I’ve been back at school for a few weeks now and am trying really hard to stay on top of schoolwork. My parents are giving me one more semester to turn things around before having me move home. I really want to stay at Loras but am having a hard time balancing classes and my social life. It’s the whole “Fear of Missing Out” thing. I see friends posting pictures on Instagram and Twitter and I feel like if I’m not there I might miss something big, or worse, they might not notice. Any suggestions?
Signed, Fear of Missing Out
This problem has existed for generations but never has it manifested itself quite like it has in the last decade. Social media makes it hard to forget that you may be missing something monumental if you are not present. Or worse, that you weren’t invited at all, which likely induces sadness about whether you are liked or important. The fact that life exists beyond you is hard to understand, but the truth is, you cannot be at everything and not being included in everything is okay. It also does not necessarily mean you were deliberately left out.
First of all, consider that if you don’t make school and other important responsibilities a priority, you may be asking for a permanent decline in invites if you have to move back home. It is good to figure out what things demand your attention and what things might be okay to miss. Tell yourself that you need to pick which nights/activities you will attend at the beginning of the week. Then, stick to it. If you like to be spontaneous, consider giving yourself an evening to leave open. Then try to create your own impromptu outing and do the inviting yourself.
Having balance and saying no to things means you are disciplined. It is also good for healthy relationships and your role modeling may help others follow suit. In addition, consider what you do get to be a part of even when you miss something else. Maybe going home for the weekend means that you miss out on a big game or party but your mom’s home-cooking and seeing your siblings might be an okay payoff. Maybe your good attendance at work earns you a raise or good reference, allowing you to participate in even more activities than the ones you missed. And not going out some Thursday night so you can study for that exam might not only save you from a hangover, but earn you a grade that lets you keep your scholarship. There is always more than one way to look at things.
Another thing to think about is reality. In case you weren’t aware, most people don’t put posts on Facebook or Instagram related to how awful their life is (the exceptions do need to ask for help in different ways.) Most people post the best of the things that they are involved in; the happy times, the successes, the interactions with others. I see so many students that are upset by posts when they were not aware that a certain event was going on. They feel left out and jump to conclusions that they did not make the cut. We all know how impromptu things come up and people are always there with their smartphones to snap a picture. Don’t assume that it was a planned out event and that you were deliberately left off the guest list. If you find out later that this was the case, talk to a friend or the organizer about your feelings and express a desire to be invited the next time. Rise above the temptation to bad mouth the attendees and instead plan a gathering of your own. I know it’s difficult, especially for you introverts. If you want to be included, take some ownership in making it happen. College is not like past gatherings that your mother or your high school may have organized.