I was speaking with a friend Saturday about the large number of high school and college students who are beset with anxiety. I told her that I thought that things hadn’t changed much since I was in school, but she challenged my complacency. She said that many young people were obsessed with FOMO. I looked at her blankly, and she clarified–Fear Of Missing Out.
When I was that age, I had two means of finding out what was going on with my friends and others my age. One was personal observation and the other was the telephone. They were the sum total of my “social media.” Now, she told me, young people(and probably not so young people) have a constant fear of missing out on something. Either a news item, a bit of gossip, a YouTube video, a tweet, an Instagram or who knows what else.
In addition, they are continually looking at Facebook to see what everyone is up to(and apparently having every bit of information about them collected and sold by Facebook!) Since all of these are visual media, and since all are mediated through whatever lens the one posting wants, few of them are as complex as real life. Most selfies show happy, happy people eating wonderful food in exciting places with other happy, happy people.
For many years we used to receive Christmas letters extolling the accomplishments of each member of the distant family. We used to come up with parodies of those letters, recounting actual family life. We didn’t get a letter every day complete with photos. Perhaps if we had, we too would have been plagued with a real case of FOMO.