Columns Lifestyle

Nice to Meet You, I’m a Slut! FOMO

‘FOMO’, a colloquialism coined in the year 2000, finally put into words the acute panic we feel when we’re simply trying to have a quiet night,  generally doing nothing but picking up our phones to innocently scroll through social media, only for our ‘zen’ to be derailed by all the fun stories boasting whichever social event we decided to give a miss that night. The Urban Dictionary more concisely defines ‘FOMO’ as “the fear that if you miss a party or event you will miss out on something great”. Although there are no social events for us to agonise over at the moment, I still feel the nagging presence of FOMO disturbing what is to be the longest ‘quiet night in’ to date. When I told my mum I was struggling with FOMO she responded with the obvious “but there’s nothing to miss out on”.  

But there is. Collectively, we are missing out on the ‘something great’ that is sold to us as the best days of our lives. In my case, as a second year English student on their ‘humanities gap year’, I feel robbed of what was meant to be the best term of my degree. First years won’t get the dress rehearsal of sub-fusc, exam schools, and trashing – a major right-of-passage into second year. Finalists won’t get the closure they deserve, having grafted so hard for so long. I won’t bother making generalised comparisons or trying to make a judgement on which part of the student body has suffered the most thanks to this pandemic (it’s the finalists) since these debates have already had sufficient airtime on Oxfess. Every Oxford term feels like an era in its own right; I chronicle my life in terms of ‘2018 Michaelmas me’ and ‘2019 Trinity me’ as though they are entirely different people – which they are! I certainly thrive on the chaos of our 8 week terms and find myself leaving them at least a little more mature than when I entered them. Losing Trinity 2020 feels like more than just missing out on Oxford’s finest beer gardens, enjoying LMH’s wild flower meadow at its peak, and seeing my friends. It’s 8 weeks of growth I definitely could have done with before taking on third year. Whilst FOMO normally feels like a petty, fairly trivial anxiety – a vague sting of jealousy whenever we see other people having fun  – this is a Fear Of Missing Out that goes way beyond that one party I didn’t go to.  

Not only has the regular present-tense FOMO been weighing over me, but the retrospective “I wish I’d gone to that bop” as well as the prospective “think of all the bops I would have gone to” has also occupied my thoughts of late. I think this combination of regretting what we didn’t do and the loss of what could have been will inevitably lead to some fairly dramatic displays of excess once we are unleashed back into student-living. The instinctive “No” will be superseded by a resounding “Yes” in response to offers of  Park-End Wednesdays/Bridge Thursdays/Fever Fridays you’d previously deemed a waste of time, energy, and money. Many have prophesied the carnage that will ensue come Freshers 2020 when several months of pent up energy will explode into a week-long frenzy of making up for lost time. Beyond university life, FOMO kind of defines our generation as one whose youth was marked by the 2008 financial crash, whose early adolescence saw the Brexit referendum, and whose horizons are being even further restricted by this pandemic. The economic prosperity and opportunities enjoyed by those of older generations are not available to us; we have missed out, so-to-speak, on the healthy housing market and graduate employment opportunities our parents and grandparents benefitted from. 

Within quarantine itself there is a more immediate FOMO: the worry that, by not being supremely productive, we are missing out on what many are calling an ‘opportunity’ to improve ourselves by learning a language, transforming your home, or by obsessively baking to fill that Trinity-shaped void with confectioneries. On top of that, Zoom parties have become the new house parties and with that there is the same age-old FOMO that induces extra pressure for us to stay connected at a time when people’s social batteries are probably at an all-time-low. It can be quite disheartening when you’ve spent the entire day doing nothing but eat crisps, play Sims 4, and periodically nap when you tune into social media only to see a glorious array of cakes, crafts and other creative projects produced by your peers. It’s frustrating that even now, in a time of national crisis, I still feel as though I should be doing something ‘improving’ instead of getting overly invested in my Sims’ love lives (I cried at their wedding yesterday). So I was relieved when one of my friends blessed our ‘LMH Together’ Facebook page with a guide on ‘how to be unproductive in isolation’ which was the first time I’d seen, in writing, something that gave me permission to do nothing.  

I would also like to gently remind anyone who, like me, has been feeling off-the-scale FOMO in this ‘difficult, challenging, and unprecedented’ time that life as we know it does not simply end after uni. We don’t graduate only to immediately find ourselves “settled down” with a mortgage, kids, and midlife-crisis. Our twenties will be waiting and we will have so much time to travel, live with friends, make mistakes, figure stuff out, or do whatever it is you feel you need to do to be happy. ‘Adulthood’ can wait.  

Alice Garnett

Alice is our resident sex columnist whose interests include pints, pink, and all things love-related. When she's not evangelising Singledom she's busy hyping up her East Midlands home town, demystifying bisexuality, and writing for other publications such as Lithium Magazine and Adolescent Content.