The Sad, Beautiful Fact That We’re All Going To Miss Almost Everything

A stack of books in a grassy field.

Excerpt from this article:

The vast majority of the world’s books, music, films, television and art, you will never see. It’s just numbers.

You used to have a limited number of reasonably practical choices presented to you, based on what bookstores carried, what your local newspaper reviewed, or what you heard on the radio, or what was taught in college by a particular English department. There was a huge amount of selection that took place above the consumer level. (And here, I don’t mean “consumer” in the crass sense of consumerism, but in the sense of one who devours, as you do a book or a film you love.)

Now, everything gets dropped into our laps, and there are really only two responses if you want to feel like you’re well-read, or well-versed in music, or whatever the case may be: culling and surrender.

If “well-read” means “not missing anything,” then nobody has a chance. If “well-read” means “making a genuine effort to explore thoughtfully,” then yes, we can all be well-read. But what we’ve seen is always going to be a very small cup dipped out of a very big ocean, and turning your back on the ocean to stare into the cup can’t change that.

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Cool It: You Don’t Have to Be on Every Social Media App

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Excerpt from this article:

Are you obligated to try new social media apps? Not at all. Use what you enjoy. Try what you think you’d enjoy. Or don’t. You alone get to map out the borders of your online life. But you are, I think, obligated to stay open to exploring new social media apps—to keep yourself from becoming too jaded, too dismissive—and to always entertain the possibility that one of them might become meaningful and useful to you. I mean, I sunk a lot of time into Friendster back in the day, and I don’t regret it.

On Instagram, the Summer You’re Not Having

It’s from last year, but FOMO is always a trend. Excerpt from this article:

And how has your summer been so far?

Have you been frolicking in the Hamptons with an Academy Award-winning actress? No?

Then you have clearly not been having as good a time as Amy Schumer, who, as reported by Vanity Fair in an article titled “See Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Schumer Together on the Summer Vacation of Our Dreams,” documented on her Instagram account a trip she recently took with Ms. Lawrence, posting a blurry shot of herself and Ms. Lawrence on a Jet Ski. (There was also one of the two forming the top and bottom of a human pyramid on the deck of what appeared to be a rather sizable vessel.)

Did you have a chance to drift on a yacht off the coast of Ibiza with a rotating cast of guests that included Anne Hathaway, Olivia Palermo and a handful of male models? No?

 

Antisocial network: how self-deprecation is taking over the internet

girl with no job

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Social media is often called out as an outlet for bragging. Or its spin-off, the #humblebrag. We hear all the time about how the pressure to keep up with the shiny, happy people we see on Facebook is making our mental health suffer.

…A popular internet trope is now the antisocial individual, the homebody, the push back from scenesters. It’s now all about revelling in singledom, jokes about therapy sessions, the terror of being an adult or putting it out there that hitting a club can actually be pretty hellish. And slumming it on the couch? Heaven.

The most popular memes on humour and pop-culture-based Instagram and Twitter accounts such as The Fat Jewish and Girl With No Job et al? Pictures of cats chilling on couches, confessions of a sub-par life and vignettes of people expressing a (sort of) joking disdain for other people. Or as one poster puts it: “God bless Uber drivers that don’t attempt small talk”.

…When Caterina Fake popularised the idea of (FOMO) or the fear of missing out, she wrote that the internet itself exacerbated this anxiety, and I’m sure she is right. But, in a world of constantly switched-on, ostentatious displays of popularity and people having an ostensibly TOTALLY AWESOME TIME, perhaps it isn’t surprising that things would start to pitch in the opposite direction (known as JOMO, joy of missing out).

 

 

What You’re Hiding from When You Constantly Check Your Phone

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In my personal experience, mindlessly relying on my phone and computer has been a useful, albeit insidious, way of avoiding uncomfortable feelings. After all, how many of us regularly accept and embrace those moments when we feel weird or bored or lonely? We usually text a friend, refresh our Twitter feed, or check our email — or reach for a snack or a cigarette. In my own life, I noticed this habit when I quit smoking cigarettes last year. Around that time, a yoga teacher advised me to meditate on what I was feeling during the moments when I craved a cigarette. I realized that I wanted a cigarette most intensely when walking from point A to point B and while waiting for other people to arrive — moments when I had nothing to distract me from the discomfort of simply being with myself. I am sure other smokers can relate to this feeling of cigarette-as-avoidance.

Phones and cigarettes are not the only things that help us turn away from the parts of ourselves we don’t like—anxiety, anger, our fears, our unfulfilled desires, and our need to assert boundaries and take care of ourselves. Whether it’s snacking, smoking, or e-mail refreshing, all these avoidance tactics can serve the same purpose. But phones are among the most socially acceptable.

The distraction afforded by constant connection to social media, news, email, and texting may feel comforting in the short term, but in the long term it may sap what poet John Berryman referred to as “inner resources.” In enabling us to avoid ourselves, our phones allow us to look away from anxious feelings instead of trying to resolve them. I’d hazard the guess that when most of us feel that itch to check our email for the umpteenth time while out to dinner — just to make sure we haven’t missed a call — we actually aren’t as concerned with FOMO, or fear of missing out, as we think. Sure, some of us may truly fear the wrath of a demanding boss on the other line, or a friend (or family member) may be in need. But mostly, we’re trapped in that technology-stress paradox: we share the desire for greater freedom from our devices, and yet that very freedom itself causes anxiety. It makes us ask ourselves what life would feel like if we were really forced to sit with ourselves.

 

Exclusion in the Instagram Age: How Can They be Having Such a Great Time Without Me?

Instagram and Exclusion

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If you ask a group of kids if they ever felt left out when they see images or videos posted in apps like Instagram, Vine or Snapchat, they will have a lot to say. Each of these apps can include images and videos of groups of other friends that may not include the viewer.

When I posed this question to this group, the middle schoolers all said that this happens all the time—and can be hard to deal with. They all agreed that it is better not to lie or make excuses if you are busy with one group of friends and another friend wants to hang out. Better to say, “I have plans” than to lie and say, “I have too much homework,” and then share images of yourself at spending time with other friends.

I asked them if they think kids post images with the intention of making others feel excluded. Most of the kids were reluctant to admit it—they’ve been on both sides of this issue. One boy suggested that other kids post pictures in the moment without really thinking about it.

…They were able to admit that if they had other friends over, it might be tempting to take and share pictures. When I asked why she would share pictures at all, one girl said that she wants to “show that she has a life outside of school.” Another kid said, “it is fun to share when you are doing fun things.” Other kids pointed out that social media is a way to mark the moment and preserve memories.

Social Peacocking and the Shadow

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I’ve long spoken of the idea that much social media has turned into “social peacocking” — showing yourself in a favorable light online, presenting only the happy moments, a “highlights reel” of your life, so to speak, and how this leads to FOMO in others. Look at me: here I am doing cool things, in interesting places, with beautiful people.

…It occurred to me that the real problem was not the showing off. The eminence grise that was Carl Jung showed us what can happen to those who stay on the sunny side, and only on the sunny side of life. Jung posited the idea of The Shadow, the dark side of one’s character. The Shadow is not only what is evil, but what is petty, selfish, childish, annoying, and usually unconscious. The more a person acknowledges his shadow, and brings it into consciousness, the healthier and more whole the person will be. But if driven underground and sent into hiding, The Shadow will take on a life of its own, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

…Social peacocking is life on the internet without the shadow. It is an incomplete representation of a life, a half of a person, a fraction of the wholeness of a human being. It’s the lonely crowd, the network and society, and not the community… We have to bring The Shadow back into our technology if we are to live there and find our humanity reflected back to us. In our strivings to be better, we must not forget to be whole.