Social Media and the Fear of Missing Out, Part Two

16 Apr

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post called “Social Media and the Fear of Missing Out”.  And, lo and behold, the NY Times covered the same thing last week (“Feel Like a Wallflower?  Maybe It’s Your Facebook Wall”).  (For purposes of this article making sense, be aware that the Times sometimes abbreviates this to FOMO.)  I love Jenna Wortham’s opening to the piece:

One recent rainy night, I curled up on my couch with popcorn and Netflix Instant, ready to spend a quiet night at home. The peace was sweet — while it lasted. Soon, my iPhone began flashing with notifications from a handful of social networking sites, each a beacon of information about what my friends were doing.

As the alerts came in, my mind began to race. Three friends, I learned, had arrived at a music venue near my apartment. But why? What was happening there? Then I saw pictures of other friends enjoying fancy milkshakes at a trendy restaurant. Suddenly, my simple domestic pleasures paled in comparison with the things I could be doing.

This.  So much.  Sometimes I try to ban myself from my laptop when I’m watching a movie because I know I won’t enjoy it if I’m distracted by all of the “better” things that everyone else is doing.  (Generally, I fail at enforcing the ban.)

But, it goes beyond doubting that what you’re doing in the moment isn’t good enough.  It also leads to doubting what you’re doing with your life.  A friend of mine turned 32 this week.  She’s a lawyer – smart and independent.  In the last year, she’s moved to a new city, started a new job, and made new friends.  All in all, I’d say it’s been a pretty successful year.  But on her birthday she was bummed.  Why?  Well, because her Facebook friends were all posting pictures of their new husbands, new houses, and new babies, and suddenly her accomplishments didn’t seem like nearly enough.

Ms. Jenner also recognizes this bigger problem:

A friend who works in advertising told me that she felt fine about her life — until she opened Facebook. “Then I’m thinking, ‘I am 28, with three roommates, and oh, it looks like you have a precious baby and a mortgage,’ ” she said. “And then I wanna die.”

On those occasions, she said, her knee-jerk reaction is often to post an account of a cool thing she has done, or to upload a particularly fun picture from her weekend. This may make her feel better — but it can generate FOMO in another unsuspecting person.

I’m completely guilty of posting things that make my life seem cool, or at least busy.  (And now you’re thinking, “Maggie, your newfeed doesn’t make your life seem cool.  If you think that’s the cool version of your life, your life must be really lame”.  And now I’m feeling bad…)  But, let’s be honest, we use social media to present idealized versions of ourselves.  No one posts pictures of their babies crying in the middle of the night.  People don’t post about the days it rained on their vacation.  And I don’t update my status to tell you that it’s eight o’clock and I’m getting ready for a thrilling evening of Law & Order in my pajamas.  (Although secretly, those are some of my favorite evenings.)

MaggieCakes is a blog about culture, social media, and what’s new in the world of Internet culture. Every day (okay, I try for every day) I comb blogs and news outlets for the news about internet culture and social media to bring them to you (with my commentary, of course) here on MaggieCakes. MaggieCakes is hosted by WordPress and often draws upon Slate, Jezebel, The Hair Pin, and SocialTimes for links and inspiration. My post Social Media and the Art of Storytelling was featured on freshly pressed, bringing a while new readership to my blog. Find anything interesting in the worlds of culture or social media that you’d like to see a post on? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail at

3 Responses to “Social Media and the Fear of Missing Out, Part Two”

  1. erinjamison April 19, 2011 at 11:05 am #

    Well…hmmm my friends post all that annoying inconsequential tidbits about their life and you know what…I think its fine. Most of my friends are no where close to where I live but it gives us something to talk about. Like Law & Order. I would tease them about getting their fix and what are they into Matlock too?

    But I totally get what you’re saying about Facebook too. I say if you can, turn boring into funny. Put up a message like, “By God man…if its the last thing I do….I..will..raise…my hand to change the channel. That’s it. That’s all the strength I can muster for today.” Everybody needs a laugh.

    Follow me at

  2. The Water is Deep April 19, 2011 at 5:08 pm #

    It’s like going to a High School Reunion EVERY DAY OF YOUR LIFE…. with a Bull Horn. :0) Guilty.

  3. The Water is Deep April 19, 2011 at 5:08 pm #

    And now. I’m going to SHARE this on Facebook. 🙂

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