Sitting in the confines of my 12 by 16 double on a Saturday night, I scan my Snap Map for familiar Bitmojis. Are people having fun without me? Outside of my room I can hear the cacophony of my floormates getting ready for a night out, and the yells of people boarding a shuttle to Main Campus reverberate through my window. A sinking feeling overwhelms me: I am missing out.
FOMO—fear of missing out—is an integral part of the college experience. No one can be in a million places at once nor can they assess what event is the most exciting at any given moment. Yet to a freshman, FOMO can feel like their fragile social life is taking its last dying breath. They’ll do anything to escape this dread, even if it means insisting they know someone inside the Mods after already being denied entrance twice.
For many it’s the mystery of missing out on parties that bothers them the most. I have ultimate certainty of what a night in my Newton Campus dorm room will look like. I’ll probably brew myself a cup of tea, try to be productive, and ultimately end up watching YouTube videos on my laptop until I fall asleep. But the nature of a night out is far more unpredictable. The little information you can gather about an event from sitting at home comes from the drunken Snapchat stories of those who document their every move. You may wonder: Is my future spouse at this party I’m not invited to? What about the bridesmaids to our wedding? Is this the party to end all parties, and I won’t be a witness of this historic event?
Apart from the unknown possibilities that going out offers, there’s also a pressure among college students to jam-pack these four years to the brim with colorful memories and to make college the best years of their lives. It’s a race to take advantage of fleeting youth while they still have it, and no one wants to fall behind. This phenomenon is particularly prominent in freshmen, who are eager to assimilate into the culture of a university and cultivate a fulfilling social life. Not only do they want to give off a fun and exciting persona to their new classmates, but they may also be comparing their college experiences to friends from home. This need to keep up with peers can make some students go out just for the sake of going out, even when they’d much rather stay in bed.
For what it’s worth, staying in for a night can have its benefits. You can finally relax and take care of your body after a week of sleep deprivation and deep-fried late night meals, maybe even call up some friends for a board game or movie night. Face masks, pedicures, and movie snacks can keep you preoccupied for the night. When you wake up the next morning, there won’t be with a killer headache and other signs of alcohol-induced dehydration. Yet, the uncertainty of what’s going on in other parts of the campus remains. You can try to rationalize this fear of missing out by acknowledging you probably won’t have as much fun at a crowded party as during this quality time with your friends. Or you can actually go out and set your mind at ease.
Personally, I’m a proponent of the latter option. Go out and see the world to curb your curiosity. Go into the dark and humid senior party, where sweat has managed to evaporate and condense on the ceiling to rain down on your unsuspecting head. Go forth into the Mod where no more than a square centimeter of space seems to be unoccupied. See, with your very own eyes, the empty beer cans strewn across the kitchen counter, and smell the cheap liquor permeating the room. Dance and sing along to the blaring 2000s throwbacks, and take it all in. Even if it wasn’t the most legendary party ever—and you didn’t meet your future spouse—the mystery is gone. You went, you saw, you experienced, and you don’t have to wonder about what could’ve been.