Image by Priscilla Du Preez


Naira Khananushyan

Picture this (pre-quarantimes) situation: it’s a Friday night after a busy, exhausting study-work-interact-with-humanity week. You’ve just ordered sushi from Uber Eats, you’ve put up those scented candles and crawled under a blanket to watch whatever it was before Tiger King messed with our minds… GoT Season 8? Ah, the pure days! Anyways, your evening is perrrfect. That is, until you pick up your smartphone to check Instagram… FOMO has entered the chat and suddenly, your cozy night of guilt-free binge-watching is ruined. Your schoolmates are all beer-ponging at the semester’s last house party, the girls you’re interning with are posting aperitivo content and that guy from your Erasmus is watching a sunrise somewhere in Myanmar. The Fear of Missing Out has taken reign, causing us to feel lonely and underachieved, like we’re not really living our lives. Familiar? All too much.

Out of an alternative universe and back to our “strange and uncertain times”, as new email etiquette suggests we should go about our correspondence. Similar setting: sushi, candles, Tiger King (we don’t judge you in ANY universe). You’ve done a good job studying for your online exams, you’ve answered all emails and Facetimed your parents, so it was a decent WFH day. You’re still on Instagram all the time because after a month of isolation you haven’t mastered any form of self-control (no worries, neither have we). But this time, there are no stories of aperitivos, curated dinner pictures or exotic location tags. We’re staying home like the responsible adults we are. We’re all in the same boat. Or are we? 

Enter: at-home workouts and freshly baked banana breads sprinkled with an online art history course provided for free by MoMa. In order to “hold up” (another now-common phrase), everybody is keeping themselves busy the best they can.  25-step Korean skincare routine? Your friend started a YouTube channel last week and reviewed it there already. That messy wardrobe your other friend had? Organized, color-coordinated and labeled, thanks Marie Kondo! Maybe you’d also like a six-pack in 14 days? Here’s how, not that you’ve asked. A whole different type of content is flooding your social media, launching you to a whole new level of FOMO inferno. Now you feel guilty for not coding, not baking and not decluttering. And how come everyone is an influencer out of nowhere? What’s going on?

Hey, con calma. The thing is, we as human beings need validation. We naturally feel the need to prove to others - but really to ourselves - that we are unique individuals who are leading meaningful lives, and since by now we are so used to sharing on social media, when we cannot receive this validation in ways we’ve trained ourselves to (for instance, through picture-perfect Bali vacations), we search for it in our current surroundings. In case of spring 2020, it’s whatever we can do within the four walls we’re trapped in and that will play into our feeling of self-worth as well as the satisfaction that a sense of productivity provides us. Hence, the banana bread and at-home workouts every other friend-turned-influencer is feeding us. 

So, how to deal with this unexpected type of FOMO? First of all, we need to allow people to cope with stress in a way that works for them - without any judgement on our side. A couple of memes about banana bread are okay (I’m guilty), but the rule of letting people enjoy things still applies. Secondly, while it is important to support your friend’s newfound fascination with coding, it is equally as important to be gentle with yourself, especially if you take into account how fragile we are in this condition of continuous isolation. So, take care of yourself – fix your sleeping schedule and find yourself a routine. Do your work. Train because you want to, not because you feel forced. Attempt to find a bit of time to actually try something. Accept in your heart that, no matter the situation, everyone’s life, everyone’s pace of achievement is beautifully different, and that not having the same experiences as others does not take anything away from your journey. Do keep an open heart and stay hungry for life. You’ve got this.