FOMO and the Foie-gras-ification of Living Online

Curtain Twitchers Large

In an age where we are constantly connected to “the internet and everything” I have been in a long-running social media tug-of-war.

One the one-hand, staying in touch with people is great. On the other hand, being stuffed with updates on the where, what and who everyone is with is bloating.

Am I the only person with this feast or famine diet of social media?

Last Year’s Summer Social Media Detox – One Year Later

It’s now June 2018 and I’ve been on a social media mindful diet since last summer.

On a personal level, I’ve been falling out of love steadily with social media for more than a year. Ironically, it was reading a post somewhere about savouring summer moments rather than uploading them that handed me the licence to step away from that time drainer on my laptop and phone.

Meanwhile, on a professional level, social media is a space for rapidly sharing ideas and, for that, articles shared through social media has become the norm.


  • Fear of Missing Out
  • Fear of Missing Out on What?

If any situation doesn’t feel right, stepping away is my go-to position for clarity and perspective. In this instance, reducing my intake and use of social media made me realise how shackled and overstuffed with updates and statuses we can be. What filters are people applying to manage their own intake, I wondered.

The eat-as-much-as-you-want empty-calorie buffet finally nobbled me on two counts:

  • there’s a limit to how much information I can ingest, and
  • there’s a limit to how much of everyone else’s ups, downs, angry moments or ecstatic times I can be as up, down, angry or ecstatic about

I Know There Are Good Points

Social media is the modern day place for snapshots, postcards, birthday cards, christmas letters, club notes and notice boards.

The benefits are simple and warming:

  • keeping in touch
  • distance is no longer a barrier – the speed of news and generating action around good causes
  • a sense of belonging to the various groups of people we know – both historical and new

These are all positive aspects of what makes us feel connected, needed, purposeful and human.

Why I Find It Bloating

For all that is good about online connectivity there is something about the constant nibbling on it that I’d begun to un-enjoy:

  • Snapshot Incompleteness – Have you ever experienced other people’s mobile phone conversations as you pass them on the street or when commuting on a train? The phenomenon about them being frustrating is their incompleteness. The conversation doesn’t resolve and what intrinsically makes something make sense to us is how it resolves (that’s the trick of keeping you interested in music – the anticipation of the resolve). When we communicate we work off cues, implicit and explicit. For me, there is an element of a one-way conversation on social media. It doesn’t possess the cues of facial expression, voice or body language. Where’s the smile, intonation, timing, jiggling shoulders or belly laugh that goes along with the comment? My enjoyment of someone’s company requires all of that and not just the smart one-liner or a nugget of the interaction in a chain.
  • Whose company am I in? – If someone is in my company why are they on social media? Is it petty of me to dislike it? Is it rude on their part to be immersed somewhere for a significant period of time other than where they are now? Where is this virtual crowd I’m on the periphery of when I am in the physical company of two people; them and me
  • Expectation of immediacy – the online world thrives on being “in the moment”. I felt I had to be online frequently to be part of what’s happening now. But what about what’s happening with me now? And if I see a post hours, days or weeks later does it reflect on me that I haven’t observed it sooner?
  • Notification overload – dong, ping, buzz. All my phone settings are now set to “no notifications”. I look at my phone at key points in the day, and maybe not at all. Personally, I don’t feel like I’ve missed anything. Isn’t the hit of the constant reward the methodology of drug dealers and confectionery companies? That’s pushing a need for FOMO, methinks.
  • Validation – likes, pokes and comments – what matters, the higher number or who responds? What’s the outcome when these don’t happen?
  • Hello Magazine meets The Court Circular – “did you see my post on Facebook about x or y or z?”, “Errr, no” is what I say in my head and look blank. I’ve lost count of the times people suggest that they’ve informed me.
  • Caring, curious or nosey – how does the scaling of this work?
  • Viral emotions – are my emotional responses to my daily experiences mine or fueled by what I’m ingesting online? Am I certain that how I feel today is related to me and what’s going on with me or about how others want me to feel about them. Caring is good but is carrying other peoples’ emotions displaced or too easy?








“Technology has no power to manipulate, it only manipulates through our manipulation of it”

Tools and technology are in themselves benign. It is how we apply them that spotlights our nature.

Now doubt, social media has changed the speed of communication spectacularly.

The political events of the last couple of years have shown how manipulative these comms channels can be. I also recognise how much the technology can rally to a cause, it can support, it can enable, it can be a cry for help. Fundamentally it connects us all at lightspeed. Yet, why do I think about the “The Tortoise and The Hare”?

So how do we master this technology we “app”ly to our lives?

For me, what I’ve learnt is that my use of it will wax and wane for various reasons and through differing phases.

I can only align it to anything we ingest. We need to register its effect on us.

After a year of being mindful of my use and application of social media, what I know now is that what works for others doesn’t really work for me. I needed to eat lighter and cleaner for a while. I’m feeling clearer and less bloated for it.

As in all things: know thyself.



Our Social Media World

EmojiLand | The Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down of Social Media



BBC – Are You Ready To Break Up With Your Phone

Aesop’s Fable – The Tortoise and The Hare

BBC – “Net Overload” Sparks Digital Detox For Millions of Britons

DEGREED –  10 Ways Social Media Affects Mental Health

PNAS –  Experimental Evidence of Massive-Scale Emotional Contagion Through Social Networks

THE GUARDIAN – Swipe Right For Negative Perception

BRUNEL UNIVERSITY/SCIENCE DAILY: What your Facebook updates reveal