My 40th bday party. FOMO?!?
Truthy-ish transcript from the park, walking the trail while our kids level the playground, mid-August 2013
BFF: So, how's Facebook-free summer?
BFF: Have you truly, honestly been off Facebook?
Me: Yup, since the end of May. Although I admit: last night, I went on Facebook to grab a friend's email address for my newsletter. And I forgot to not get sucked in. I started reading the news feed.
BFF: And how did that make you feel? [Worth noting: BFF is a therapist]
Me: Honestly? Yucky. Left out. Immediately just ... sad. My friends had photos of getting together -- and even though these are people who live far away, and I never see them -- I still had an irrationally sad, left out feeling. I should be happy to see them. But it was the exact opposite.
BFF: I know exactly what you mean. That's how I feel from Facebook, too.
Me: I just read a study that said that the more people look at their newsfeed, the unhappier they are.
BFF: It's FOMO! I read an article in Oprah magazine about it.
BFF: "Fear Of Missing Out." It's a nation-wide phenomenon. I think everyone has it to some degree--
ME: [Interrupting, because I'm horribly rude like that] --And Facebook makes it worse! Because honestly, when was the last time I had that "left out" feeling? I'll tell you when. The last time I checked Facebook. And before that? The high school cafeteria. Worrying whether I'd be invited to the cool parties. Wondering if friends were making plans without me. Hoping I wouldn't miss anything on the night my parents made me stay home. Totally miserable.
BFF: [Laughing in a commiserating way, because she's awesome like that] Right! Before my birthday party last week, I figured a friend would post about it, so I pre-emptively posted, "Don't worry, you didn't miss out on anything good," so my other friends didn't feel left out.
ME: That was nice of you. Related: I think it's good I do Facebook-free summers, because that's when I tend to have big parties--
BFF: -- Thanks for inviting me to your big party, by the way.
ME: Ha ha. Of course. Anyway, AS I was saying ... it's good for me to be off Facebook, so I don't get sucked in to posting all these cool photos from my rad dance parties, and feeling socially competitive.
BFF: You feel socially competitive? I don't see you that way.
ME: [blinking rapidly] Girl, I love you so much.
BFF: Aw. I love you, too. So, the big question: are you going back to Facebook?
ME: I thought about just ... not. But, yeah. Honestly, I feel like I need to, for work. To network, and make updates about my new books coming out.
BFF: Yup, I need it for work, too. Still gonna take summer vacations from it?
ME: Mos def. And I'll be more mindful how I use it. I'm not going to reinstall the app on my phone. I'll only check it when I'm on my computer.
BFF: Smarty pants.
ME: Also, this is going to sound really selfish, and I worry that it might be narcissistic...
ME: But I think I might be happier if I stay self-centered on Facebook. Literally self-centered. Check my own pages, but not look at friends' stuff, or the main news feed very much. But if everyone did that? Facebook would be pointless. No sharing. Everyone would be disconnected.
ME: Then again, maybe everyone would be happier. The irony of Facebook: human connection is supposed to make you happy. So more should be better. But more, in this case, is worse.
BFF: So, to be happy, humans should stick to the old in-person walk-and-talks.
ME: Like this one. Brilliant.
(...except I am now posting this on my blog and Facebook. Oh, irony, you cruel, cruel temptress.)
You can read a fab summary of studies about Facebook misery, "Can Facebook Survive If It Makes Us Miserable? by Charlie Warzel for Buzzfeed, here.
And the great article on FOMO, "Three Strategies To Beat Your Fear Of Missing Out," by Martha Beck, for Oprah Magazine, here.
j.j. johnson, author