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The Shrink-In-Violet: Session 3, FOMO

Illustration by Emily Perkins

Hey Shrink-In-Violet,

Ever since coming to Oxford I’ve really struggled with FOMO. It seems like everyone else is having a much better time than me, while I’m staying in most nights drowning under the worst workload I’ve ever had, wondering how on earth they all do it. I know Instagram is just a highlights reel, but it makes me feel like I’m not making the most of being at Oxford. How can I change my mindset?


My dearest reader,

It appears you have fallen down the rabbit hole. Much like Alice, your curiosity has gotten the better of you. In Wonderland, aka Instagram, the thin line between fantasy and reality is erased through the looking glass of an iPhone lens (or, God forbid, a Samsung). The Queen of Hearts with 2,345 likes on her matriculation post. The Mad Hatter’s champagne tea parties at Port Meadow. The croquet on the Christ Church palace lawns. We’re all mad here.

I feel your pain, truly. Each time I see a photo of someone out grinning like the Cheshire cat whilst I’m confined to the library, I edge closer to reaching for a wonderful book suitably titled 101 Uses For A Dead Cat. Them, at Spoons for the 5th time this week, and me, with an essay crisis for the 5th time this week. Woe is me! How do they do it? Perhaps those £20 plastic Time-Turner necklaces from that shop on Broad Street do work after all… 

Under the spell of Oxford, it is easy to be bewitched into thinking you must be everything everywhere all at once – no easy feat in this corner of the multiverse. Solving the Enigma code? A walk in the park. Deriving the Theory of Relativity? Child’s play. Managing a social life with the workload at Oxford? Impossible. But fear not, my dear, you are not alone in this struggle. No Oxford student has all of the following: good grades, a social life, mental stability. Something’s got to give. And I can assure you the latter is not worth sacrificing. 

All those things you wish you were doing? Make a list. Check it twice. If they’re within budget (and reason), schedule time aside from your essay crises to do those things. No friends? No problem. Take yourself on a date. Save yourself the trouble of a man and having to write to me about all the problems he is causing you.

You’ll be so preoccupied with completing your bucket list that you won’t have time for self-depreciation. Or to participate in the latest craze, ironically called BeReal, which takes faking reality to a whole new level. Ah, there’s no greater spectacle than 100 university students simultaneously taking a selfie in the Rad Cam. How mortifying. I shudder at the thought of succumbing to such a thing. The only thing worse than the pure chaos brought about by this application is its eponymous façade. There is nothing ‘real’ about BeReal; that €10 LV bag you got on a beach in Tenerife is more authentic than the lives you see on that app. 

And TikTok? Even worse. It’s a Monday night and you’re in your college library listening to the Bridgerton soundtrack and pretending to work. ‘One video, then back to it,’ you tell yourself. An hour later, you’ve gained detailed knowledge about how planes fly, a hatred towards some American girl’s cheating boyfriend, and an intense feeling of FOMO. Sigh. One more Oxford day-in-the-life video synced to a severely auto-tuned rap from a 2000 documentary, and you might Louis Ther-ow yourself out of the window. But you’re on the ground floor. Nothing seems to be going your way.

But all hope is not lost, my dear. There is no need to hurl yourself through a grade-1 listed stained-glass window. There is, in fact, a 100% effective cure for FOMO: deleting all social media. 

We’ve all thought about it: devolving, going wild, returning to our feral roots. A cosy little cave, rubbing sticks together to discover fire. Ah, it takes me back to the good old days. But alas, abstinence has never been an effective solution…

Instead, try downloading some apps that don’t involve scrutinising other people’s lives. Perhaps exercise that wonderful intellectual capacity of yours via Wordle, or even a sudoku? Or if you’re feeling exotic, a Spanish lesson on Duolingo? Or for the more creatively inclined, a bit of digital reading?* 

*(no, I’m not talking about that writing app. I am not an 11-year-old Harry Potter fan. I’m way older than that…)

Remember that FOMO damages the soul far more than actually missing out; so take some deep breaths, drink some water, and try some gratitude journaling. Take the opportunities that you can, and know that those you miss weren’t meant for you. 

Yours with empathy,

Your Shrink-In-Violet


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