Academic FOMO

Paolo Braiuca

I have blogged before about the guilt often experienced by new academic parents, now from maternity leave number two I give you: academic FOMO. Fear Of Missing Out.

An anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media.

Right or wrong, and usually through their own choosing, most academics on parental leave will continue working to some extent.  We have countless ways of keeping in touch, often in real-time making it all the more easier to keep up-to-date and continue working behind the scenes.

Unlike stereotypical FOMO, my academic FOMO is not rooted in regret.  I have not made the wrong decision by choosing to have a second child.  Neither am I afraid of being in the ‘dark’.  No, the source my FOMO is a fear of being perceived as in the dark. I fear missing out as a consequence of being forgotten and/or assumed uninterested.  Perhaps it is a realisation that I cannot have it all (at least whilst on an official period of leave)?  I did not think I needed to have it all.   

FOMO never bothered me with my first baby.  Things are different this time around, I am not a postdoc anymore but a fully fledged member of staff and group leader.  After my first baby I knew I would be leaving my productive Russell Group bubble (for reasons explained here, here and even here) with all my ducks in a row in pursuit of a permanent post. I did not feel like I was missing out on anything because I had plateaued in that role.

But now is different.  Over the last three years I have settled into a heavy teaching load, committee memberships, begun a new research group and gained a leadership role to drive the growth of life science research in Northampton.  The stakes just seem a little higher.

To boot, we have just moved not only labs but the whole university campus to Waterside. Exciting times but I am not physically there right now. I can only ‘like’ and ‘share’.

Like guilt, am I duty bound to feel academic FOMO whilst at home and mom FOMO whilst at work? The two are undoubtedly intertwined.  I did eventually let go of my guilt and I am letting go of my FOMO – neither are worth my energy.  Academic FOMO is actually rather motivating though (or is that just the period of leave?), I found myself drafting a review last night!

#AcademicFOMO is surely related to career stage.  I would love to hear whether any academics nearer to retirement experience FOMO?

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