A “FOMO” that requires a “Slap”
On Sunday, March 27, one famous celebrity slapped another on stage at the Oscars. This immediately blew up on social media as everyone started discussing the incident online and in group chats.
I like to consume my news from a wide variety of sources to understand a broad scope of approaches to different topics. While browsing Twitter, I noticed there was no ‘blue check’ that did not weigh in on the topic. It dominated the news cycle, and commanded every conversation. This was not a single day news topic. It did not blow by the news outlets after one short segment before being overshadowed by a new topic. This was talked about for almost a week.
I want you to take that in. One man hit another on live TV, and it was the talk of the news for a week. Of course there was a lot on the Ukraine-Russia conflict, but as the situation continues, it becomes less pressing in the media. News is only news as long as it’s new, which makes sense, but I believe it points to a larger problem.
I assume most people would agree that our attention spans have decreased over the years. Our news cycles can last less than a day, while 40 years ago, a news cycle might have lasted a few days. You couldn’t see your favorite celebrity’s take on climate change, and you couldn’t tell someone across the world what you had for lunch. It was a simpler life.
The fact that a celebrity slapping another celebrity got so much coverage made me rethink how I view online activity. We are so roped into whatever is going on in the world that our minds crave it. We need it. It becomes compulsive and reflexive. Our need to see what's going on in the world takes us away from our own worlds; it is a distraction from our own lives that relies on the extreme societal interaction that social media provides. Our minds are so overstimulated that we fail to see the important things going on right in front of us.
In October, I wrote an article about the Facebook outage that led to mass online upheaval and so many people feeling lost. I mentioned how we should try to become less reliant on technology and being online in order to free ourselves. I attempted to focus on solutions outside of technology, like reading a book. I tried my best, but could not maintain my devotion to it as I continued to be enveloped by technology. The claws were in too deep already, and to take them out would mean to unhook completely by going offline.
I had the time to think about this issue over the last few weeks, and “The Slap” gave me a “slap,” helping me once again recognize this addiction. It may not manifest itself the same way other addictions do, but it is still harmful to our health. Our attention spans have collectively shortened as many of us joined the droves of people moving online to keep up with the world. As news cycles became shorter and faster, we had to stay current and involved by checking the news as often as possible.
Social media has its benefits and its flaws, and although I have considered taking myself offline more times that I can count, I have always stayed. The desire to be connected with everyone is definitely a big one. I need to see that person decorate a cake, cut a bar of soap into small pieces, play with a dog or make a chocolate sculpture. This compulsive need is obviously problematic, yet I feel like I can’t let it go. The solution is simple, yet to carry it out is one of the hardest things to do; the fear I have of being bored or not filling the void left by social media is harrowing. I know what I have to do, yet I cannot pull myself to do it.
This extreme outgrowth of FOMO (fear of missing out) hides behind the screen of technology. Generally, FOMO is thought of as missing a friend’s birthday party or a family trip. If you physically miss an event, you are physically sad about it. Here, there is no tangible sadness, so while it is difficult to see this form of FOMO, it is undeniably there, and it took me years to see it.
I’m sure many of us have toyed with the idea of quitting social media, yet never took the drastic steps necessary to do so, perhaps in order to avoid the FOMO on the newest social issue or a friend’s cute baby.
If we really want to break the cycle and get past the FOMO, we have to get rid of our social media. That may be something none of us ever thought necessary, but I believe that it is. Optimally, deleting accounts is the way to go, but it might be helpful to just delete the apps first, and deleting the accounts as a final resort.
And what will I do without social media? I am not sure how to answer that question, but I know that in the long run, I will be better off from quitting cold-turkey. I am not asking that you join me in this bold quest. I only ask that you consider these ideas and how you connect with the world. Is it positive? Is it something to be proud of? Are you making a difference? Aside from the fact that most of it is a waste of time, we need to consider why we are not letting go of something that is not absolutely necessary to our lives. These questions are oftenly asked about our impact in the real world, and the online world has somehow been neglected from this introspection. So I ask you: do you believe you need a “slap”?
Photo Caption: Social media addiction
Photo Credit: Unsplash