Today, Caterina Fake, one of the founders of Flickr, wrote a post about how social media (particularly the constant updates about all of the cool things that everyone else is up to) causes us to feel insecure about our current activities, whereabouts, etc. This phenomenon is referred to as Fear of Missing Out.
She says, “Social media has made us even more aware of the things we are missing out on. You’re home alone, but watching your friends status updates tell of a great party happening somewhere. You are aware of more parties than ever before. And, like gym memberships, adding Bergman movies to your Netflix queue and piling up unread copies of the New Yorker, watching these feeds gives you a sense that you’re participating, not missing out, even when you are.” While this idea isn’t that original (I’m pretty sure I read a very similar piece on Jezebel a few months back, too bad I can’t find a link.), it is well written.
Also, it’s worth noting that Flickr is probably one of the sites most guilty (if an inanimate website can really be guilty of anything — is a website really inanimate? — that’s a question for another time) of encouraging this kind of thinking. (“You think you’re baby’s cute? Just look at mine.”, “You thought your vacation was cool — until you saw my awesome tropical rain forest pictures.”)
And, it all seems to be a bit of an excuse for her to talk about all of the awesome (or not to awesome) parties that she’s going to at South by SouthWest (supposedly a music and film festival, but really a chance for everyone from the blogosphere, socialmedia, to get together, network, and stroke each other’s egos). And really, how is it fair to update your blog about being at SXSW and then say that social media makes people feel like they’re lame and missing out? I wish I were at SXSW right now. (I can stroke egos and pretend that I care about art with the best of them!) And I’m not just afraid that I’m missing out, I know that I am. (I will get to SXSW one day. And it will be awesome.)