FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out, is an acronym I have denied relating to for the majority of my life. However, since kindergarten, the fear of missing out has caused me to seize up. Not in the same way that public speaking affects me, which involves sweaty palms, shaking hands and forgetting my lines. The fear of missing out most often, in my case, involves some unwarranted anxieties.
For as far back and as extensively as my memory spans, I can remember instances when I’ve felt FOMO. For this trip down memory lane, let’s start all the way back: kindergarten. It was the second week of school, and I was just beginning to make some friends. It was free time, and a group of us were sitting in a circle. Suddenly, one of the girls mentioned that she had started ballet. Before I knew it, the whole circle was talking about their dance classes. I couldn’t say a word. I wasn’t in any dance classes.
I felt afraid that if I wasn’t also in dance, these newly forged friendships wouldn’t last. When I got home, I begged and begged my parents to sign me up for a class, and they agreed. Funnily enough, I stopped a few lessons in; it turns out I wasn't exactly destined to be a dancer.
Another moment I recall was in middle school. I had a presentation the following day, so I had decided to set aside my night to rehearse and make my slideshow. About 15 minutes in, I got a phone call. Then another. Followed by text messages.
“Do Yeon, we’re going to make costumes for the dress-up day tomorrow. You should come make one, too!”
I knew I needed to work, but I couldn’t help but think about the fun my friends would have, and all of the cute photos I wouldn’t be able to be in. After a few minutes of deliberation, I decided to go and make my costume. They turned out great — but I did not do very well on my unfinished presentation.
It’s unreasonable to think a person will never feel at least a bit of FOMO, but I’ve learned that saying no will most likely not result in the loss of all of my friends. It can be tempting to do what everybody else is doing, and it’s valid to worry about feeling left out if you don’t go to that football game, or join the same clubs as your friends. And while FOMO might not always be a bad thing — it can push you to try something new or to give yourself a break from work — what everybody else is doing isn’t always what’s best for you.
You know what’s best for you. So, for whoever needs to hear this right now, just remember: Don’t let FOMO control you.
This column is a regular feature of the Tribune's monthly WAVE page. Do Yeon Kim is a Detroit Lakes High School graduate who is now in her first year of college at Harvard.