If there’s one subject I didn’t expect to be writing about during the coronavirus pandemic, it was FOMO.
With people all over the world facing weeks, if not months, in lockdown, the likelihood that I’d need to worry about my persistent fear of missing out seemed pretty slim. No longer would I have to worry about being excluded from an inside joke just because I didn’t want to spend £8.50 on a gin and tonic. Gone were the days when I dragged myself to my fourth dinner of the week just to avoid feeling bad about skipping later that evening. Finally, I mused, I was able to do whatever I wanted, without the crushing fear that my friends were having fun without me.
Of course, I now realise how incredibly lucky I was to have so many social activities going on. Stuck at home, isolated from my friends for the considerable future, £8.50 now sounds like a small price to pay to spend an evening laughing with my mates.
But it’s also nice to take some time to breathe without feeling that pressure to be out and about all the time. FOMO is an undeniably miniscule problem compared to the things people all over the world are facing right now. But in my own little bubble, I was looking forward to having some of that self-induced pressure lifted.
That was, until last week, when that strange and uncomfortable feeling of FOMO reared its ugly head once again. There I was, scrolling through Instagram and liking every dog picture I could find, only to see a picture of a Zoom call above the caption “Virtual pub quiz!!!”. Before I knew it, that recognisable feeling of uncertainty and anxiety was back: what if my friends were Zooming without me?
One of the biggest cultural trends to emerge from this period of isolation is, of course, the group video call – and the social media material that comes with them. While for years many of us have avoided the age-old concept of picking up the phone in favour of the WhatsApp voice note or iMessage, coronavirus has led many of us to pick up the phone and actually talk to people. And alongside the viral challenges and banana bread baking sessions, people are using Instagram’s Stories function to document all of their virtual socialisation in place of pictures of them and their mates down the pub.
I am, of course, one of those people. Whereas PCV (pre-coronavirus) I was spending maybe 30 minutes or an hour on the phone every week, in the last week alone, I have spent over six hours talking to various friends and family members. I’ll also readily admit that, during a “Friday drinks” themed call, I posted a number of updates on my Instagram stories.
Of course, I very much enjoyed those six hours. This is a lonely time for many of us, especially those who live alone or are having to self-isolate, so being able to talk to our friends and family over video call is a great way to stay in contact and help our mental health.
But as the days in lockdown turn to weeks, I’m starting to feel that familiar pressure to do everything and be everywhere (virtually, of course) *just* to make sure that I’m not missing out on anything important and annoying or upsetting my friends.
While most of my Zoom calls and Houseparty meet ups so far have largely consisted of people chatting about their working from home routine and reminiscing about the times when pubs were a thing, I still worry that I’ll miss out on something important and friendship-defining if I were to read a book or play Animal Crossing instead of jumping on FaceTime. Instead of seeing a video call free evening as a chance to relax and recuperate, the idea fills me with a sense of uncertainty: what if everyone is hanging out… without me?
It’s yet another strange feeling to add to my ever-growing list of weird isolation experiences. This time is undoubtedly a strange one for all of us: not only are we adapting a new way of life, but we’re also dauntingly unsure of when all of this is going to come to an end.
If you’re finding the sudden requirement to talk to everyone all the time a bit too much, it’s important to take a step back and allow yourself time to recuperate. Just because everyone else is enjoying video calls, doesn’t mean you have to throw yourself into the deep end. Why not start out by making one short call and see how it makes you feel?
If you’re struggling to say no to all the group call requests demanding your attention at the moment, you can check out our guide on how to say no to a FaceTime during lockdown.