My literary studies instructor said after entering into a silent classroom that one of his professors told him long ago students actually interacted with each other. We were all on our phones—scrolling through Instagram, watching Snapchat stories, texting our friends back home, messaging people on FaceBook. Instead of making eye contact or finding out one another’s names, we concentrated on a little shiny device that is constantly with us, always within reach, something we look at every day more than anything else.
“No one is connecting in here, or maybe there’s a million different connections happening right now through your phones. We may never know,” my instructor said wittily.
I go to a school with an enrollment of 66,013 students. Rutgers is an ecosystem, filled with not one but five campuses, complex bussing routes, scattered academic buildings, restaurants oriented around RU Express, stretches of wildlife that make you forget you’re even on campus. With a place as large as this, you’d expect it would have everything you need, that this is real life, but in the end it’s just another bubble—just like our old town.
The only difference now is the way we present ourselves in this new bubble. Who we were in our previous bubble no longer applies. This new world entails so many choices; it’s an endless buffet and we want to taste everything. We want to eat it all, but the problem is our stomachs can only take so much.
As human beings we are naturally curious. This new environment has so many people—no matter where you go there are others, too. You are never alone, but somehow we get lonely anyway. We are caught up in it all. We wonder what everyone else is doing and compare lives, whether we are conscious of it or not. The idea of FOMO, fear of missing out, is at an all time extreme because there’s just so much happening.
There’s always so much happening. We focus our energy and attention to what everyone else is doing through social media. We watch Snapchat stories of acquaintances at parties, see Instagram posts of people at football games festive, dressed in red, watch photo albums on FaceBook expand. The constant updates, excessive photos, endless documenting—are these moments real?
This generation cannot sit still. Whenever we have a free moment to spare—whether it’s waiting for the next LX bus or for class to start or on a bench outside for our friend to come meet for lunch we whip out our phones. We mindlessly scroll, watch all the other things happening in this Rutgers universe, and that is how we wait. But when we’re doing this we’re missing out on our own life. The fear of missing out shouldn’t be because you’re not present in someone’s Snapchat story or Instagram photo, the fear of missing out should be, ironically, missing out on your own life.
Maybe we should start looking around more at what’s in front of us. So maybe you’re idle on the bus. Just be. Take a look around, be present, acknowledge that in the midst of this never ending ecosystem, here you are. Every decision you’ve made has been done, and there is no right or wrong way to go about it. Everything is on time.