Fear Of Missing Out? No. Fear Of Meeting Up? Yes.
We have all impatiently been waiting for the time when we can return to some sort of normality, when we can return to our normal habits, when we can enjoy each other’s company without any fear, when we can go to restaurants, when we can go to museums and galleries, when we can travel, when we can socialise, when we can live more freely. We all have, I know it. But the closer we get to that date, the more I am getting stressed. I have Fear Of Meeting Up-FOMU, and I think it is absolutely normal.
A survey done by the American Psychological Association found that 49% of adults, even those who have had their Covid vaccines, feel uncomfortable about in-person interactions as we are all slowly coming out of lockdowns.
FOMU, Fear Of Meeting Up, this new term coined for quite an important new health concern, a new social anxiousness, will be seen and used in our vocabulary a lot more from now on.
How a year has had an impact on us all, how different everything is. I, for one, was someone who liked to be out all the time, walking around London, discovering new things in new areas, spending time in museums, galleries and exhibitions, trying new restaurants and cafés, travelling. But now, I do not even want to go to the local store to do my weekly groceries. Brackets needed here, I do have to say that compared to March 2020 when this disaster struck, I am much calmer, and I do not cry at the thought of going for a walk or going to the local bakery for our weekly bread anymore, brackets closed!
I really want to travel and be with my family again, I really want to see my friends, I really want to plan a night out, I really want to discover new restaurants in new areas with my friends, but I am afraid, I am terrified. I do not think I will be planning a lot very soon. I know pubs and restaurants are all gradually opening but I will not be in any of them for quite some time. I may try and plan seeing a friend, outside, properly socially distanced, this I may be able to cope with, but I think that is the extent of it, this is how slowly I will be brave again.
We have been on our own, or in our own little bubble with our husband, wife, partner, children for a very long time, and we have therefore automatically lived a new life, on our own. We have avoided being in groups, being with family and friends, because of Covid, so it is very natural to now have social anxiety, when we are meant to start returning to our “normal” lives. I know I am always worried about, unintentionally, unknowingly causing problem for someone I love dearly. I have not yet had the vaccine (I cannot wait to be called!) and I keep worrying about all the what ifs. Even though I do not go anywhere, what if I am a carrier, what if I do not show any signs, what if I accidentally expose my parents, or my parents-in-law, or a friend to it? What if? All of these thoughts have caused me to really struggle with wanting to meet up in the coming weeks and months. I have FOMU. I rather I did not meet up with anyone. But I also want to meet up. But I am terrified of meeting up. I am stressed, it is very obvious.
I know that this is going to be a very gradual, possibly a very slow readjustment. And I think it is quite natural; I need to do this at my own pace, we all need to do it at our own pace. The first time on public transport is going to be extremely difficult, the first time seeing a few friends is going to be extremely difficult, the first time in a restaurant/communal space is going to be extremely difficult but we need to slowly adapt to our lives changing again, to going back to “normal”. I never thought I would write normal as “normal”! But we are going to deal with a new “normal”. What is the best and safest way to socialise “normally” again? Will I be doing all the “normal” things correctly again? Will my friends be too laissez-faire or even more paranoid than me? There are so many questions I need to consider, so no wonder I have FOMU.
What I will continue doing for the time being is that I will be in touch with my family and friends on WhatsApp, video chats, FaceTime, Zoom. I do miss being with them, seeing them in person, hugging them, laughing out loud with them, sharing a bottle of rosé with them, seeing an exhibition with them, going shopping with them, and I will keep reminding myself of all those lovely times we shared together so that I can pave the way to being with them again, in our new “normal” way, I keep reminding myself of what I miss the most, I will fight against my Fear Of Meeting Up.
I need to overcome FOMU, we need to overcome FOMU, otherwise, we have given in to Covid and allowed it to win. I think one of the good ways to slowly overcome this new Fear of Meeting Up is to add old activities and habits back into our routines slowly, at a pace we are comfortable with. We should not feel obliged to do something we do not want, we cannot allow anyone to put pressure on us, we should all understand each other’s state of mind and respect it. I know I will rather meet everyone outside (even when going to pubs and restaurants and each other’s houses are once again allowed) in open spaces, for walks in nature for example. I will constantly wash my hands, I will not take my mask off, I will not share any items with anyone, I will keep to social distancing. These are what make me feel reassured, these are what psychologically let me breathe comfortably, these are what let me fight FOMU, in my own way. We are of course all different and act differently, but respecting each other’s space will be extremely important in allowing us all to return to “normal” and hopefully say goodbye to our new Fear Of Meeting Up.