Let’s talk about Friday night, or rather, late Friday evening — right around 7:30 or 8 p.m. — when classes are over, Leo’s is closed and the true weekend is dawning.

It’s an awkward, transitional hour. For some, it is dedicated time for the nap before the inevitable rally. For the committed few, it is a time to get a head start on weekend homework. But for others — like the freshmen versions of ourselves — it was the most stressful time of the week.

For us, this was the time we spent sitting uncomfortably in our dorm rooms, wondering how the rest of the night was going to play out. It was a time of scanning Facebook for event invites and sending last-ditch-effort texts to friends saying “What are you up to tonight?” This is prime FOMO hour.

FOMO — “The Fear of Missing Out” — has been deemed the social ill plaguing our millennial generation. It is, at its root, the worry that somewhere, people are having loads of fun without you.

At best, it is the mild nagging feeling that you could be having more fun than you are currently having. At worst, it is the feeling that you are being excluded from social activity and are therefore inept, awkward or otherwise inadequate.

Perhaps not everyone’s FOMO took shape like ours — for the outgoing and determined underclassmen, the challenge of finding a party to crash is an easy and enjoyable one. But for some people, it is the crushing disappointment of being rejected from a coveted club and the knowledge that they have been passed over for the chance to have a ready-made group of friends to stabilize their social life. No matter the exact circumstances, each one of us has felt the sting of loneliness and disappointment at one point or another during our time on the Hilltop.

In retrospect, we realize from our own personal experiences that the thing we were craving on those desperate weekend nights was not warm beer or loud, bass-heavy music, but friendship. The appeal of any social gathering was the ability to meet interesting people and cultivate new friendships. And it seemed, at first, that every weekend spent alone in our rooms watching Netflix instead of out at a party was a missed opportunity to make those friendships. FOMO made it seem that every weekend was a chance to make a crazy memory and that every failure to seize that opportunity was one less chance at a fulfilling social life.

But this is the lie of the FOMO. Our anxiety convinces us to put too much importance on the short term, the immediate present. It says to us: If I don’t go out this weekend, I’m a loser. If I don’t get into this club this semester, I won’t have any friends. If I don’t act now, my time here will mean nothing.

But let us repeat: This is a fallacy. Experience has shown us that friendship is certainly all about the long game. When we each reflect on our friendships, we find clear and convincing proof that the most meaningful and worthwhile friendships are grown over time, in a number of settings — on the dance floor on a Friday night, but also in Leo’s on a Wednesday afternoon and in a random exchange on a study night in Lau.

The human connection that we all seek is available to us in so many ways, especially during college. But the connection does not flourish unless we work at relationships — and this takes time.

Framing friendship in this long-term view also leaves us open to the possibility of forming new relationships at any point in our college careers. Between the two of us, we can cite plenty of new, strong friendships that came about in the fall of our senior year. When we refuse the temptation to firmly define our social circles by the clubs we join or the freshman floor we lived on, we open ourselves up to so many more opportunities and experiences. You may not realize until senior spring at Tombs that the buttoned-up kid from your freshman seminar has sick dance skills. You may not learn until a capstone class that the snobby girl from your freshman floor is actually very thoughtful.
But perhaps the greatest gift of rejecting FOMO in favor of the long-game is the intense pressure we take off of ourselves. This attitude shift dispels the pressure to collect acquaintances like trading cards just to prove that we have a social life. It gives us the grace we need to realize that we are not inadequate if we are not accepted into a club, or do not know what parties are happening on a given weekend. It reassures us that as long as we make a reasonable effort, friendship, and its bounties, will all come in time.

 

Kendall Ciesemier and Camille Squires are seniors in the College. Eighteen Weeks appears every other Friday.

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