For International Day of Happiness 2021, UNICEF USA Community Engagement Intern Synclaire Warren reflects on a very real side effect of the pandemic that many young people are currently experiencing: the fear of missing out on key coming-of-age experiences.
Youth comes with wonderful, heartbreaking, and humorous experiences. They shape us into who we are. Some moments that many of us can’t wait for are the homecoming dance, Sweet Sixteen Birthday, driver’s license, and graduation. I for one bought my prom dress three months early because I just could not wait for my last high school dance. These however cliche, experiences become cherished memories to look back upon. The pandemic has stripped this generation of youth of these experiences. “FOMO'' is an acronym for “The fear of missing out.”.
FOMO has undergone a metamorphosis during the time of COVID as many of us are at formative ages and are missing out on pivotal coming-of-age experiences
Precovid “FOMO” used to be feelings such as being upset about not being invited to a party as you watch from your phone or ordering two desserts off the menu because you don't want to miss out on a scrumptious treat at that particular restaurant. “FOMO” has undergone a metamorphosis during the time of COVID as many of us are at formative ages and are missing out on pivotal coming-of-age experiences.
Young adults, teens especially are cruelly criticized for their emotions. They are often branded with the trite trope of the “dramatic teenager”. This pejorative causes teens to be met with demeaning rebuttals when they express how they feel. Their vocalized vulnerability is labeled as complaining and causes them to recoil and internalize their negative emotions which deteriorates their mental health.
I know that when I am told "Well it's not that big of a deal," I never feel better. I actually feel small
When someone is experiencing hardships they can become so overwhelmed by their issues, that they feel like they become their big issues. So by invalidating a person’s troubles, they can feel like they themselves are being invalidated. I know what when I am told “Well it's not that big of a deal”, I absolutely never feel better. I actually feel small.
The act of comparing adversities is null and counterproductive. Being constantly reminded that “It could be always be worse” or “ Someone has it worse than you” does not fix an individual’s problem. Although these reminders might have grounding or informative intentions, more often than not the person receiving this reminder is still promless and now feels ungrateful about having valid disappointments.
It is absolutely alright to be upset about missing prom, having graduation online, and not being able to have a birthday party. Although it is difficult it is possible to accept these negative nuances rather than minimizing and suppressing them. It is imperative for an individual to have time to accept these losses instead of being pressured to”just adjust”. Everyone is entitled to grieve these lost experiences, but also know that there is no tribulation that is greater than you.
Here are a few ways to help fight COVID FOMO:
- Write down your feelings to promote acknowledgment and acceptance
- Create a support group with your friends to talk about how the pandemic is affecting you and your mental health and to celebrate your accomplishments like taking a test, passing a class, getting through a week of virtual school ,or just to hang out and talk
- Find a Mental Health Professional that you feel comfortable talking to