Sometime last year the country found itself amidst a nationwide epidemic: FOMO was sweeping the nation. Thanks to the popularity of social networks and online communities like Facebook and Twitter, FOMO, or the Fear Of Missing Out, emerged as one of the biggest unexpected consequences of the increased online interactions of people everywhere. FOMO wasn’t really anything new – for centuries groups of people have had the distinct displeasure of finding themselves in situations where they’ve been left out, (I mean, I watch Game of Thrones so I know my history) but thanks to Facebook and Twitter, the leaving out, the having fun without someone else – it all became much more apparent.
However, FOMO isn’t all bad. Sometimes, FOMO can be a good thing. If FOMO motivates someone to go out and socialize rather than stay in solo – that can be good! It’s important to put yourself out there! But FOMO can also drive a person to go out every night, which is a lot of pressure if you think about it – we can’t say yes to every social opportunity that crosses our path! – and sometimes it is worthwhile to pass on an evening adventure to catch up on sleep, or have a chill night in. In those circumstances people prone to FOMO just need to remind themselves they’ll likely have another chance at a similar experience the next day. I think, as a culture obsessed with over-sharing, we’ve made great strides in coming to terms with the often unpleasantness of FOMO.
And just as we’ve learned to live with FOMO, as the passion of our collective FOMO started to die down, and as we came to terms with experiencing FOMO at nearly every turn, Instagram came along.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love Instagram. I have a disgusting number of photos I’ve taken on the app considering I’ve had it for just about a year. I regularly lament the fact that I couldn’t get the same handle on Instagram that I have on Twitter. Like, I care a little too much.
But even I have to admit that Instagram is bringing us into some dangerous territory. At first Instagram seemed like a photo sharing app for people who liked making their pictures look hipster or vintage with filters and something called a “tilt shift.” But then two major things happened to Instagram that changed everything: First, it became available to non-iPhone owners, opening up the app to a much larger user group. Then Facbeook (arguably the original online FOMO-creator) bought Instagram and with this purchase an entire new era of FOMO has emerged.
Let’s call this newly evolved Fear Of Missing Out “FOMO 2.0.” FOMO 2.0 is almost exclusively Instagram-induced. More and more communities of friends are using Instagram as the go-to for photo sharing, especially now that Facebook newsfeeds are often clogged with posts from old high school classmates’ ex-boyfriends about their new girlfriends’ cats and “trending articles” and people asking you to contribute to their cause, or join their group, or to like their fan page and survey questions from brands and does anyone even remember what it was like when Facebook started? Facebook used to be clean and small and simple and I don’t even care that I sound like a grandmother longing for the good ‘ol days.
Enter Instagram. Instagram is a very, very fun app, for people who love to fiddle with their pictures and for those who just want another social networking platform to play around on. But Instagram can be dangerous for the FOMO-prone, especially now that groups of friends have transitioned much of their photo sharing to Instagram. Now it’s like a constant stream of looking at pictures of people you probably know doing things without you. Does that sound horrible or what?
Okay it’s not that bad, and it’s not like Instagram has morphed into some site with just pics from super exclusive parties – you can still find plenty of pictures of food, or dogs, or Kim Kardashian taking a photo of herself – and there’s no FOMO coming from any of those images (at least, I hope not!). But it’s something for Instagram users to be wary of – you might come across a picture of friends at a party you weren’t invited to, or of people hanging out when you were out of town – you may feel a pang of anger that you weren’t invited or couldn’t be there, but just remember that whoever is posting the photo almost definitely doesn’t have YOU in mind when they’re posting.
It’s a new phase of FOMO, and just like the first time around, we’ll get used to it. But in the beginning, just remember that whether or not you even feel FOMO 2.o at all is up to you.
Now I gotta go to this super cool beach party on a yacht in the south of France with this famous hipster chill wave sad core rapper slash slam poet and some of his besties that you probably know of because they’re pretty cool and moderately famous on Twitter. You can catch all the action on my Instagram.
Garfield cartoon via FOMO