It’s been almost 30 years since I’ve had cause to look through the pages of the DSM. Back then I think it was the DSM-3. Now I think it’s up to 5. At the time I’m not sure they had a diagnosis for FOMO-heck, they still might not, but I can assure you it’s a very real thing.
FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out is a condition whereby otherwise sane and rational people do shit they wouldn’t normally do just to feel that they aren’t somehow missing out on something. It’s one of the primary reasons that Clickbait and email phishing works so well. Along with that is the theory of the info-gap. But for the purposes of keeping things straightforward for the three of you that still make your way over to this dank corner of my mind, we’ll stick with just talking about FOMO and save the whole info-gap theory for another time.
Back in the fall/winter of 2018, I listened to a podcast on the topic of digital minimalism. I was fascinated by the concept. I recognized some things in my own life that I thought might be able to be addressed by cutting back on some of my online vices.. I wrote a blog post about cutting back on my digital interactions and trying to build my in-person interactions more. To focus on the joy I felt when I was in the same room sharing a joke and a deep belly laugh and not just a thumbs up and LMFAO. I had a clear intent in mind when I wrote that post. It didn’t necessarily meet with the kind of reception that I had in mind. Some of my friends saw it as kind of me saying ‘fuck you, I don’t wanna bother with our friendship if we can’t hang out in meatspace.’ I wasn’t really saying that. But that doesn’t really matter at this point. I think I have strained or damaged some friendships from that post. I don’t know what I need to do to repair them at this point. But again, that’s probably a topic for another time.
Along with the whole podcast, blog post, alienating friends thing… I fired another salvo of self-death in the cyber realm. I deactivated my Facebook account. Only I didn’t do it in the normal way where you post on your wall that you’re thinking of deleting your Facebook account and then a handful of your friends tell you not to do it. That they would miss you. That you brighten their day. That it’s easy to cut back and only look at it sometimes. That the addiction of having to see who liked your post and wondering if someone really likes you or just likes the convenience of your friendship on Facebook. No. I didn’t do any of that. I just quietly deactivated my account one Sunday in December. No bells. No fanfare. No thing. Doing so further strained some friendships. And downright ended others.
I reasoned that my friends were all perfectly capable of reaching out to me if they wanted to. What I got when they did, though, was a heavy dose of ‘why didn’t you tell me you were leaving?’ And a whole slew of other things. I’m not even going into this. Some of the emotions tied to some of these conversations is still a little too raw.
So here we are. It’s almost May. It’s almost six months of not being on Facebook. Here’s the rub…I’m actually thinking about getting back on. And that’s kind of eating me up inside.
First and foremost…Facebook Messenger is an asshole of an application. You see, apparently if you deactivate your Facebook account, the page is still there. Waiting for you to come back. ON that page is a button. People can message you. From the page you deactivated. I guess the tech turds at Zuckerberg Central figure that if you aren’t on their social media drunk, they can get you with that sweet, sweet FB Messenger wine. So…6 months into my indefinite FB hiatus and I’m sitting here wondering just how many people messaged me. How many people thought I was an asshole for not messaging them back.
I am an obliger. A people pleaser by nature. I don’t want people to be upset. I want to keep the peace. The thought that I could have hurt people by simply being ignorant of the fact that they still had the capability of messaging me when I thought I was making a clean break is really fucking with me in ways I didn’t think possible. That’s the fear. The fear of missing out. What message did I miss? What declaration of love from some ardent admirer worshipping my creative genius from afar? OK, the likelihood of that last one is rare, but the sentiment is there. WHAT DID I MISS??I didn’t know that Messenger still worked. So now I feel guilty. I feel selfish. I feel like I let someone down. I don’t know who I would have let down. But clearly I did.
Clearly there was something I missed.
And then there is the fact that there are some clear challenges and holes with not taking the FB Blue Pill. I still find myself smiling like an idiot when I’m am in a conversation containing the phrase “…did you see the post on Facebook…” No. I didn’t. Because I am a cyber-leper or some nouveau hipster Luddite. I am, in fact, none of those things.
But there are some things I miss. I miss feeling a part of people’s lives, even in a peripheral way. Is it better to have that peripheral exposure than nothing at all? I’m not really sure yet. Some days I’m OK with it. Some days I miss the invitations…the discussions…the feedback when I posted something on my blog and had the sense from a blue thumb icon that someone either read the post or at least was happy that I could still write something—I’m still not sure which.
Now…because my mind just can’t let things go (I swear the meds are helping, but there probably isn’t a cure)…but because I can’t let things go, and some days I have super shitty self-esteem, the flip side of the whole I let someone down because I didn’t see all of their missed messagesfeelings is the fact that if I doreactivate my account and look at Messenger (or even just load the Messenger app), that there be nothing there. That no one will have reached out or missed me. Either because they were pissed I just left FB without telling them, or that they really just didn’t notice that I wasn’t on their feed any longer and I had such a zero sum impact on their life that it didn’t matter that I left. The sad part is…there are some friends that I do still see in real life that I have that feeling about. That it’s just easier to not stay in touch with me.
Yes. I know that this post is very focused on the Me of this. Well, I mean, it kinda makes sense, doesn’t it? I can’t really speak for anyone else (this doesn’t stop me from thinking through entire conversations playing the role of another person and coming up with the worst case scenarios).
I have thus far fought the urge to log back in. I have to remember why I walked away from Facebook. I spent too much time on the site. To be fair, I have come to learn through a recent job change, that part of that may have been because I secretly hated my job. Or at least strongly resented my job. I also left each session I spent on the site feeling like everyone else had their shit together and I’d never have a life worthy of someone else’s online envy. Also, I have to be honest about the fact that there is quite likely an addiction element, too..
I miss some groups I was a part of. I miss some conversations I had. I would like to have those conversations in person. I also miss those things that I don’t know I have missed.
It’s weird in my head, ok?
I’m not going to log in. I’m not going to check the messages (or lack of messages) in messenger. If you messaged me, I’m sorry. I didn’t see it. I don’t know when I will see it. Probably never. I’m probably also going to forget your birthday since that is one of the things FB was really great about. So, sorry for that, too.
The wave of FOMO has subsided for the evening. I can’t say it’s gone completely, but for now I think I can cope. I have a few friends I can reach out too if I’m feeling too terribly alone. It’s weird, that list seems to be shifting. People I thought would be there no matter what seem to be fading and others stepping in. Again—thought vomit for another time.
With that, I’m off. I have some laundry to fold and some hip, irreverent photo to put on Instagram while I mention this blog post and hope that the counter spikes above the 3 Views that always come from me when I post something.
Have a wonderful evening my friends.