October 8, 2014

MILIAN | Say No-No to FOMO

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By KEVIN MILIAN

You know that little voice inside your head? The one that’s always telling you to check your Facebook messages, just in case. Just in case you missed a message that would typically “ping,” “buzz,” “pop” or make the Kimmunicator noise to alert you? We’ve all been there, desperately waiting for some drama to take us away from boring lectures. A phone call to introduce our study break. Maybe a booty call to spice up an otherwise tame Thursday.

We are a community plagued by the fear of missing out and being in love with our smartphones doesn’t help at all. While I’m no Millennial-basher (I’m currently typing this on my iPhone), I recognize that even now, more than ever, we are hounded by the fear that someone out there is having fun without us. It’s no longer the fear of someone talking about us elsewhere (we embraced that fear in high school), but it’s the fear of not being current.

Marketing teaches us about being opinion leaders, being the hippest of our friends, the ones with the latest kale-shake recipe, the latest alt-J album, the iPhone 6! We cling to that title as a validation of our “millennialism,” and that’s why we need to be on top of things. Not being on Yik Yak, not having a pumpkin spice latte the minute it returns to the Hill and not going to our extracurriculars makes us social outcasts. And while yes, there’s much more to life than being plugged into the latest craze or social-media campaign, it’s what keeps us sane at Cornell.

On the other hand, the Grandma Movement is growing strong. Now more than ever, people are taking pride in sleeping early, knitting and choosing to stay in and heading to the baking cabinet instead of the nightclub. While there’s nothing wrong with the grandma lifestyle (I sometimes partake in the guilty pleasure of staying in for a night of Charmed re-runs and baking quiche), a little goes a long way. Friends start to worry about your disappearance in the social sphere. Concerned Snapchats, Tweets and messages flood your inbox. Have these classmates of ours reached a certain zen? A certain level of enlightenment that tells them  “yarn before (Big Red) barn?” Letting go of FOMO is great, but not when you forgo relationships for it, or daylight.

Apps like Foursquare and Instagram bank on FOMO. We create accounts to tell everyone about #applefest, #parisfashionweek or #terracesalads and hope that someone thinks we’re cool, and yet we feel FOMO when we refresh the screen. While we obviously have a better reason to use Instagram — memories, keeping in touch with our friends, actually attempting photography on an app — we all really just want to show off our latest culinary experiment, our friend’s shenanigans and, of course, the many-faced “bae.” It’s narcissism in the best way possible, and it’s perfectly fine until it gives you anxiety.

I have the biggest FOMO of my life currently. I’m an ocean away, watching parts of my life play out through 900 Facebook posts. There I am, not marching on Schoelkopf, not seeing Bill Gates, not eating at C-Town Crepes (though I bet the ones here in Paris are better). This was my choice and I have to learn to live with it, but being a senior magnifies the fear. Suddenly the “out” in FOMO becomes “opportunity” as we silently weep every time our friends get a new job offer or get into grad school, and feel #blessed. It’s not envy, but a crippling sense of time running out. Looking at the sum of our lives, 21-22 years of academics, extracurriculars, and everything else, will we miss out on starting our future?

I look over my resume, and I ask myself: Am I original? Am I the only one? Am I intellectual? Am I everything my employers needs? No one wants to lose the opportunity of a career because of a less-than-perfect resume, missing that one information session or simply not being recruited at a Career Fair. Even if we go to irrelevant career fairs, weave a web of networks on LinkedIn and beg our employed friends for connections, the insecurity of our job market and that darn FOMO comes back. And while our parents, teachers, advisors and pets tell us it’ll all be fine, we won’t feel that way until we get rid of the fear and live in now.

So let’s be infinite in our moments, let us be like Pitbull and “stop time and enjoy this moment.” Cheesy (and dated) references aside, let’s enjoy our time as college students, without forgetting about impending changes, but not letting it get to us. Lets enjoy our last years free of career commitments, of bills and the nine-to-five grind. Before we become overworked (but happy!) zombies, we need to take things step-by-step; not freak out about what are friends are doing, but instead focus on our own self-growth and improvement.

Read that book you’ve been putting off! Meet with your professors and ask them about their own job experiences, take sometime to brand yourself and create an amazing you that will be hired by everyone. Let’s use that infamous American optimism on our own problems for once.

In the end, it’s not social media that’s the problem, but our own insecurities, and while repressing those fears isn’t the answer, having a little faith in our education and perseverance can be the solution.

Kevin Milian is a senior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He can be reached at kmilian@cornellsun.com. Milian Dollar Baby appears on alternate Thursdays this semester.