So-called FOMO (“fear of missing out”) is a mental health phenomenon that can affect anyone, including college students. In essence, FOMO is a modern term for a timeless and universally relatable anxiety: Someone, somewhere, is having a good time without you — such a good time, in fact, that you’re quite sure staying home will turn out to be the greatest regret of your life. Being inherently irrational, FOMO sometimes tempts us to make poor decisions that may have adverse consequences. Fortunately, there are many effective strategies for how to deal with FOMO. Below, you can get some actionable tips on how to get over FOMO in college.
In This Article:
- What’s the Problem With FOMO?
- How To Get Over FOMO by Identifying Potential Triggers
- How To Deal With FOMO: Tips for College Students
What’s the Problem With FOMO?
Before learning how to get over FOMO in college, it may be helpful to understand frequent or lingering FOMO may lead to serious consequences. If you’re worried that your friends are having fun at a party without you, you may decide to go out and join them — even though you know that you should be studying or sleeping instead. If your friends frequently dine out at restaurants, you may feel the urge to join them — even if you’re on a tight budget and can’t afford to eat out.
Indeed, FOMO can harm your finances, grades and even your health. It’s important to figure out how to deal with FOMO with friends in college so that you can prioritize your own best interests and mental health.
What’s more, researchers have linked FOMO to maladaptive behaviors among college students. One study found that college students who report higher levels of FOMO are more likely to engage in academic misconduct, as well as to drink and use other drugs. Of course, this is not to say that every student who experiences a touch of FOMO from time to time will head down this path, but it is important to know where it could lead.1
How To Get Over FOMO by Identifying Potential Triggers
Before you can figure out how to get over FOMO, you’ll need to know your potential triggers. Consider keeping a log of all the times you experience FOMO. What triggered those feelings for you? What were you doing at the time? On occasions when you succumbed to FOMO, what were the adverse consequences?
Some common FOMO triggers include:2
- Scrolling through social media
- Seeing a particular person
- Spending a lot of time texting with or talking to people
- Feeling stressed out or anxious
- Online shopping
Once you know what your FOMO triggers are, you may be better able to take control of the situation.
How To Deal With FOMO: Tips for College Students
The preceding two steps involve understanding the real harms that can result from FOMO and identifying your triggers. Next, learn how to get over FOMO with the following tips.
Do a Digital Detox From Social Media
Social media is a common FOMO trigger.2 You may risk feelings of envy and anxiety if you often see pictures and posts of your friends having fun without you. If you find yourself scrolling through social media multiple times per day, it may be time to do a digital detox.
There’s no universal “right” way to do a digital detox. Consider the following options:
- Go cold turkey. Deactivate or delete your accounts and delete social media apps from your phone. Avoid using social media entirely.
- Take a break. Try to stay away from social media sites entirely for at least one week. Reassess yourself after the week ends. How do you feel? Would you want to continue avoiding social media for another week?
- Place limits on yourself. If you aren’t ready to give up social media entirely — either permanently or temporarily — try imposing limits on your usage. Allow yourself to use social media only for a set period of time each day, or every other day.
Spending less time on social media can yield mental health benefits. One study found that college students who reduced their social media scrolling by 30 minutes per day reported experiencing significantly lower levels of loneliness and depression.2
Dive Into Self-Care Activities
If you’ve been busy chasing after every social activity lately, you may not have been spending enough time on self-care activities. Instead of going out to a party or indulging in an expensive social activity with your friends, use that time for self-care.
- Get some exercise
- Walk on a nature trail for some fresh air and time away from screens
- Prepare a healthy meal for yourself
- Take some time to reflect upon what you are grateful for in life
Turn Online Validation Into Self-Validation
FOMO isn’t just feeling anxious that you’re missing out on the fun activities your friends are doing — it can also be fueled by the need for validation from others. Have you ever felt anxious or depressed because something you posted on social media didn’t receive any likes or comments from your friends? If so, you may benefit from making self-validation a higher priority.
Consider keeping a journal — a physical, handwritten hard copy, not a digital journal. You might also begin building an offline scrapbook. Use your journal and/or scrapbook to preserve written reflections of your favorite memories, photos and similar items. Work on learning to cultivate appreciation for what you have in your life, rather than seeking approval from others.
How To Deal With FOMO With Friends
Although it’s important to know how to deal with FOMO, you also shouldn’t take things too far and end up a hermit! Focus on building real connections with a small group of close friends. But be sure that the activities you enjoy with your friends are those that will allow you to honor your need for financial wellness, physical health and plenty of study time.
For example, instead of going out to a party or a restaurant, host a game night with your friends. Instead of going out to the movies or a theme park, invite a close friend to your dorm room for a movie night in. You might also consider joining a campus club, which will typically offer lots of budget-friendly options for socializing.
Know When To Seek Mental Health Counseling
For some students, FOMO is a mild, temporary inconvenience that doesn’t affect their life to a significant extent. For others, however, FOMO may affect their daily life and lead to serious harmful effects. If you’re experiencing significant consequences of FOMO, or if you’re just having trouble dealing with it (even if the consequences themselves are mild), you may benefit from seeking mental health counseling.
Here’s a look at some mental and physical health effects of FOMO that may mean it’s time to consider visiting your campus mental health counseling office:3
- Persistent, intrusive thoughts
- A cycle of negative self-talk
- Problems with feelings of self-esteem and self-worth
- Interference with academics, athletics or relationships
- Symptoms of depression or anxiety disorders
- Physical symptoms like headaches, upset stomach, body aches and heart palpitations
At Grand Canyon University, you’ll find a supportive community with plenty of campus resources — from our Academic and Career Excellence (ACE) Centers to our Career Connections network. GCU also have a mental health counseling office that is open to all students. Plus, GCU offers an enriching campus life experience with well-equipped athletic facilities, pools, diverse dining options and so much more. Fill out the form on this page to explore our varied degree programs and learn how you can join our community.
1 McKee, P., Budnick, C., Walters, K. and Antonios, I. (2022, October 5). College student fear of missing out (FoMO) and maladaptive behavior: Traditional statistical modeling and predictive analysis using machine learning. PLOS One. Retrieved August 24, 2023.
2 Eyal, N. (2021, July 16). Getting over FOMO, the fear of missing out. Psychology Today. Retrieved August 24, 2023.
3 Cleveland Clinic. (2023, August 23). FOMO is real: how the fear of missing out affects your health. Health Essentials. Retrieved August 24, 2023.
Approved by the assistant vice president of GCU marketing on Sept. 20, 2023.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.