Ask any Wilton High School student about FOMO and they will tell you it is crippling. No, it is not a bacterial infection you will learn about in AP Bio, but it very well may be contagious. I have found it to be the most accurate encapsulation of the high school experience: Fear Of Missing Out. This phenomenon influences most of the teenage thought process, for most hours of most days. Fear of Missing Out is something we all at some point have experienced. It is not a mindset unique to my generation; we were just the ones clever enough to coin a term for it.

During my freshman year, FOMO revealed itself very early on. My friends and I were among the first to arrive, (still fashionably late, of course), to our first homecoming dance. FOMO had us staying there for several hours and dancing for most of the night, lest we missed out on hearing the DJ play “Call Me Maybe” or another one of the 2012 Billboard Top 100 songs. By junior year, we were more concerned with where and with whom we were going for pre-party pictures and after the dance. This year, however, FOMO took on a different form. From the moment I walked into the homecoming dance, the atmosphere felt unlike it had before. My emotions were caught in a tug of war between the disgust that underscores the homecoming experience in the sweaty, stale air that permeates the Cider Mill gym and my begrudging attachment to these ephemeral, and joyfully youthful moments to which I found myself clinging tightly. My friends and I were some of the last seniors to leave the dance, as the ‘no re-entry’ rule loomed over us, and FOMO prevented us from leaving prematurely. When we finally exited the hot, sticky Cider Mill gym, and left the dance, a burst of crisp, fall air smacked us in the faces, reminding us of the finality of this rite-of-passage — We had left our last Wilton Homecoming dance, and there was no getting back in! Homecoming was never something I thought I’d miss, but standing outside the school in my American-flag dress, with all my friends in the sobering October air, I felt a twinge of sadness.

This state of nearly crippling emotional fear that you WILL miss out on something great is what dictates the day-to-day life of high school students. If only we could direct the subject of our FOMO to more practical matters — perhaps then I could’ve developed a fear of missing out on getting that 2400 on my SAT!!  Alas, FOMO is a sneaky little guy, and I have no control over what he compels me to think.

Just when I began to think that FOMO was a trivial idea that dictated my adolescent social conscience, I found it manifesting in greater things. I saw FOMO overshadowing my college search process, as it stifled me with the fear that I may miss out on the college, the path, and the future that I am supposed to have. What we must all realize, however, is that succumbing to FOMO need not debilitate us. It may actually be beneficial to us, acting as a motivator. FOMO can help us branch out and spend nights out and away from dizzying computer screens. It can encourage us to study something we might not have otherwise tried. It’s time to embrace our FOMO, say “Carpe Diem” once in awhile, and enjoy the journey, because pretty soon, first semester will melt into second semester, and senior year will melt into graduation, and at least we will know that we haven’t let amazing opportunities slip us by.


Grace Kelleher is a senior at Wilton High School. She shares this column with four classmates.