Monday, April 11, 2011

Social Media: Friend, Foe, or Both?

Have you ever had the experience of settling into your couch for a nice night of TV, popcorn, and PJs only to have your phone light up with notifications from Twitter and Facebook of what your friends are doing. You see that your friends are out at a concert for a local band or enjoying dinner a a fancy restaurant and you find that your night in doesn't seem quite as awesome as it did before you looked at your phone. That slight feeling of disappointment you may end up feeling is known as "Fear of Missing Out" or  FOMO.

"Feel Like a Wallflower? Maybe It’s Your Facebook Wall" is an article by the New York Times writer Jenna Wortham discussing FOMO and the darker side of social media. The vast majority of people really only think about the good things that come of social media and smart phones that link us to our preferred networks. This article is really interesting because it takes a look at one of the downfalls of social media and our cultures constantly plugged in state.

I will be the first to admit that in the big scheme of things FOMO isn't a huge downfall. Its not really life threatening or a deal breaker for most people. But it is an annoying negative of social media that I think a lot of people experience. Social media allows us a greater degree of access to our friends lives and as a result can lead to feeling that our life is a bit inadequate in comparison. I know that I have seen pictures of friends European vacations and had moments of jealousy and sadness becuase a trip abroad is something I have never been able to do. I have seen status updates from friends who are out together doing something fun and had FOMO moments. If I have had these experiences and I don't even have a smart phone which is constantly with me and updating me all the time about what my friends are doing, I can only imagine what it would be like for someone who does have a smartphone.

While I am sure most people will extol the benefits of social media and smartphones that all instant access to their favored networks, I wonder what negatives people would find if they really took a look at their wired lives. Does social media cheapen our relationships and prolong some relationships that are really empty shells? Does social media provide us with some many options of what to do that it paralyzes us with indecision? Is social media in addition to other technologies making our society a more ADD/ADHD filled place? These are all questions that I do not have answers for and I am not sure that anyone does. But I do think that thinking about these and other questions like them is a important way to take a look at the downside of our hyper connected world.


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