When you feel like everyone around you is having more fun and spending more time with friends, it can make you feel bad about yourself — even if it’s not true.
But according to Ashley Whillans, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School who studies how our view of the world affects our view of ourselves, this perception can challenge us to become more social and make more friends.
This fear of missing out on parties or events is actually very common. It may be particularly acute among college freshmen because “entering into university is one of the key transition points in your life in establishing your identity in a new social environment,” Whillans says. In other words, it’s the first taste of navigating social situations as an adult.
A study published by Whillans and her colleagues on Thursday found that 48 percent of college freshmen in their second semester at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver believed that their friends had made more friends than they had since school began. Thirty-one percent felt the opposite.
“Since social activities, like eating or studying with others, tend to happen in cafes and libraries where they are easily seen, students might overestimate how much their peers are socializing because they don’t see them eating and studying alone,” says Frances Chen, the study’s senior author and an assistant professor in the UBC psychology department.