Interesting article in the Times last week about the personal inadequacy that social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter may tap into; exacerbating a person’s already volatile insecurity and tampering with their fragile ego. In the discussion of how a plethora of information regarding friends’ social lives or careers appears on your Facebook wall and how it may effect you, the author noted the term FOMO which she describes as follows:
My problem is emblematic of the digital era. It’s known as FOMO, or “fear of missing out,” and refers to the blend of anxiety, inadequacy and irritation that can flare up while skimming social media like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Instagram. Billions of Twitter messages, status updates and photographs provide thrilling glimpses of the daily lives and activities of friends, “frenemies,” co-workers and peers.
She followed up her article with a blog post wondering whether or not FOMO was a pre-existing condition (for lack of a better word) or if it’s a product of the digital age, to which I say, where the fuck have you been? Jealousy brought on insecurity is hardly a new concept, in fact, it probably serves as basic motivation for most people.
Regardless of the arrival of the phenomenon, I often do feel the same affliction as the author. I sometimes find myself quickly skimming my Facebook wall hoping not to come across a friend’s amazing news about career advancement or whatever the thing is that may send me into a moment of self-loathing. Once this quick scan is completed, I can then take my time and enjoy the Facebook experience without the fear of FOMO. Perhaps this makes me an asshole, but really all it proves is that I’m an insecure human and this is just another tool to pick at said insecurity (which is probably true for most). And until I feel accomplished and secure enough in my own accomplishments and social life (if ever), there will always be a twinge of anxiety when approached by a friend that may be armed with some news that may cause envy; and whether I find out said news via Twitter or in person is essentially irrelevant. This is essentially something I've personally dealt with my entire life, and I'm fairly certain I'm not alone.
So, sure, social networking may make it easier to access information that I may have never wanted to know, but in my experience, the stuff that would really bother me, I’d probably find out anyway somewhere down the line. I suppose the immediacy of the information, combined with the volume of it is a possible hazard of social networking, but it’s certainly not a new phenomenon.