Peer pressure, according to Wikipedia.org, “refers to the influence exerted by a peer group in encouraging a person to change his or her attitudes, values, or behaviour in order to conform to group norms”. It is undeniably active; people are instilling their encouragement and pressure upon you to do something in a particular way. We’ve all been made aware of its dangers and had the importance of individuality drummed into our brains, but what do you call it when you feel like you literally cannot stay away from a particular “norm”, even when there is nobody actively encouraging you? Why is it that you would bend over backwards to do something, just because everybody else is doing it?
If this sounds all too familiar, then beware. You have FOMO. This deadly disease, this Fear Of Missing Out can really affect the way you live your life. It can start off small and harmless, perhaps by watching The Only Way is Essex every week because you can’t bear to be the only one out of the loop, or it can lead to missing days off work because you couldn’t possibly be the only one not going on that huge bender round town and being the last to know the gossip. You might eat a particular food or go to a particular restaurant because you want to be able to have an opinion and join in with the conversations; you might go and see a certain film, solely just to be in the social ‘elite’ of those in the know. You may not care less about Twilight or Edward and Bella’s relationship, but because everybody else is, you feel like you have to go and see it. Cigarettes might be the most disgusting thing in the world to you normally, but when people are trotting off outside in their break for a chat and a cheeky cig, all morals seem to go out the window and you wind up with a fag in your hand, just to stay in the “gang”.
FOMO normally affects those who thrive in social situations; those people who are constantly organising events or who are at the centre of the gossip. The people who are willing to stop doing work or tidying the house in order to go and have a few drinks with the girls and catch up on all the juicy stories. FOMO is also a prominent deadly disease within student life; lecture notes and essay plans get tossed to the side, early nights forgotten about and 9am lectures cease to exist for one more, bog standard, boring night out where Jane might finally cop off with Peter. What’s more important?
FOMO seems to skew the priorities of even the most stable minded person. When a group of your friends are planning on going out together and you have a report due in that the boss won’t let up on, or you’re quite ill and all you need is an early night and a cuppa tea, why is the urge to forget all about that and put on your frock and heels and head out with them? Why are the dynamics of a social, group relationship so important when it should, obviously, be your own individual welfare that should take poll position?
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why this happens, and to whom it happens most. However, it sounds very much like a psychological problem; an unhealthy need and want to change your morals or way of life to satisfy a particular social group and your role within that. It is obviously important to have a balance of a thriving social life and a hardworking, independent personal life, but even if you think you have the perfect balance; beware of the FOMO, it can mess with your head without you even realising…
Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/joost-ijmuiden/3602860934/