• Jessica Taylor Yates

Feeling FOMO About Small Group Gatherings During Restrictions? You're Not Alone.

Your mates are out without you at bars and houses, their 'Top 5' a big smack in the face like the MySpace Top 8 of yore.

Please help cure this, I'm too old for it. Source: Shutterstock


So, this year has been a real whirlwind on the social front. From starting out NYE 2020 with an absolute bang, chanting with thousands of people to the cries of, 'It's gonna be my year!' (Lol!) to a swift lockdown with literally no-one but you and your internet connection for company. Then there were rules around five people in the home or out and about, 10 at a park, eight at a table, whatever they are (they change so much!) it can be hard not to feel overwhelmed, confused - and left out.


I'll admit, the one good thing about lockdown was zero fomo (fear of missing out). Like, I'm not jealous of the 10th puzzle you completed with your partner on your Saturday night mate - I have my own to get through.


But suddenly, with restrictions lifted in Melbourne and around the world, we have to navigate the world of Instagram stories again - your mates out without you at restaurants, bars and houses, their 'Top 5' a big smack in the face like the MySpace Top 8 of yore. It can make me feel so incredibly immature when I look at these and feel a twinge (or rather, a huge pull) of jealousy and utter, utter fomo. I want to be like those mature people who love staying in, stay off socials, don't care for the group events, couldn't care less who people hang with, and are happy with their lot. Basically, adults. But I am such a social butterfly, I want to be at everything, with everyone, always! And every time I look, I'm like, why didn't they call me? Why am I not in the Top 5?


Now, I know it's lame. I know it's immature, and I am a 32 year old woman, not a 15 year old aspiring TiK ToK star. I try to rationalise my thoughts as to why I feel this way (with critical thinking, a term I just learnt in my third decade), why I care, and what I can do about it. So, if you're like me (please can someone else be as lame?) in trying to cure it, apparently, there's some tips for us:

You can't fit everyone in your Top 5, either

Like, legally. Source: GiPHY


I recently saw on Instagram that friends of mine had gotten together for a dinner. Whilst the best idea is to just - you know - just not go on fucking Instagram you wanker, I did, and so my initial (babyish, yes) reaction was - why didn't they invite me? (I know, so insecure). The stupidest thing was - I was literally out at a dinner with other friends at the time! So I had to think rationally, shit, they could say the same about you (even if in my head I was like, nooo, these are different people - aren't I the main character in every social setting?!) It just isn't possible for all of us to always be everywhere and at every social event, even if I need contact so much that right now I'd go to the opening of an envelope. If you can't have six, wake up - neither can they!


It isn't personal

Do I not love enough? Source: GiPHY


As insecure as it sounds (that me!) it's SO hard not to take it personally when you see groups of your friends together, SANS you. For me, I get embarrassingly insecure - am I boring? Do they not like me? Are they talking about how glad they are that I'm not there? What is my pogo? But the thing is, 1) Not everything is about you (shocking!) and 2) You don't 'own' your mates. Just like you can see friends whenever you want, and have your own unique friendships with them, as do they. It's pretty unlikely that when five people were allowed at a house they said, 'everyone but you.' A few people may not have caught up in a while, they may have been already chatting and it happened, or they just may have that event or type of group in common, e.g. going to a sports game, they all like a particular bar, have babies etc. This was one occasion - and was it even something you like? Everyone is chugging beers watching the AFL - do you actually want to be there? (Hint: no). There's another occasion where you catch up with four other people, and not everyone can be at that, either.


When whinging to my (bored) partner, he said that quite honestly, people probably have no idea I feel this way because, at the risk of sounding obnoxious, it does appear like I have a lot of friends, and so that may make people think I'm busy, I'm happy, I'm always out. Or perhaps, I make others fomo without realising. He also reminded me that just because I like to plan 100 things, it doesn't mean everyone else does. Pictures of other people out may have been their one social gathering, not their 10th, and that is who they chose to catch up with - it really isn't that big a deal. Chill, and take it slow (note: I hate anything slow except exercise).

Social media isn't real, so stop giving it your attention

I'm so crazy! Source: GiPHY


Remember, just like how you like to take the perfect shot, put hands around people for a brief moment or cheers for a Boomerang, so do others. We all ham it up for social media for things to look lit or better than they actually are. As my mum's favourite author Erica Jong quips, "Jealousy is all the fun you think they had.”


As quoted in Time magazine, Professor Paul Dolan also puts it down to where you focus your attention in his book Happiness by Design: Change What You Do, Not How You Think:

"Your happiness is determined by how you allocate your attention...If you are not as happy as you could be, then you must be misallocating your attention…So changing behavior [sic] and enhancing happiness is as much about withdrawing attention from the negative as it is about attending to the positive."

In other words? Stop fucking looking at it, and focus on better shit.


Focus on what you are going to and invited to

I'm always in your Top 5! Source: GiPHY


During my long-winded whinge to my husband (who, as an actual grown up, was most unsympathetic) he reminded me to focus on what I DO have - very luckily for me, I do have a wide network of friends, a loving partner and family, and an A+ dog, which not everyone has, I know. They all want to see me (well, the dog does, I think), some are better at planning than others, and we will all see each other eventually. Practising mindfulness or what you're grateful for can be good - honestly, just writing down in your planner three good things that happened that day (even just - my dog smiled at me) is a win.


In an article for The Healthy, Counsellor and Associate Professor Chinwe Williams stated that, '“The importance of spending quality time with close friends and family cannot be overestimated."


It made me think about who I really kept in touch with in lockdown, and prioritising those who mean the most to me, and who I feel I mean the most to them, rather than what makes me feel or look 'cool' or 'part of it'. Ever felt lonely at a table of 20 people? Sometimes in these smaller catch ups, nurturing these important friendships can give you a greater sense of wholeness and completeness, and makes you start to forget the façade of events you feel excluded from.

What if it keeps happening though?

You are always welcome, Gos. Source: GiPHY


If you're in a group of four and three of them consistently meet up without you, then yeah, you could probably ask what's up, or see what's going on. And if you're continually purposely excluded, that is also different - might be time to shop for some new mates (we have a post on how to do that as an adult here). The difference is purposeful exclusion vs. the times we are in. Unfortunately, with COVID-19, you simply can't have everyone at everything - legally! You can't be at every event, or invite all the people you know on Facebook to yours, or every night would end up in a full Corey Worthington situation. I have to keep telling myself that if I caught up with someone, they got my news (and there wasn't much, let's be real. My story about burning the toast isn't exactly up for the 2020 Pulitzer). They want to tell their stories to a new audience, and get new feedback. It's okay (as I say to myself 100 times in the foetal position rocking back and forth at night).


Switch off the socials

Can I be this matuureee? Source: GiPHY


Yes yes, it's what everyone says to do, like not having your phone near your bed for sleep, but you know, that doesn't stop me scrolling 'til 2am then wondering how I could be so tired.


For me, while I can get fomo of friends, I don't follow a single influencer. I totally don't get the craze of following hot or rich strangers who do nothing but profit on making you feel like shit, I really don't. If you get fomo from these people or it makes you feel down, just unfollow them. Who gives a shit, really? My feed is my mates, memes, dog videos and cool art stuff. Hobbies you partake in during your down time should be uplifting, not depressing.


That said, if you do something that continually makes you upset, maybe just...don't? I actually deleted Instagram for a good two years back in the day, and I didn't miss it one bit. These days, I need it for work and yes, I enjoy scrolling myself, but I've never had Instagram notifications installed, I don't really browse what's trending at all, and I am weary of looking at Instagram Stories on a weekend. It's not cause I don't like you, it's cause my fomo is a legit disease that gets me upset, and I am trying to curb it! (Look at my Story though yeah? That's different).

Check in on mates you don't see that often

Remember me? Source: GiPHY


Equally, this new-found freedom can be hard for people who don't have any invites at all, or were locked in because of illness or children, and now have to watch the world move on without them. For some, lockdown meant they no longer had to grapple with the fact that not being invited was a common occurrence, and maybe even liked lockdown. It meant perhaps, as a new parent, you weren't missing out while all your girlfriends had cocktails, or as an introvert, you weren't forced to socialise. Maybe you were really enjoying connecting with friends in another state on Zoom, and now they're all out and about and you feel left behind, or you feel forced to go out, like 'staying in' isn't an acceptable option on your weekend anymore. Remember to check in on your mates like this, and consider one-on-ones. Perhaps you can go to their place and help, schedule a Zoom with that person who you can't see, have a more decent catch up just the two of you. Being in and amongst it and social doesn't always have to mean go-go-go.


Focus on your JOMO

I choose my choice. Source: GiPHY


Yes, the joy of missing out. Even someone as fomo as me feels it sometimes. I'm not a huge drinker and am starting to become a bit more animal aware (I'm not perfect, I am definitely no poster girl for the RSPCA) but the point is, this means I have zero fomo around people out at the races. When work colleagues go to Friday night drinks (pre 2020, obv) I race home to be on the couch with my dog and order a pasta. I love it, it's our thing, ok? I also know I can be a real drainer at gigs and festivals because I like sitting down, sleeping and Fox FM, so I don't get fomo about these things anymore because I know if I was there I would hate it, and my friends would hate me being there. Sometimes there's events where you know you'd be standing around in heels, in the sun or the rain, with shit people, or spending too much money on stupid shit. Sometimes, JOMO is truly great. It's just about trying to cancel out my fomo for jomo 100% of the time...


That said, if you're the friend who is never left out...

Fomo all over again. Source: GiPHY


If you are a very social person, but never feel this way - perhaps look at becoming a bit more socially aware. If you are constantly posting pictures out and about, of course enjoy your life, you're allowed to do that - but if you think it has the potential to hurt someone's feelings (say four out of five of your mates are there) maybe re-think (this is also a message to myself). If you know a friend has been a bit down, someone is consistently not present, or there's one friend who is planning everything but not invited to anything, be the one to step up. We were all in it together when we were apart - let's make sure we keep that going now that we can physically be together too!


Thank you for coming on my FOMO Journey. That said, there are plenty of things that were great about lockdown we will certainly miss. Read about those here.


Everything you need for the conversations you have at brunch.

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