the fear of missing out

Sunday, 22 June 2014

I'm happy to be back to posting again after a week off. I'm not going to apologise for the fact that I was working at Royal Ascot all week for some much needed money! This week has also given me a much welcomed break from all things technology, given that I started early and finished late, so by the time I got home I was too tired to do anything but watch a bit of TV, then attempt to sleep. The little time I had to check social media was spent actually texting people that mattered rather than scrolling through all my feeds.

An article by Richard Dennen I read today in You Magazine, my favourite supplement out there, really struck a chord with me. He highlights that at the biggest night of his life, the Vanity Fair Oscars Party, instead of taking in all the glitz and glamour, he was often scrolling through his feed, and insta-gramming like no one's business to show everyone what a great time he was having. It's almost living life through the lens of your phone, rather than simply experiencing something extraordinary through our own eyes. The article goes on to detail what it's like to completely refrain from using any type of social media, including the growth of clinics designed to cut people off from their phones for a whole week. I believe it would be a little extreme to cut off completely from any use of social media, given that exposure to it is everywhere, and it's impossible to escape seeing everyone else using it.

However, the need to set up clinics to such an extremity highlights that most of us have become much too engrossed in what everyone else is doing, and that we have a new-found obsession with discovering this through scrolling through our Facebook and Twitter feeds. In other words, many of us may have developed an underlying FOMO - Fear of Missing Out. This can include feeling a stab of jealousy when you see all the pictures posted on Facebook from the party your friend went to last night, or pure envy when the girl you dislike but you still follow on Instagram posts a picture of her new Michael Kors bag. This stops us appreciating what we have because we are left always wanting somewhere newer, shinier or more up to date.

A prime example of this was seeing the Queen during one of her daily processions at Royal Ascot, on the third day. I was about to have my break, and my lovely manager showed me the perfect place to spot her without there being too big a crowd. As soon as she came past, hundreds of smartphones were whipped out to take pictures, ready to instagram within minutes. I was about to do the same, but just before I decided to not bother and instead embrace the incredible moment. I'm unlikely to see her so close up again for a long time, if ever again, and so I had a good old nosey of her outfit, was astonished by actually seeing her in the flesh and her usual, polite and reserved demeanour as she waved to the crowd. It left me wondering whether everyone taking pictures would've noticed the smaller details? Moments like that are made to be lived through, not just some bog standard instagram shot to brag about as if it were your lunch.

That said, there's nothing wrong with catching up perhaps once or twice a day on your feeds and posting. It's interesting to keep updated with what people are up to, however this certainly becomes a problem if friends you're seeing spend their time with eyes glued to their screen rather than listening to what you're saying face to face. I find this a massive pet hate, first off it's rude because it suggests that they would rather be checking a phone than appreciate your presence in person. Secondly, it suggests a dependency on technology to pass the time. Dennen's article claimed that many people he'd chatted to with Iphones since buying one hadn't read one book. I find this a sad fact - I enjoy nothing more than curling up with a book and getting lost in the narrative.

What I'm trying to say is that social media is great in small doses - a quick check once or twice a day, but it certainly isn't interesting enough to keep you entertained all day. It's so important to have hobbies and things to do away from computer screens, and it becomes awfully apparent when you don't. It's well known that everyone is known to exaggerate a little on social media from time to time, and believing that the people posting all day long about their great night out is likely to make you feel like you missed out on something. But think about it - if someone has spent all night tweeting instead of dancing and chatting to people have they really enjoyed themselves? Real fun is a set of proper memories, how you felt that night, what you got out of the experience, the people you met - all things you won't feel the need to post about the next day.

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