Fomo can be motivation, not isolation, for college seniors

Hannah Luk | Daily Trojan

Hannah Luk | Daily Trojan

This article originally ran in USC’s Daily Trojan on Dec. 1, 2015 

No one likes to miss out. This is especially true for millennials tied to their phones, scrolling through Instagram timelines, refreshing Periscope live streams and watching Snapchat stories like it’s a reflex. If you wanted to, you could go a whole day knowing how your friends, classmates and that one person you once saw on Trousdale are spending their day in Trojanland.

But this new technology brings us new anxiety.

If there is one universal truth I have learned over these past 14 weeks spent writing about and talking to millennials, in addition to being one, it is that young 20-somethings constantly need a new lexicon to describe emerging feelings. The Oxford Dictionary added the word “FOMO” to the dictionary in 2013. FOMO, which stands for the “fear of missing out,” is the anxiety that makes millennials feel like they are missing out on an amazing event, quality time with friends or any other great opportunity that could come their way. It’s the desire to always stay in the know.

It’s the technology and the feeling that can make college students stay up at night with a glowing cell phone screen in their face, wondering if they should have actually gone to see Miguel at Conquest last week. With the continued conversation of mental health on campus, many psychologists are trying to minimize the FOMO.

Yet in these past 14 weeks I’ve also learned that FOMO is actually what students need to motivate them. It’s the perfect cure to senioritis, the affliction that sucks the motivation out of students nearing the end of their school experience. It became even clearer to me when I was sitting in the swelling crowd of the student section in the Coliseum on Saturday. This football season, I had missed more games than I had attended. More life experiences had popped up that stood paramount to spending a whole day tailgating and cheering in the Coliseum. Our football season felt like it was going into free fall, yet I had no choice. It was my last one as a student.

With this in mind, I booked it back to USC after the Thanksgiving holiday for the UCLA game. It might be my last opportunity to experience our crosstown rivals at the Coliseum. While some of my friends began trickling out of the Coliseum during halftime and later some after the lighting of the torch in the third quarter, I decided to stay.

It became one of the best decisions of my senior year. There’s no feeling like beating UCLA at home after spending the past three years falling short to them. I was glad I could cement that memory of a win against the Bruins.

Most adults will say that we need to disconnect. Yet, as some of us wind down our college careers in the next few weeks or come May for Commencement, millennials should use FOMO as a catalyst to soak in those college experiences. Like most things in the digital age, our undergraduate careers are fleeting. College passes by like a New York minute — even when you live in L.A.

We should want to document our “lasts.” We should accumulate the laundry list of the last football game, last lunch spent at Lemonade, last time sitting carefree in the Quad, last day of class, last finals season — OK, maybe not that one, but you get the point. This time next year, we seniors might not be living very close next to our friends.

If we can’t muster up the energy to leave our beds, take that one day off from our internship or forfeit a day of studying to really just be a full-fledged college student, then let that encroaching feeling of FOMO be your motivator. Be inspired to participate fully in the USC experience. Go see Laverne Cox speak at Bovard Auditorium on Thursday. Go to the 901 Bar and Grill on a Tuesday night, just because. Swing by Spudnuts afterward even though you should be home prepping for finals.

Do all of those things. Document those moments. Who knows when you or your friends will get to experience them as carefree young adults again.

That’s what’s so great about being a millennial. We’re rewriting all the rules of what it means to be a young adult. We can only do that by living. So next time you’re going through social media and seeing your friends participating in something great, don’t get jealous. Join the fun. You’ll never remember all those nights in Leavey studying, but you will remember the nights you stayed up and savored your time in college. That’s something you don’t want to miss out on.

ICYMI, “Wait An LA Minute” ran on Tuesdays. You can continue following Jordyn on Twitter @JordynJournals where she’ll still be talking about millennials.

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