No plans and nowhere to go: The Friday and Saturday night fear of being alone

There’s a different kind of social cache on a Friday and Saturday night compared to any other day in the week.

No plans on a Monday? No problem.

Home alone on a Saturday, though? Suddenly Instagram is a cruel reminder of everyone else’s flourishing social lives, even though you were out on Thursday and could do with a quiet one, for both your bank account and health’s sake.

There’s no difference in how you might spend that time alone, only the day that it falls on.

But that day can dramatically affect how you feel about the entire experience.

Jo, a 34-year-old in London, knows this feeling all too well. She says: ‘In the “before times” I’d often be quite grateful if plans fell through so I could catch up on sleep or life admin, but now I’d feel deflated if that happens.

‘It’s like I’m not making up for the lost time of the lockdown or getting enough human interaction after a week of teams chats and Zoom calls.’

Still working from home, the weekend has become charged in a new way for her. Not having plans come Friday will noticeably affect her mood.

‘Honestly if I don’t socialise at the weekend then I could easily go a week only having conversations via Zoom,’ she adds.

‘I’m much more aware post-pandemic of how important that social time is to my overall wellbeing.’

Having weekend plans gives us something to look forward to, which, if you work a Monday-Friday job, can be really important emotionally.

But should it affect us so heavily when plans don’t work out?

Caroline Plumer, a psychotherapist and director at CPPC London, sees this often in clients, though it’s about more than just FOMO.

She tells Metro.co.uk: ‘Many clients not only experience loneliness, or a fear of missing out when they don’t have plans, but also a sense of shame or embarrassment that somehow they’re worth less, or must be unpopular, because their weekends aren’t filled back to back with social events.

‘While difficult in many ways, lockdown took the pressure off of having to decide what to attend, and removed the worry of whether we would be invited out on a regular basis.

‘But now all of those concerns are back and for many, are even worse than before as Covid has left a lot of us with a higher baseline of anxiety.’

Some might call this ‘monophobia’, which is the fear of being alone, but for many people the feeling amps up specifically around the weekend, making it quite a different anxiety.

Jen, a writer in London, say she’s fine only having social plans on Fridays and Saturdays, out of all the days in the week – but they are harder to come by these days.

‘So many of my friends have moved away and a bunch of others often head out on long getaways, so those weekend plans are that much harder to come by,’ she notes.

‘I’ve spent plenty of time alone the last 18 months and really look to any opportunity to be with the people that I care about.’

She finds Instagram an unhelpful prod on the weekends, with it feeling as though everyone else’s lives are ‘splashed across the screen’. Jen adds: ‘Sometimes even if you’re feeling okay, it takes a moment to bounce back.’

As this time of the week has optimum social opportunity, it creates greater room to compare your life with the appearance of someone else’s, hiking up any discomfort.

Comparison coach, Lucy Sheridan, works with people to improve their relationship with the act of comparing, rather than aiming to get rid of it entirely.

Noticing where you compare yourself to someone else and where you are under pressure to have or do something socially can serve to show any ‘lack’ you feel.

‘No matter what age we are, when it comes to Friday and Saturday, it’s really prized as leisure time to enjoy,’ she tells us.

‘They’re the traditional “having fun, being popular” days, so when we’re looking at an empty diary there we can make a lot of judgements about ourselves: Are we having fun? Are we taking charge of our time?

‘If there’s pressure to ensure you always have something planned, to a point that you dread being alone, look at the underlying cause of where those feelings are coming from.

‘The fact we might feel unhappy that no one is around to go out with us is not only linked to wanting to see your friends more, but wishing that you had your version of the things you’re envying in others.

‘Sometimes how we feel about Saturday night has very little to do with whether someone else is free or not, and very much of how we’re feeling about the general relationships in our lives and what we want to improve there.’

The important thing in shifting discomfort around a lone Friday night is that we ‘feel in choice’ about what we are or aren’t doing, Lucy explains.

So it might be accepting that we all have off weekends, and then finding an enjoyable way to spend the time solo.

Of course, not everyone feels this way – a Friday night alone might be just what an introvert needs.

Sophie, a nutritionist, tells us she ‘doesn’t feel the need to go out’ on these days, as being self-employed allows her to enjoy the entirety of the week as she sees fit.

She prefers to save, putting the money towards therapy or wellness ventures, and now embraces JOMO (the joy of missing out).

But even with her ‘here and now’ mentality, she admits: ‘That said, I’m not a robot – and sometimes I just need to avoid Instagram on the weekend.’

So how can you handle it better when that feeling strikes?

The answer, perhaps undesirably, is in introspection and rethinking your outlook on having the odd lonely weekend.

Caroline says: ‘It’s worth pondering why you find time spent alone so challenging – is low self esteem telling you it means you aren’t valued as a friend, or are you scared of being left alone with your own thoughts?

‘Sometimes there’s something troubling in our minds that we are desperately avoiding by keeping busy.

‘If any of this sounds familiar, it is probably worth speaking to a professional to help you work through what you are feeling and why.

‘Alone time is a real gift and one we should be allowed to enjoy without worry or anxiety.’

Until reaching that point, we’ll understand if you jump on WhatsApp to firm up plans for drinks tonight…

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