FoMO stands for Fear Of Missing Out and it can be a bitch. I first heard the term at Burning Man two years ago, used by my fellow BEEple to describe a kind of mania that overtook us all as we scuttled to fit in all the surreal naughty naked neon delights a week on the Playa had to offer. Recently, as I followed the conversations electronically unfurling in my inbox in the build-up to the Burn and afterwards, as BEEple posted images on BookFace and wrote quivering emails about what a heartfuck the experience had been for them, FoMO popped back into my head.
Today, in Screenworld, it's hard not to be a victim of FoMO. Capitalism works by stimulating desire. Marketing is all about making sure our craving for stuff is never quite fulfilled so we keep on wanting more. This also applies to the feel-good psychotechnology that aims to colonise our mental real estate. Now that we blithely market ourselves on BookFace and other social media platforms - photographing our food and feet in sunny locations and smoothing the rough edges off our messy real lives - we've added a whole new dimension to FoMO.
The power of the gloatagraph
I'm a freelance writer who mostly works at home so I'm constantly tip-tapping into social media. Not so long ago I noticed that a hard day at the BookFace left me filled with a mild irritation at having my envy button pushed by yet another photograph of, I don't know, two pairs of feet either side of an ice-cream tower being licked by a kitten on a deserted beach.
Naturally, I conveniently forgot how my own gloatagraphs (copyright moi) might be viewed by all my many millions of true friends on BookFace. I'm just as guilty of marketing my life as shiny and happy as anyone else.
I sympathise with the feelings of the people who were pissed off by Zuckerberg wanting to edit that heartbreaking image of the little naked, napalmed Vietnamese girl out of history. It is, of course, historical revisionism with a smiley face. But I really don't want to be slapped in the eyes when I'm grazing on BookFace. The medium is designed to tickle my fancy, to stimulate my desire for a better life, for all that heaven will allow.
All life may be suffering but I don't want to be reminded of that noble truth when I'm in the mood to LMAO.
Envy and empathy
There's an argument that indulging our capacity for envy, accompanied by shadenfreude, reduces our ability to empathise. ('Shadenfreude', if you've never come across it, is a fantastic German word that means delighting in other people's misfortune.) I don't agree.
Novelist Martin Amis wrote that 'Envy is empathy in the wrong place at the wrong time' and he's bang on the money. BookFace works by stimulating our natural curiosity about each other. All the time. Because we can't escape the fact that we live in a capitalist society and social media only exists to make money, this healthy curiosity can easily curdle into envy.
We - I - need to remember the third noble truth: to stop suffering, cease to desire.
And the next time we feel envy we should take a deep breath, close our eyes and turn the negative into a positive. We should be delighted that our friends have the opportunity to sit on sandy beaches eating ice-cream with kuddly kittens.