Living in Teter Residence Center her freshman year, Michelle Gentz would overhear people down the hall making plans for the weekend. She would hear them coming back at 3 a.m. after having a great time out of the dorm.
Scrolling through Twitter and Instagram feeds, she saw endless posts about good grades and fun times with friends.
Gentz started to panic.
In her first year at IU, Gentz said she didn’t expect it to be so hard to find her place on campus, so she immediately jumped in, getting involved in clubs that she was passionate about.
Now, as a sophomore, she participates in IU Dance Marathon, InMotion Dance Company, the Retail Studies Program, The Body Project and is a sister at the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority.
“My friends yell at me because I never sleep,” Gentz said. “I’m always studying. I’m always up doing something.”
With demanding class projects, like a 100-page competitive survey report for apparel merchandizing and multiple club meetings to balance, Gentz said sometimes she is forced to pick and choose which social and academic activities she can spend time doing.
It wasn’t until early in her freshman year when Gentz saw the term “FOMO” circulating on social media that she realized it was something she might have.
“I think someone finally put a label on it,” Gentz said. “Maybe it didn’t need to be labeled because I think like it’s pretty common to feel like you’re missing out, but when somebody labels it, it feel like it makes it a big deal.”
FOMO, the fear of missing out, can be equated with overextending oneself into too many activities and becoming stressed when realizing what other activities are being missed.
Nancy Stockton of IU’s Counseling and Psychological Services said such feelings are common among students.
“College is supposed to be the best time of your life,” Stockton said. “And if students aren’t having a wonderful glorious time, they may fear they’re missing out on something.”
Stockton said such issues often interfere with sleep needed for concentration, memory and academic performance.
She suggested students who feel the pressure of overextension keep a diary to track how time is spent throughout the day.
“Sometimes that can be highly illustrative that things are out of balance,” Stockton said. “They’re spending too much time on one thing or another, or they’re wasting time but not really enjoying it.”
Stockton said CAPS offers free weekly Mindfulness Meditation Practice Sessions and free workshops in the Herman B Wells Library focused on topics like sleep and stress.
“We’re just not built to be going 95 miles an hour, 24-7,” Stockton said.
Gentz said since the beginning of her sophomore year, she has had better control of her FOMO.
When often in her freshman year Gentz said she felt increased pressure to go out with friends on the weekends, she now feels more comfortable choosing studying over tailgates and Netflix over parties when she feels she needs time to herself to relax.
“It’s hard,” Gentz said. “I’m 19 still. I feel like I’m still a kid. I feel like I should still go out and have fun, but then I realize that I’m a sophomore in college. I need to do my homework. I need to go to career fairs.”
For other students struggling with FOMO, Gentz advised not to feel bad taking a weekend to chill out or go home.
“We have four years in college, and four years is a lot of time,” Gentz said. “You need to take care of yourself. You’re going to find other times to go out and have a great time. We’re in college for our education to really grow as people. It’s OK if you can’t do everything. We’re human.”