FOMO (fear of missing out) is real. I know a lot of people like to say that it’s just another thing millennials or whatever generation coming up behind us likes complaining about, but it’s absolutely a thing. Two generations ago, if your friends went out without you, you either 1. wouldn’t know about it until afterward or 2. maybe would feel a little hurt but could easily ignore it. Now, often those events you’re left out of are flaunted in your face on social media, or just with people talking about them because they forget it’s sort of rude to talk about shared experiences if not everyone in the circle has shared it. It’s easier than ever to see exactly how much fun everyone is having without you, and your dumb brain naturally concludes that they’re having that much fun specifically because you’re not there. Quit it, brain!
Anyway, let’s talk about how to deal with it, both from the perspective of the person involved and the person feeling left out.
- Try to include everyone: This comes with a lot of caveats. Obviously in a perfect world everyone would be welcome and present everywhere, except that wouldn’t be a perfect world because that’d be fucking exhausting. You know when you go to a big party and you’re like “that was fun and now I need to wait a month before I interact with that many people again”? TOO BAD, NO WAITING PERIOD. This is all to say sometimes you just want to hang out with one or two or five people instead of every one of your friends at once, and that’s reasonable. But if you’re planning a party and invite everyone except one person in your friend group, that sends a message, so try to at least keep groups together. This changes if there’s limited space, but you know, do your best.
- Ask yourself if you really wanted to be invited: If you’re feeling left out, try to figure out if it’s because it’s really something you would have enjoyed, or if you just want to be included. Maybe you weren’t invited specifically because your friends knew you wouldn’t like that particular activity, or thought you were busy and didn’t want to make you feel overwhelmed with choices.
- Don’t flaunt: This is tricky, because obviously you have the right to post as many picturesque mountain views or selfies with all your friends as you want, but if you know someone wasn’t invited who would have liked to be invited, or has a tendency to feel left out if they couldn’t make it to something, maybe take it easy. Because it is hard to see all your friends enjoying themselves somewhere if you didn’t know about it.
- Don’t whine: The temptation to call someone out and go “why wasn’t I invited?” is strong, but generally it is not a good look. Instead, talk to your friends after the fact if you’re feeling raw about it. There may be a reason why you weren’t invited (limited space, other relationship dynamics that have nothing to do with you, email problems), or you could use it as an opportunity to say it’s something you’d be interested in next time around.
- Plan your own shit! The easiest way to avoid FOMO is to come up with your own plans. I also think the more people who make plans, the more people understand how tricky it can be. If you email 15 friends, and 5 are gone that weekend, do you change plans for them or forge ahead? If your apartment can only fit 6 for dinner, how do you do it so no one feels left out? It’s hard! And there are no right answers but planning at least makes everyone a little more empathetic to the invitation process.
- Mix it up: One great social habit to pick up is to be mixing up which and how many of your friends you interact with, so it doesn’t have a chance to turn into one stagnant “group.” Of course big group parties and outings are great, but plan smaller things too. Get dinner with friends A and B, then next week see a movie with B, C and D, and later invite A and C over for drinks. That way you set a standard of not everyone being invited to everything all the time. People have a chance to get used to seeing their friends doing stuff with out them, knowing that it wasn’t because they weren’t missed, but because sometimes you just hang out in different configurations.
- You’re literally missing out on everything all the time: Time to get zen about it! Your friends are probably Gchatting right now. You might be Gchatting or texting or Snapchatting with them too, but they’re having their own interactions every second of the day that have nothing to do with you. And they may even be talking about you! Friends talk about friends, and let’s face it, they’ve probably noticed that weird thing you do (you know the thing). If that makes you uncomfortable, learn to live with it, because just because people you know see each other without you or talk about you when you’re not there doesn’t mean they don’t love you or want to see you. It means they’re people with their own lives and schedules and relationships that naturally look different than yours.
But if it makes you feel better totally brag those vacation Instagrams.