Asking for a friend: What should I do if I'm feeling Zoom FOMO?

Despite not being able to hang out face-to-face, social groups are doing what they always do: gathering and then posting about it on social media so everyone can see.
Serious young woman eating cereals in bed
Young woman at home in BarcelonaWestend61 / Getty Images stock

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By Caroline Moss

Caroline Moss is an author and host of the podcast "Gee Thanks, Just Bought It," which helps people find the products they need to make life easier, better and more productive. Now with this column, "Asking for a Friend," she's helping people with the advice they need to make life easier, better and more productive.

Hi Caroline,

I am feeling left out of my social circle right now, even in the age of social distancing. I feel like everyone I know is at Zoom happy hours and connecting with friends and family and my calendar remains free of most of these invites.

I didn’t think it was possible to have FOMO even when people aren’t hanging out in real life. Am I petty or is it fair to feel sad?

Thanks,

FOMOOZOOMS (Fear of missing out on Zooms)

Hi FOMOOZOOMS,

I would be lying if I said I didn’t also feel this way sometimes. Unfortunately, we’re still very much living in real life. Despite not being able to hang out face-to-face, social groups are doing what they always do: gathering and then posting about it on social media so everyone can see. I have also found myself asking, "Is everyone was Zooming without me?" a la Mindy Kaling. In reality, I believe that if you were to seriously poll all of your friends, the majority of them would echo your worries.

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It’s not petty. It’s human. But your sadness may run deeper than just feeling like your friends are busier than you are or having more fun than you are during quarantine. Have you considered that you might just be feeling sad in general? It’s easy to project it onto the most tangible issue: feeling left out. But there’s a lot of emotion and trauma running deep underneath all of our fault lines, and it may help to explore some of that if you are able.

Mental health is not to be messed around with, whether you’re a longtime therapy-goer or you haven’t dipped your toe in yet. Don’t forget that you’re allowed to acknowledge your privilege and still be upset, depressed, sad. You’re allowed to be healthy and employed and sad. You’re allowed to be lucky to have a roof over your head and sad. Both things can be true and acknowledged at the same time.

If you’re sitting there thinking, no, really, this is about Zoom, then may I suggest being the one who plans the hangouts? Think about it: It’s just like planning a real-life hang, but with a fraction of the pressure. Just ... send a link.

After my friends started getting Zoom fatigue (there’s only so many times you can ask people what they’re up to before you remember the answer is ... nothing), try a site like Board Game Arena to play online games with your pals and ensure the convo doesn’t swing back around to coronavirus or that pending sense of dread and doom. I’ve scheduled standing game nights with friends and family, which both gives me something to look forward to and something to do that isn’t just doom-scrolling Twitter and watching the news. It’s nice.

So what if I’m planning more Zooms than I’m getting invited to? I mean, I get it. Your anxiety is normal and natural, but everyone is silently or not-so-silently freaking out right now, and I promise there is likely no major conspiracy being plotted against you in the group FaceTime.

Also, do yourself a big favor and set some screen limits in your phone. Stop looking at Instagram and Twitter and creating this fantasy in your head that everyone is socially thriving in the pandemic except you. That is not true. Instagram filters be damned, it’s just not true. We are all flailing. You don’t need to look at it all day long.

Deep breath. You’re going to be OK.

Caroline