The harsh reality of “FOMO” and how I overcame it


Eliza Raphael

Overcoming FOMO meant shifting my mindset from wishing I was experiencing everything with my peers to feeling happy for others’ success and happiness.

By Ava Faghani

A typical Friday night as a pre-teen didn’t consist of any epic function. It meant hanging out with a friend, sitting behind a computer screen on Minecraft or curling up on the couch to watch a movie with my brother. On Saturday nights, I’d occasionally experience some mild devastation when a Snapchat story alerted me to a Bar Mitzvah I wasn’t invited to — but that represented the full extent of my social dejection.

By eighth grade, I became like everybody else: a pawn of the pandemic. The free time I had once spent with my peers shifted to extensive time spent with family and self-discovery. No longer constantly surrounded by hundreds of peers, others stopped influencing every aspect of my life, and I became more honest about who I was.

Then my sophomore year of high school happened. Within the first week of school, I attended two parties on a weekend and surrounded myself with friends at every moment. I was finally experiencing the “high school experience” I’d missed. 

However, reality soon set in. For every party I attended, there were dozens more events I wasn’t invited to, and I increasingly craved to be surrounded by people. I agonizingly scrolled through my classmates’ private Snapchat stories, desperately clawing for opportunities to satisfy my social cravings. I’d later find out that I was experiencing the fear of missing out — a phenomenon coined “FOMO.”

From then on, an unfortunate pattern quickly emerged. Staying in on the weekend was dreadful. Anxious thoughts of missing out replaced the solitude I once cherished. I watched my peers live the life I envied from a seven-inch screen. Peer pressure accentuated these feelings. I never felt the pressure to go out until I saw others doing it. Social satisfaction, I soon discovered, necessitated a change in my mindset.

By February I had made the difficult decision to begin balancing personal time and going out. For a week, I didn’t go out to combat my impulse of being surrounded by others. Instead, I spent my week doing activities at home and catching up on Gilmore Girls. It was unbearable. I compulsively checked SnapMaps, private stories and Instagram each hour — anything that could alert me to exciting events I was missing. Despite my efforts, I deduced that making myself stay home wouldn’t solve the cognitive issue of feeling behind my classmates in the social realm. I still felt the same urge to go out and anxiety when the week of solitude ended. I needed to try something else. 

Then, a senior friend recommended that I start journaling. Putting words to feelings at first seemed like a trivial endeavor, but over time jotting down my feelings helped me rationalize the chaos in my head. Writing short excerpts revealed that my FOMO stemmed from jealousy and excessive social media consumption, causing me to compare myself to others. 

Whitman’s competitive environment fostered an envious mindset for me and made it easier to acknowledge toxic social media and jealousy rather than fix it. Even when I didn’t want to go out, I succumbed to the pressure of fitting in with everyone else. Being surrounded by others can make you impressionable and judgemental, pressuring you to abandon your values to appeal to others. Everybody needs time alone to learn more about themselves. I had been heavily neglecting that.

Overcoming FOMO meant shifting my mindset from wishing I was experiencing everything with my peers to feeling happy for others’ success and happiness. I had finally had the epiphany I needed to learn: It’s impossible to be satisfied if you’re competing and comparing with others. Instead, I focused on myself — my authentic self — and my jealously began to disappear.

Today, I’m finally satisfied staying home again while still enjoying my time going out. I’ve formed a new after-school and weekend regimen, where I indulge in self-care at home and watch a movie with my family. Additionally, I’ve regained my love for little joys, like listening to music and staying in the comfort of my room.

While feeling the occasional sting of FOMO is unavoidable, I no longer feel the need to live up to the once-intrusive social expectations that occupied my mind.