FOMO Comes with a Price: Excessive Spending Because of a Fear of Missing Out
And the tales of the social invertebrates
My best friend at work says that I don’t have a backbone. While I do acknowledge that I have trouble saying no to people, the remark stems from the fact that I often put myself in social situations requiring me to spend more…when I did not really have a vested interest in going in the first place.
When people invite me to any form of activity outside work that dispels general feelings of meh, I generate two types of responses in my head. The first is giving a series of excuses as to why I cannot go. But excuses pile on, so I end up giving the second: a reluctant yes with an even more reluctant wallet.
I know I’m not the only social invertebrate of this generation. I ended up doing an informal crowdsourcing on Instagram Stories, asking people why we say yes half-heartedly and let this preemptive fear of missing out (or FOMO) evolve into the savings-destructive phenomenon it is today. Some said that it’s the generative group chat anxiety. They don’t want to be the only ones who can’t follow the chat wave—photos without them and inside jokes they can’t understand. For others, it’s about being liked and not giving off the wrong impression. But for most, it’s because saying yes also means potentially reliving the fun you’ve had previously and holding on to it for as long as you can.
I read an article on Friends, and Matt Le Blanc, who played Joey, apparently got so stressed at the thought of the cast’s time together coming to end, that he fell back into smoking after four years of being nicotine-free. He said, “Yes, I’ll talk to you. Yes, I’ll always know you, but I won’t know you like this. I won’t see you every day, all day. Eat lunch together every day. To have this awesome, awesome experience every week. It’s coming to an end.” And that’s the feeling we want to keep holding on to. While it’s great to visit memory lane, we can’t hold out for every prospective awesome, awesome experience especially if we can’t afford it.
Below, I culled some of the most ridiculous stories from friends who have fallen prey to the social disease we know as FOMO.
The One With the After-Work Drinks
Location: Singapore. Total amount spent: P1,900.
“There was this time a girl who was in my team at work (with whom I wasn’t really closed to) asked me to have drinks with her after work. I thought that hanging out in a non-work context would help me get closer to her. Spoiler alert: it didn’t…and I ended up drinking more because I couldn’t bare listening to her.”
The One With the New Friendship
Location: Singapore. Total amount spent: P4,560.
“My best friend invited me to have drinks with her friend (whom I haven’t met but was told I’d get along with), and met them at this bar that was far from my house. I ended up taking a Grab to that bar and when I arrived, I realized my best friend flaked on us! Instead of going back home, the second-degree friend and I just started drinking and went bar hopping in the area. Come midnight, I was about to go home to take the MRT but then it was already closed! So, I ended up taking a Grab at surge and vowed to never leave home again.”
The One With the Hospitalized Bridesmaid
Location: Manila. Total amount spent: P12,000.
“I had an eye surgery coming up that I was saving up for, but then my friend was getting married some time before that. I was one of the bridesmaids so I felt like I had to go at all costs—even if it was at the cost of my eye. Her wedding prep was getting too expensive so I moved up my surgery before her wedding because I thought the recovery would be too close to the event. But it miraculously wasn’t. It was a speedy recovery and I ended up spending for my bridesmaid’s duties.”
The One With the Reunion
Location: Singapore. Total amount spent: P5,700.
“I have this friend whom I was really close with before. But I kept moving to different countries after college so we lost touch. She visited me here in Singapore and kept insisting that we meet at this restaurant. I told her it was quite pricey but she said she wanted a memorable experience in a nice place. She visited me, so I guess it was fine. Apparently, that night, she only brought cash with her, which the restaurant didn’t accept, and I ended up paying for us! She said she’d buy me drinks next time I go back to Manila. (Uhm, it’s not going to cost this much?)”
The One With the Wedding
Location: Manila. Total amount spent: Zero (thank God).
“There’s this girl that some of my best friends hang out with frequently. She’s getting married in Europe and my friends convinced me to attend the wedding with them so that it could be fun. I ended up stressing out just so I could pay for the visa fee, the lodging, everything. No matter how much I tried lessening my expenses to afford it, it just wouldn’t cut it. I finally came to my senses and bailed.”
The One With the Birthday
Location: Manila. Total amount spent: Too much for a tequila shot.
“This was back when I had just graduated college. Every time someone in my group has a birthday, we always go to some club. One time, it was my friend’s birthday and I had just started working so I really didn’t want to spend a lot. It’s not like it was an option to bail because I didn’t want her to think our friendship wasn’t important enough. I decided to make up an excuse, show up late and French. But then she ordered a bottle of Cuervo and we all had to do obligatory 5-second shots. I left soon after, but she sent us a price of the bottle and had everyone split the cost.”
The One With Dating Again
Location: New York. Total amount spent: P4,000 from my wallet, P10,000 from my pride.
“I used to enjoy being single and going on dates a lot. It was fun for me. I hadn’t dated in a while so I went out with this guy who asked me out and brought us to a really expensive restaurant. We had a deal that he would pay for dinner and I would pay for drinks at the bar after. The date really wasn’t going well and I told him I was heading off after we ate. He asked me to split the bill with him and it was CRAZY. It was late and I didn’t have enough money to book an Uber to go home, so I ended up walking so far to my friend’s apartment and stayed the night there. Also, dating sucks.”
The One With the Last-Minute Ditch
Location: Manila. Total amount spent: None, because LBM, right?
“I knew I didn’t have money to attend this beach trip with my friends so I was really intent on saying no. So, I kept pretending the whole time that I was going along with them. I waited until the last minute to say that I had LBM and couldn’t make it.”
The One With the Paranoia
Location: Singapore. Total amount spent: P4,750 a week.
“It’s not so much FOMO, but it’s part of my routine that I smoke two sticks before I start working. I get in the office at 9AM, go down, smoke and go back up. I have this new boss who gets in at 9AM and I don’t want her to think that I’m always late so I take a cab to work just to be early enough to smoke. God, what is this even.”
The One With the Third Wheel
Location: Manila. Total amount spent: Don’t ask.
“My friend-slash-roommate’s boyfriend recently came to live with us. They usually invite me out when they go on dates so that I don’t need to be alone at home but they always pick these expensive places and it’s hard to keep up with their very high-priced relationship.”
Maybe FOMO was rooted in good intentions—say, we want to be a supportive friend or the type of person who makes an effort. But we should not have to spend beyond scope trying to prove to people who much we care.
And while it is great to reminisce the good times and want to relive them, the best experiences are always the ones that do not leave a bittersweet aftertaste of guilt and shame.
Words Andi Parungao
Art Alexandra Lara