Are you confused when an introvert sends mixed messages about virtual or in-person socialization?

They act interested but then ignore requests or decline attending–or make a fast exit when they do show up? This puzzling behavior can occur when dealing with an introvert with FOMO–commonly known as “fear of missing out.” Although it sounds like an oxymoron, it’s important for the world to understand that although introverts like their time alone, for some, solitude does not mean they don’t want to be included in fun stuff.

What I’m about to describe is not indicative of all introverts; however, it will help give you insight into those with FOMO, and you know who you are! In addition to being introverted, one of my top values in life is fun. That means I don’t want to miss out on the fun that others may have without me. Here’s what this looks like, and an understanding of certain situations if you are ‘FOMO introvert’ or if you’re the friend or acquaintance on the receiving end of this behavior.

Declining Invitations:

Although I may decline or not show up, I am flattered that you thought enough of me to extend an invitation, and my FOMO is satisfied just because I was invited. This can be confusing for the person who invited me, because after so many no-shows or excuses, they may begin to think that I am just not interested.

Tip for the FOMO introvert: Resist the urge to decline repeatedly, or those invitations are sure to cease. Set yourself a goal to say “yes” to a minimum number of invitations to stretch yourself out of your comfort zone. What do you have to lose? Not much–but you have lots to gain when you are intentional about connecting with others–even when you sometimes don’t care to socialize.
Tip for the friend: Don’t put the introvert on the spot, which may cause them to feel immediately trapped into either a yes or no answer. I hate it when people ask, “Do you have plans on Saturday?” for fear if I say no, I will be committed to attend whatever they want to invite me to. By inviting them via text or email and explaining why you want them there, it allows them time to respond, makes them feel special (who doesn’t like to feel special) and you’re more likely to get a “yes”.

Leaving Abruptly:

I hate to admit this, but sometimes I will show up at an event just because of FOMO, and once the “mystery” is gone, I am ready to leave. I have experienced people asking me, “Were you upset when you left the party the other night? You left so quickly!”

Tip for the FOMO introvert: Show up early rather than late. You are likely to have more meaningful one-on-one conversations, which tend to be an introvert’s sweet spot over larger group conversations. If you do still wish to leave early, it will not appear as obvious because you’ve arrived early. And exit slowly to avoid a misunderstanding of the reason for your departure.
Tip for the friend: Understand that many introverts leave an event quickly because they don’t want to call attention to themselves, and it has no bearing on you or the quality of the event.

Delight With Cancellations:

Sometimes I am delighted if a scheduled event gets cancelled. I was puzzled for years about why I felt this way; however I know realize that If the event is cancelled, it removes all FOMO and releases my obligation to attend.

Tip for the FOMO introvert: Keep your delight of the cancellation to yourself so that you don’t hurt the feelings or cause misunderstandings with those who were planning or excited to attend the event.
Tip for the friend: If you sense the FOMO introvert is happy about the cancellation, don’t take it personally. It does not mean they did not want to go to the event–it just means that their commitment has been released for them, and as a result they may feel a sense of relief.

Understanding that FOMO is real and both introverts AND extroverts are tempted by it is important for our awareness. Once its effects are in our awareness, we are more likely to understand that chasing FOMO is a facade rather than a better way of life.