Before the COVID-19 pandemic, if a Snapchat popped up of your friends partying without you, a feeling of fear of missing out, or FOMO, might have rushed over you. In the age of COVID-19, this may have changed entirely. Through the pandemic, students have seen the demise of FOMO, despite an increase on social media time, but as they make their way back to campus, that feeling of missing out is crawling back into their minds.
When the pandemic hit and everyone was spending more time at home, social media usage was on the rise for many people stuck quarantining. The Harris Poll conducted a series of surveys, the most recent from May 1-3, and found that 60% of those ages 18-34 reported an increase in social media usage since the pandemic began.
Julia Podstolowicz, a freshman neuroscience student, is one of those that saw an increase in her social media usage once the pandemic forced everyone into quarantine.
“My screentime is up so much,” Podstolowicz said.
“There’s nothing really … to do other than sit at home and be on your phone or on the internet. It seems to me like I’m only relying on technology now which is kind of sad.”
Jada Price, a nursing student, also saw a large increase in her social media usage. She tracked her screentime through her settings and noticed a big jump once she was stuck at home.
“At one point in went up 20%, so I’ve definitely seen a big increase in my social media usage. There wasn’t anything to do so I was just flipping between apps,” Price said.
Sophomore Shruti Pandey saw an increase in her social media usage but then decided that quarantine would be the best time to unplug and take a break from social media.
“When I first came home from college and I was at home all the time it definitely spiked a lot and I was investing so much time into it,” Pandey said.
“As soon as school ended I just deleted everything from my phone and took a huge break from social media.”
Before the pandemic, if while scrolling through social media, a story popped up of their friends hanging out without them, the fear of missing out, or FOMO, might have rushed over them.
“I’d definitely feel hurt. I would at least want an invite,” Podstolowicz said.
Since most in-person gatherings have been canceled for the past six months, it would be expected that this FOMO may disappear, but Jennifer Wolkin, a neuropsychologist, told USA Today how FOMO has just changed the way it presents itself.
"It's shape-shifted," Wolkin told USA Today.
"It might not be looking at pictures of someone's vacation or their parasailing trip or swimming with dolphins. It now becomes 'They're making sourdough starters,' and 'They're going for a hike in these woods with their family, and I'm just on the couch and doing nothing and surviving and trying to find my breath.'”
Now that students are moving back to East Lansing, there have been cases of COVID-19 traced back to gatherings that are occurring off-campus. According to a press release, 124 MSU students have tested positive for COVID-19 since Aug. 30 and the numbers are climbing.
“The cases do not appear to be linked to a particular event but rather multiple large student gatherings in the East Lansing community since mid-August,” the press release said.
As students return to campus and resume partying, is FOMO returning to its original form?
For Julia, she understands that making friends and having fun is a normal part of college, but she also feels that she is missing out on something that her friends on different college campuses are getting to experience.
“It’s pretty hurtful but in a different way,” Podstolowicz said.
“I definitely see this a lot because obviously I’m a freshman so I haven’t been at MSU for that long, but I have a lot of my friends from high school who graduated and went to a lot of different schools so I see they’re on campus right now and I see … their Snapchat stories you know making new friends and hanging out which is great; I’m happy for them but at the same time I’m angry because they go to the schools that were the reason why MSU decided to … not even let us on campus.”
While parties continue to take place and COVID-19 cases rise in the area, it may be naive to think that students will remain in their dorms or off-campus housing constantly.
“We’re college students so now we’re going to be around people regardless,” Price said.
“I don’t know who’s going to want to stay in their dorm all day … we’re bound to go out and I understand that but it’s just the way that you handle yourself.”
Price hopes that her friends take proper precautions and are mindful of those around them when she sees her friends partying on social media.
“I’m not really a controlling friend,” Price said.
“But at the same time, I feel like if you want to go out, be safe and be mindful ... You should be able to know how to handle yourself accordingly at an event that you’re going to.”
Seeing students partying, while almost all other social aspects of the fall semester have halted, has caused frustration while scrolling through social media for many.
“I’m definitely not too thrilled about the fact that a lot of people are getting together just because it does impact how quickly we can move on from this situation,” Pandey said.
“If people would not gather in such big groups then we’d actually be able to … go back to campus next semester and won’t have to do everything online. I can’t really control what other people do but I can do my best to caution that everyone does their best to wear their masks and not get together for parties at this time.”
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