The theology of FOMO

How the greatest fear can be that of missing out

With the exhausting supply of fantasy football statistics proving ineffective in fueling my procrastination, I decided to check if Lou had posted the spring semester’s List, and proceeded to browse the course options for the next hour.

As a first-year, I found myself lost in a sea of possibilities as I frantically imagined the direction in which I could develop my intellectual prowess next semester. I could brush up on my art history, maybe add to my negative mathematical skills or even demand more supply of economics knowledge — too bad there’s no course in puns.

With a vast number of the fascinating classes listed, a reality soon struck me: I couldn’t take them all. There are pre-requisites and time-slots to consider, along with realistic predictions of what is a manageable workload. And that’s when I felt the encroaching burn of a familiar dreadful feeling, my ultimate enemy, my greatest horror — the fear of missing out, or FOMO.

So please allow me to preach briefly on the perils of FOMO. To me, FOMO is the anxiety created when we must choose a single course of action at the expense of missing out on a number of appealing others. More drastic cases of FOMO can make the patients take part in an activity — that their better judgment would normally preclude — for the sole reason of being too afraid to miss out on any sort of experience, with enjoyment not even guaranteed.

At the University, an environment of innumerable possibilities, FOMO runs rampant. And though I’d like to pretend I only quake in fear at the prospect of missing out on certain educational ventures, FOMO pops up also in the less, well, respectable aspects of collegiate life. When my inclinations pointed me toward sleep and study, FOMO decreed I not take the chance to wonder for the rest of the semester what going out on a Wednesday is like. FOMO has ordered, though it may be late and my good angel will vehemently rue the decision, that I turn down a return to dorms in exchange for a trip with friends to The White Spot.

The reasons are trivial, but FOMO’s power is absolute. Am I so weak I can’t come to terms with missing an unlikely bonding moment over a 3 a.m. greasy sandwich? What does it say about my true desires and priorities if the only thing motivating my decisions is not a wish to experience something, but an innate fear of missing some excitement I am not even guaranteed to have?

In the next week or so, friends, events and even SIS will provide multiple paths for me to take. To stay in or not to stay in; to sign up for an inordinate amount of credits about bizarre subjects or not to regret hours of bizarre homework next year — these are the questions. I can only hope I’ll have some substantial and tangible desire to pursue the path that should be taken, and FOMO will make none of the difference.

Aidan’s column runs biweekly Fridays. He can be reached at

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