Wednesday, 13 April 2011

FOMO - Fear of Missing Out

FOMO - Fear of Missing Out.

It’s another neat acronym that you can use to sum up how technology is shaping our lives, our hopes, our fears and our anxieties.

In this great piece in the New York Times, Jenna Wortham speaks of the feelings of uneasyness that being constantly wired bring her, especially on a quiet night in with a DVD. And, of course, her Smartphone...

“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.”

So, in addition to making us dumber, does the internet also make us more socially anxious? And does social media make us feel better, or worse about ourselves? Are you feeling like a shrinking violet, or even a Judgy Judgerson?

I don’t think so.

To me, social media and the internet is all about sharing where you are, what you are up to, where you are and who you are doing it with. It’s about sharing content with the people you like, and the people that you love.

All of the pathological feelings of attachment to technology, to ‘being busy’, and social anxiety would still be there if we lived in an age before technology. Social media may enable the condition, but it is not the cause. We are inherently social. To share and to tell stories is in our nature. To want to belong is to be human.

The pace at which we live may be the problem instead. We are always ‘on’. Both my girlfriend and I check our phones and read blogs/Twitter/Facebook before we go to bed (it’s only through sheer willpower that I don’t use Foursquare to check into my bed. The need for information in people is so great, that now we have a 24 hour multi-national internet culture, we all rush to devour the information that is constantly at our fingertips.

Learning when and where to switch off should be the solution. And realising it’s better to know a lot about a little than a little about a lot.

Ultimately, if you want to get things done, I’d probably recommend switching off the computer. Or closing your internet browser. And your smartphone. Get out a notepad. Call your mate. Get some fresh air.

We are in control of when to switch off.

He says. At 11pm. From behind his laptop.

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