New Year, same you- How to beat FOMO
Updated: Feb 9, 2022
Innntttrroooducing, our January study tips series to help you keep your New Year's Resolutions! Want to be a better student this year? Learn from our mistakes! This month, each author will tackle a different topic that can help our readers be the best student they can be. So many lifestyle factors influence our ability to accomplish our goals- so why not use science to try to understand how we can become better learners?
Image by The Student Life
In the first entry of this series, I will discuss my personal experience with FOMO- the fear of missing out- and dive into the scientific reasons why it is so hard for us to pass on social experiences, even if it means our grades suffer. Especially as a student, particularly in first year, it is difficult to pass up on parties and socials because the desire to fit in is so overpowering. I know personally I had a lot of anxiety because I felt that if I missed a party to study for a test, I would consequentially be less close with that friend group because I would miss out on a shared experience. This way of thinking was super toxic for my mental health! Life is about balance; no one has the time to give 100% to both school and socializing. Also, your friends will still be your friends if you miss a party! Missing things isn't the end of the world; you're not going to remember the odd party you missed 40 years down the road.
Why do we experience FOMO? We know humans are highly social creatures, so it makes sense that we have anxiety if we feel we are not fulfilling our social needs as much as others within our circle (1). Evolutionarily, social ties helped us survive, because we needed to depend on & communicate with each other in order to survive illness, predators, and any other stressor life threw our way. It is well known that socialization is a huge protective factor against chronic-stress-related illness (2). Furthermore, we will prioritize maintaining social relationships at the cost of diminishing our success in other roles, such as work and school.
Another reason why it is so easy to choose social activities over studying is because humans crave the reward from instant gratification that occurs when dopamine is released onto the nucleus accumbens (3). We are reward-motivated beings, so it is human nature to go for the quick reward rather than wait for delayed gratification. When given the choice, most people would rather have a smaller sum of money instantly than a larger sum of money after a period of time, a process known as time discounting (4). We have a degree of dissociation from our future self that often prohibits us from making the best long-term decisions.
The question remains, what can we do to rewire our brain? We know that the parties aren't always worth failing a test for, but how do we stop it? The most important thing is to GET OFF YOUR PHONE! Social media use is associated with decreased self-esteem and mental illness, a relationship that is mediated by FOMO (5). Temporarily delete the apps, shut your phone off, or put your phone in a different room. It is so habitual to reach for your phone nowadays, but if you have that extra barrier in place you will remember why you are avoiding socials in the first place.
Other ways to beat FOMO involve time management, which isn't the easiest skill to master. However, by making a schedule, calendar, or list of all your obligations, both social and academic, you can plan out your time in advance. You can also limit the amount of nights you go out or the amount of nights you study per week, so you have boundaries when deciding what the best choice is on a Friday night. Always remember to be forgiving with yourself. It takes time to develop good study habits; so every time you make the effort to shut off your phone, or spend a Friday night in, you are working towards a better you!
Written by Jessica
1. Przybylski, A. K., Murayama, K., DeHaan, C. R., & Gladwell, V. (2013). Motivational, emotional, and behavioral correlates of fear of missing out. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(4), 1841e1848. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2013.02.014.
2. Anisman, H. (2014). An introduction to stress and health. Sage.
3. Gao, Z., Wang, H., Lu, C., Lu, T., Froudist-Walsh, S., Chen, M., ... & Sun, W. (2021). The neural basis of delayed gratification. Science advances, 7(49), eabg6611.
4. Meier, S., & Sprenger, C. D. (2012). Time discounting predicts creditworthiness.
Psychological science, 23(1), 56-58.
5. Buglass, S. L., Binder, J. F., Betts, L. R., & Underwood, J. D. (2017). Motivators of online vulnerability: The impact of social network site use and FOMO. Computers in Human Behavior, 66, 248-255.