I did not go to Coachella this year. I spent the first and second weekends relaxing, and not doing much of anything. I didn't upload a photo of myself with a Ferris Wheel, neon or otherwise. Nor did I take to Instagram to post a picture of my forearm with a myriad of wristbands, affectionately referred to by some as an "arm party," whose sole purpose is meant to incite FOMO about how many sponsored fêtes you can attend over three days. I'm not knocking Coachella or anyone who enjoys attending the festival that spawned the flower crown trend. I'm just not jealous that you were there and I wasn't. That's right, I had zero FOMO. Here's why.
Photo by Adam Katz Sinding
For those of you who don't know, FOMO is the acronym for "fear of missing out." Though we certainly didn't call it FOMO at the time, most of us probably began to develop this anxiety as children when we were grounded and unable to see our friends on the weekends. On Monday we came back to school and had to hear everyone else reminisce on having had the "best time ever."
I've never been one to follow the leader. I forwent the traditional evening bat mitzvah party and had a celebration following the service so I could take the extra money and go on a summer camp adventure in the Rocky Mountains. I skipped my senior prom and high school graduation to move to LA sooner and start an internship at Warner Bros. To this day, I've never seen an episode of The Bachelor. Despite all of this, I still found myself a victim of FOMO from time to time. I wanted to be having fun, too!
Somewhere along the way, I got a bit mind-warped into thinking that if everyone else is partaking in a particular activity and professing about how much fun they're having, I am somehow missing out on an adventure and am therefore less than those people who had that experience. Right? Wrong.
Now that I'm in my mid-30s, I've realized that the only thing worse than a fear of missing out is regret in partaking. Regarding Coachella, I can tell you that personally there's nothing I'd rather do less than schlep out to the desert when I'm not exactly a music aficionado (to say the least). I'd probably need alcohol to contend with the crowds, heat and lack of festival transportation, but that also sounds like the worst time ever. I was able to say "bye" to my FOMO when I realized that what I would be missing out on wasn't something I wanted to do in the first place.
I personally don't care about Coachella, but I've found that with other events and activities, the easiest way to prevent FOMO is by abstaining from social media. This sounds easy, sure, but when you're a procrastinator whose favorite mode of procrastinating is logging on to Instagram, it presents a bit of a challenge.
If I can't keep myself from creepin' on my frenemies' profiles, my fail-safe next move is a quick check-in with myself. I could make choices to attend the events I'm scrolling through (with the exception of the Cannes Film Festival), so at the end of the day, if I didn't make the choice to be there, it really isn't that important to me—no matter how much filtered fun I gather from the photo. The main lesson I learned with FOMO is that it's much better to be true to yourself with respect to your choices than it is to give in to a millennial mind trick. Let others do their thing, and you do yours. If those two happen to align, even better, but it's not essential for happiness.
Now that my FOMO is gone, not only do I not feel like I miss out on anything, but I also feel a sense of power in knowing that I can choose what to do and, in turn, how to feel. I’m not a dork for making the choice to finish the book I've been trying to read for the past three months. It's how I want to spend my limited free time, and to be honest, it feels so much better than a Sunday Funday, no matter how cute the photos are on social media.
The absence of making a choice to partake in certain activities is actually an active choice to not do them, therefore negating any possible FOMO. Take comfort in the knowledge that you are in control of your choices, and since that is the case, you never need to feel like you're missing out on anything ever again.