the real world seems to take a leave of absence. Though we try to ignore it, there is an ever-present, lingering feeling of responsibility. Weeks become semesters, semesters become years, and then you graduate and these years of learning often become your career and life path. Being with our friends and drinking cheap beer is our way of forgetting about how old we’re getting and ignoring the fact that one day we will be adults with lives that don’t support being drunk three or four nights (days?) a week. When in college, do as Sewanee students do—after all, you won’t be here forever (hopefully).

FOMO is real. It is not embarrassing or shameful, although it can be detrimental to your mental health, social awareness, and sometimes, your academic standing. My advice for coping with FOMO? Prioritize. For those of you that may have never heard this word, Merriam-Webster defines it as: Prioritize(v): to organize (things) so that the most important thing is done or dealt with first. YSR, y’all.

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