You’re Prepared for MSRE, but What About FOMO?

by Jess Tate, UNL McNair Graduate Assistant

Trust me, you’ve felt it before, but maybe didn’t know how to label the feeling. Fear of Missing Out, also known as FOMO is a real thing and common phenomenon in the 21st century among many, and particularly salient for aspiring and current graduate students. In 2013, “FOMO” was added to the Oxford English Dictionary and is formally defined as, “a feeling of anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere.” Another definition put forth by researchers describes FOMO as ‘‘the uneasy and sometimes all-consuming feeling that you’re missing out – that your peers are doing, in the know about, or in possession of more or something better than you” (JWT, 2012).

During the McNair Summer Research Experience (MSRE), you’ll get an early opportunity to experience what it’s like to be a full-time graduate student. In this role, it’s possible that may experience FOMO at times…and that’s okay! This may be the first time you’ve had to miss out on social engagements with friends or going home for the weekend because of your new role as an emerging researcher during MSRE.

Impact of FOMO
Now that we have a term to label this phenomenon we must add into the equation your life as a McNair scholar and future graduate student. Demands and deadlines associated with research and applying for graduate school will confront you daily, and you can probably start to imagine the reality of missing out on exciting opportunities, whether social or academic, because of these demands and deadlines. Adding to the fear and anxiety is the wonderful world of social media that’s filled with our peers and family members posting filtered vacation pics, engagement rings, job promotions, etc. while many of us students and researchers are focused on our next paper or presentation—this is likely to elicit some ambivalent feelings.

Recent research studies have shown that FOMO is correlated with feelings of disconnection and dissatisfaction (Przybylsk, Murayama, DeHann, & Fladwell 2013) and guess what the leading culprit is? Social media. We often forget that the personas promoted on Facebook are largely fabricated, and most people only show their “best sides.” However, we still fall victim to FOMO whether we like to admit it or not. For example, it’s normal to feel regret for missing out on a social outing with friends because you have made the decision to stay at your office and finish a project or experiment, but then you see the Snaps and Instagram photos and FOMO sets in. Wortham (2011) proposes that FOMO may be a source of negative mood or depressed feelings in part because it undermines the sense that one has made the best decisions in life. But, you’ve made a great decision by choosing to participate in MSRE and you will be happy with your decision years down the road—trust me!

How to Combat FOMO during MSRE?

  • As you participate in MSRE it is essential that you become honest with yourself, career and life goals, and learn to trust your decision and pursuit of an advanced degree.
  • Find a balance between social engagements, hobbies, and academics.
  • Confide in your MSRE cohort because you have many shared goals, shared frustrations, and will soon be able to share and celebrate the success of having made it through MSRE together.
  • Do A Social Media Reality Check
    • Be conscious of your social media use
    • Take social media “Holidays” or “self-care” breaks from social media
    • Challenge yourself to take a break from social media during MSRE.
    • Find a balance between on-line and off-line activities
  • Seek out resources, such as counseling, and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you begin to develop a persistent negative and depressed mood. Not addressing this will impact your productivity during MSRE and as a graduate student.
  • See the “10 Ways to Overcome FOMO

FOMOGraphic citation: buzz feed

References
JWT Marketing Communications. (2012, March 7). Fear of Missing Out. Retrieved from JWT Intelligence: https://www.benzinga.com/pressreleases/12/03/p2409334/jwt-explores-fear-of-missing-out-report-sxsw-presentation-spotlight-how

Przybylski, A. K., Murayama, K., Dehaan, C. R., & Gladwell, V. (2013). Computers in Human Behavior Motivational, emotional, and behavioral correlates of fear of missing out. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(4), 1841–1848.http://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2013.02.014  https://www.jwtintelligence.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/F_JWT_FOMO-update_3.21.12.pdf

Wortham, J. (2011, April 9). Feel like a wallflower? Maybe it’s your Facebook wall. Retrieved May 2012, from New York Times:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/10/business/10ping.html

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