You Missed It

16th March 2011

Caterina just wrote a great post describing the notion of FOMO, or “Fear of Missing Out.” She writes:

It’s an age-old problem, exacerbated by technology. To be always filled with craving and desire (also called defilement, affliction) is one of the Three Poisons of Buddhism, called kilesa, and it makes you a slave. There is true meaning in social media—real connections, real friendships, devotion, humor, sacrifice, joy, depth, love. And this is what we are looking for when we log on.

So true. Amusingly enough, Caterina is a Flickr founder, which was the first service to make me aware of all the cool stuff I wasn’t doing — my friends and I called it the Parties You Weren’t Invited to Channel.

The thing is, I still love social media, despite the occasional sense that everyone is popping bottles of champagne on city rooftops while I watch The Office reruns in my yoga pants. Seeing what I’m “missing” has shaped how I decide to spend my time, reminded me to fill my life with stuff that makes me feel like there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. Now when I feel like I’m missing out, I see it as a flag that I’m unhappy about something else, an indicator that I need to invest some time in finding my own fun, or a reminder to stay in the moment — even if the moment is just enjoying my friends photos in my PJs.

Caterina mentioned that she’s noticing a high level of FOMO around SxSW, but I’m in Austin now and I have to say that Foursquare, Twitter, and Facebook have made things so much easier and happier for me than in years past when I had to call around to find people.

What about you? Do forays into social media make you feel more connected or less adequate?

Want to come over and pop some champagne on the roof?

44 thoughts on “You Missed It

  1. Kristen

    Both. I just joined Facebook at the beginning of this year. I had avoided joining because I thought it would make me feel less adequate. Once I got on, I made connections and feel updated. Sometimes. Other times, I feel like I’m always the last to know about the new — application or connection website and how to use it. I suppose these technologies just magnify (and sometimes exacerbate) how we really feel about ourselves already.

    I feel completely fortunate to have been a teenager before Facebook. And Twitter. I don’t know if I would have survived that stupidity. I can’t imagine some of the status updates my 17 year-old self would have committed to permanence online. Ew.

  2. Kelly H

    At times the different social media sites make me feel like everyone else is living this exciting life doing things that maybe I’ll never get to do; however, it has made me start make things happen. I saw pictures either on your site or one of the site you link to of happenings in NYC that involved ladies being silly in KISS makeup in Times Square. That made me want to have silly times with my lady friends ALSO in KISS makeup! I planned my 40th birthday party to have a KISS theme (Rock N Roll all night…and party every day!) and required all my friends to arrive in KISS makeup. IT WAS THE BEST TIME EVER! I also hand made tissue paper flowers connected to headbands instead of party hats. I rented a house on the top of a hill in Sonoma Wine Country (across from Safari West) and used ideas I saw from your summit to decorate. Without Flikr or twitter pics, I’m not sure I would see all the funs things going on out there. I know for sure I would not have come up with having a KISS themed party. Thanks for sharing these fun activities in your life with us.

  3. Jen


    But when I really stopped and thought about it (and when occassionally now I need to stop myself, find my center and think about it) I realize – there is something else that is bothering me. There is something else going on. It is so easy to get so wrapped up in the day to day of work, home, responsibilties galore and it is even easier to let this go on until you realize you’ve deprived yourself of your own happiness. It may not be that you want to do the things in those photos or be at those parties. For me its that more often than not they’re reminding me that I’m taking myself too seriously, my work too seriously, my responsibilties too seriously. I don’t kick back enough and I love/hate social media for constantly reminding me of that.

    And popping bottle of champagne on the roof sounds fun. But I’m clumsy so it would probably result in someone needing an eyepatch.

  4. Jami

    I don’t usually find my peers’ activities distracting but people out of my “sphere”. Like bloggers I read or the (very few) sort of famous people that I follow on Twitter. I want their travel schedules, career options and style.

    Also, not gonna lie: Popping champagne on a roof with you should be on my life list!

  5. zan

    I think you’re spot on about it being a prompt for self-assessment: anytime I find myself being even slightly envious of someone else’s adventures, I stop and remind myself of all the great things I’m experiencing. (And also that we’re mostly just hearing about the FUN stuff, not necessarily the boring drudgeries of the adventure.) We can’t spend our own lives looking at other people’s lives and saying “I wish” or “I regret” unless we’re going to take action on those wishes and regrets. Life’s too short for that. And too individual.

    And I agree with what Caterina says in her post: with social media, I do feel like I’m participating as much as I might feel like I’m missing out. I’ve never been to SXSW, but I sure could tell you that it involves a lot of waiting in lines, queso, hotel lobbies, cheap beer and tequila. Did I get it right? That, to me, is enough for a vicarious hangover without the pain and expense of a real one… fine by me.

    Lastly: one of my most adult realizations was that it’s also just good to be *missed* once in a while, and so missing out — and being okay with it — is a healthy part of any mature social life.

    That said, can you Skype me a glass of that champagne?

  6. wen

    I use social media to connect with new people, to learn new things, and I enjoy finding out what my friends are up to when they are off having adventures. When I see photos of friends posing on top of K2 or whatever, I am happy for them, even if, yes, that particular day, their experiences are undeniably more exciting than mine. I have LESS FOMO then before social media because I feel “invited” to enjoy things vicariously, which is a lot of fun (or if they are sad occurances, I have the opportunity to provide some comfort).

  7. Emsy

    So here’s the thing:

    I sometimes think that social media is both a FOMO-generator (“she went skydiving?” “he partied with who?”), and a FOMO-denial generator. Many’s the time that I have done something awesome and felt this unbelievable urge to tweet about it, because that way nobody will know how lame I am.

    I’d very much like to never do that again. It makes me less genuine, and uncomfortably crawly in my skin, to NEED people to know that I WAS AT A PARTY and IT WAS FUN LIKE A MUSIC VIDEO.

  8. Spring

    I gave up Facebook for Lent for this very reason.

    Yes, I do want to pop some champagne on the roof! I’ll be in Austin tonight through Friday. Let’s do it. Seriously.

  9. Megan G.

    >Want to come over and pop some champagne on the roof?

    No, but I’ve been waiting forever to book a trip to San Francisco for blowing bubbles en masse from the Golden Gate bridge.

  10. Kelly

    That happens to me a lot. Less so now that I’ve started creating the life I want by joining a roller derby team and making lady friends. Having stuff of my own to do that I value makes me question what I’m doing at any given moment less.

    Though I do think I should question my need to check Facebook as often as I do.

  11. Elise

    Strangely, I think it’s made me feel more connected, but not in a direct “I have so many friends” way. Having created a blog and a Flickr site and received some of those admiring and positive comments from people is great, don’t get me wrong. But I know about the huge arguement that I had with my husband the day a certain picture was taken and that it wasn’t as perfect as I made it seem. My perspective on other people’s lives has changed; I know that things aren’t as perfect as they look. I think when you participate in the process, it gives you that peek behind the curtain that makes you realize that things aren’t as shiny as they seem and that we really all are just doing the best we can.

  12. steph

    Regardless of how I feel about it, social media makes me far more social. I am generally an introvert, but social media makes me agree to things I normally would let pass… and then I show up, and I do them, and I enjoy myself. I have a lot less FOMO now that I am older, but I don’t think that is social media so much as just being a grown up and letting the kids enjoy the party (why they gotta start so laaate?). Or rather, being a parent, and where I want to be is where my kid is. And the FOMO is not so bad if everything is well documented on FB and Tw anyway… it’s almost like being there! (Without the hangover.)

  13. tirzah

    When I had just left my ex and everything was upside down and topsy-turvy and I was trying to find out the shape of my life as it had come to be, social media was rough. The more time passes, I am able to do things I want to do and make plans I want to keep, and I find myself so satisfied and happy in myself and my own life that I’m finally free to just share the joy that others are happy about their lives, too. It’s a great feeling.

  14. kirida

    I get FOMO sometimes, especially when it’s in my own town. I’m going to BlogHer for the first time this year and though I know it will be a wonderful experience, but there will also be the parties I won’t be attending, the hotel beds I won’t be jumping on and the bathtubs with ice and gin bottles I won’t be enjoying. Your line–“reminded me to fill my life with stuff that makes me feel like there’s nowhere else I’d rather be”–is exactly what I will keep with me when the FOMO feeling starts creeping up.

  15. debbie

    Less adequate when I compare what’s going on inside me to what other people are sharing on the outside – which is not always the same as what they’re feeling on the inside.

    You know what the best part of social media is though? The times when I read something that inspires me, touches my soul and leaves me feeling less alone in my own struggles. I dig those moments almost as much as I love watching reruns on the couch in my jammies with a bottle of wine while all the cool kids drink bubbly on the roof with Mighty Girl :)

  16. Haley

    I quit facebook when I realized that it was inspiring in me more negative emotions than positive. When I joined, I loved reconnecting with lost friends, and seeing what they were up to (without the torture of school reunions). But the novelty soon wore off, and I was left wondering why everyone was having so much more fun, success, and general awesomeness than I was.

    And then I remembered that most folks lie.

    So I quit, and now I don’t sweat the status updates.

  17. sugarleg

    as a result of Caterina’s post I wrote about my FOMO on my blog today. how meta. oy.

    I have to admit, I just loathe the way I feel when I am staring glassy eyed at everyone’s personal PR campaigns of happy happy joy joy. I am particularly hard on myself, so I know that I am bringing a helluvalotta emotional baggage to my FB trolling. and I am single. and I am recovering from total financial annihilation.

    my problem with social media is mainly this: humans have created these incredibly powerful, awesome tools to facilitate our desires to be connected to each other and make it easy to meet up! because we humans are intellectually brilliant. but, our emotions don’t seem to evolve as quickly as our brains and therefore we cannot keep up with the speed at which the info flies at us and how we feeeeel about it all.

    do you feel me?

    I just don’t like that I don’t get the space to process my emotions without having to worry about the next thing that I might be missing because it is all going just too damn fast. I know I sound like Wilford Brimley, but honestly, I could use a little break and don’t know how to take one without getting totally left in the dust.

    hugs. real ones.

  18. KazC

    Facebook and I are on a break. Ditto with Twitter. I recognized that it was the beginning of the end when I couldn’t get my face out of my Blackberry. At first I went through withdrawal; I kept composing pithy status updates in my head. Now I am enjoying being disconnected. It’s my own road less travelled. I may get back on Twitter some day soon, but I doubt I ever use Facebook again.

    Oh, and Foursquare? The only thought I have about that it is “Why?”

  19. Rebecca

    I know the exact feeling, though I feel it more with all the cool performing arts events going on in my city right now (I live in DC). I’m finishing a master’s and working full time and don’t have time to go to most of them so I spend a lot of time grumbling, though I find when I go to too many plays and shows I stop enjoying them nearly as much, going to a play stops being a special event.

  20. Carolyn

    I begrudgingly keep up with Facebook as it’s the main way my friends communicate. However, the other night I was stuck in a two hour traffic jam and a little quip from a college pal that lives across the country came in. It totally comforted me to have him humoring me when I was trapped there. I realized as long as I don’t become too dedicated and fret, it has it’s merits.

  21. Dawn

    going backwards, phone-wise. Just hooked up a thrifted 1970’s phone that weighs, like 32 pounds. It rings and I have no idea who is calling until I answer. A surprise or two every day! Then, because of short cord, I have to sit down and really talk to whomever is calling. And if I hear my sausage sizzling on the stove. Sizzling too hard–I tell the person to hold on and then I go over and really focus on my sizzling sausage. Then I come back and the surprise person and I will have an intense sausage conversation and, well, I hope I’m not causing you to fear. Get a wall phone. you’ll feel better

  22. Samilja

    I have struggled with FOMO (and thanks for the handy acronym, by the way) ever since I discovered the rabid allure of blogs. Facebook has triggered it in the past as well, although in a strange way not as much as the blogs have, I think because I know my FB community (and have a real sense of their lives vs. the idealized version that people tend to portray) vs. those who write the blogs that most intrigue me. At some point I thought to stop reading the blogs that left me feeling insecure or inferior but that also meant I’d need to abandon the blogs that inspire me. So instead I decided to simply cut back on the frequency of my blog-perusing and that was definitely a good call. All that being said, I really like your take on this whole phenomenon and the self-reflection that is has prompted. Not just reflection either, but action. So while I will continue to self-regulate the time I spend on my fave blgos(including yours), I will also strive to apply your measure of contentment in re: to my own life when I react wistfully or (gasp) jealously to one post or another. Thanks for the fresh perspective!

  23. Missives From Suburbia

    Facebook and Twitter allow me to connect with people I ordinarily couldn’t (faraway friends) or wouldn’t (due to time or distance). I confess blogging–especially around events like SxSW and BlogHer–make me suffer a little FOMO. I worked in the digital realm for so long that when I see my ex-coworker’s tweets about Austin, I get a slight twinge to return to work. And I keep missing BlogHer, but swearing I’ll go next year. I need to do that.

  24. Rebecca

    I like you, Dawn!

    I dunno, I figure with technology you have to ask, are you owning it or is it owning you?

    I can be a bit compulsive about checking email and Facebook since I have a limited capacity for delayed gratification and am a very sociable gal, but I’m trying to unhook and only do it two or three times a day. Every now and then I go on a quiet unfriending spree where I make sure that every single person on my list is someone I would actually sit down and have a coffee with or give a lift to the airport if they needed it. As a result, no one I am friends with on FB is the sort who makes anyone else feel bad – those hosers are long gone!

    I guess I just don’t wash with this idea of others having more fun. Fun can be had everywhere and who’s to say someone’s experience is actually better than another’s? There is no one just like you – the phenomenon of just being a unique human experiencing life, the view from your own particular noggin, whether it’s in your PJs or on a rooftop – it’s pretty amazing. I mean sure, go out and do your special spectacular things, but I don’t think people should run themselves down for all the time spent doing laundry and filing papers. (Or taking your kid to the park without a Blackberry so that nothing interferes with a perfectly nice outing.) It’s life! The mundane bits have their own kind of beauty if you let it in.

  25. dgm

    I’m with Rebecca. When I see my friends on FB having a grand adventure, I am happy for them and interested in their experience. At the same time, while my adventures are usually not grand, they are happy ones with the people I love. Our lives are made in these small hours, and all that.

    I make it a point not to be tethered to my droid. I don’t want to take every call as it comes in; I don’t want to be accessible to people at all times. One thing that really chaps me is when I meet up with a friend and she’s constantly checking her pda.

  26. Clarissa

    I’m in total agreement with Samilja on this one. The majority of my friends on facebook (and to a certain extent, Twitter) are a known quantity and while I occasionally experience FOMO in reaction to their posts and pictures (more often than not, these reactions are related to pictures of BABIES…BABIES!!! I should have a babies by now…um, yeah, the type of stuff one FOMOs over is clearly linked to life stage!), the feeling tends to be tempered by the understanding that their lives are just as gray (meaning not all fun or all bad all the time) as mine. It also helps that I’ve actually met these people, which leads to a more three dimensional understanding of who they are.

    Blogs (particularly those of professional bloggers) are trickier territory. The content, while presumably genuine, is more crafted, edited, and stylized. When you couple these highly crafted blogs with the behavioral need to constantly check for new posts (I’m no more sophisticated than one of Skinner’s rats), you are left with more frequent exposure to and perusal of said highly crafted blog. This makes it harder not to idealize the blogger and, for me, leads to a FOMO feeling, in addition to a knee jerk YFIB (your life is better) response (which of course says loads about me. yeah, yeah).

    All that to say, awareness is key. When I start to feel envious about a blogger’s BABY!, house, style, accomplishments, intellect, photography skills, etc., it’s time to unplug, turn inward, and then engage with life and people offline.

  27. Sue F

    This is something I constantly fight. As a perfectionist by nature, but a very lazy perfectionist, I’m rarely happy with what I have, and seeing other peoples “fabulousness” only sparks feelings of envy and discontent. But as you correctly point out, a) most people only show what they want you to see, and b) sometimes it’s an inspiration to go and get off you ass and do the fun stuff for yourself. But there’s also a third way c) which is looking deeply at what you actually want and figuring it out for yourself, then go chase down *that* instead. I’ve run myself in to a hell of a lot of debt trying to chase down and quell that FOMO feeling on what everyone else was doing, and what I only realised late last year, was that half of it wasn’t even stuff I wanted! Stupid Facebook!!

  28. Amy

    Facebook makes me feel amazing! I’ve even managed to put some of my 20 year old high-school demons to rest, thanks to Facebook – no small feat, they were getting tired. To be sure, Facebook takes up a lot of my headspace but it is such a positive place for me. I am very, very grateful for the opportunities it presents, friendships it ignited (or reignited) and realizations that have blown my mind. When people diss Facebook, I think to myself, “You’re just not using it properly.” It is a very important community for me. Love love love.

  29. sara

    As we stood at the Guy + Girl party, watching people pose for the photo booth. not knowing anyone, and not having the courage to talk to strangers, we felt out of place. Even though we were there breathing the same air it was evident that being there is still not enough. We have to engage. Haven’t figured out how to do that among strangers yet. In our element, we’re fine and everybody knows us.
    Somehow we still managed to “miss out” even though we were at SXSW with all the cool kids.
    I think we just missed our families.

  30. Dawn

    Not only would I like to pop champagne, I would like to sabor it! Which, thanks to you, I did on my 40th birthday back in October. Such a great life skill, and I owe it to you! Thanks, Maggie!

  31. Kate

    I think I’m a “pop champagne on the rooftop” kinda gal about once a decade. Something like that makes for an amazing memory…when it only happens once a decade. : )
    But on the average Friday night, I’d MUCH rather be watching DVR’d episodes of The Office, Parks and Recreation, and 30 Rock in my yoga pants in bed.

    As for social media’s influence, it’s a balancing act. I like the good I get out of it. I don’t like that I sometimes feel like my parenting skills or decorating skills aren’t ever goin to measure up. (But usually I have high enough self esteem to push those ideas aside, and I remembered that people’s “internet portrayed lives” aren’t the same as their real lives.) My main thing is that I think I’m a little bit internet addicted in general, and I hate that it’s becoming a time-suck of productivity for me at work. (Don’t tell my bosses.) I think my bermuda triangle of non-productivity at work = Facebook + Checking Blogs + Reading the NYTimes online.

  32. Mandi

    Not by my choice, my life has several factors that are physically isolating, a great deal of the time. My home is geographically remote (though not compared to some places we’ve been stationed – but it’s still very Sidewalks Rolled Up) and my health limits my ability to seek out a lot of group events, which mostly happen in the evening and are difficult for me to commit to with flaky health. I feel *much* happier in recent years, with social media to connect. On those nights when I couldn’t really be elsewhere anywhere, I really do get a lot of smilies out of silly back and forths with girlfriends on FB or instant messaging or the like. I also like that social media does not demand a “right now” answer the way that a phone call or dropping by does (or tries to) and so I feel better about leaving an email or FB message for someone I know is busy, when it is okay if they take their time to get back to me – like my daughters away at college.

    Conversely, we get very habituated to it, and I grate a little that we tend to keep up our FB (etc) habits when the opportunity to be physically together does present. It’s something I see as culture-still-in-progress.

  33. agirlandaboy

    When I feel less adequate, I tend to step it up rather than shrink back and wallow. When I see someone doing something cool and think “Why not me?” I turn around and go, “Yeah, why NOT you?” and then I go do it (or something better).

  34. Kris

    I’m old school, and don’t have twitter or facebook or any of the other bajillion social media doojobbies. My cell phone is only a phone – no QWERTY or crackberry or texting or foursquare or snapping unflattering photos of strangers in their awkwardest moments. No high speed internet, either.

    If I want to meet a friend, I call her on my corded landline phone, get in my non-GPS vehicle, and spend an entire afternoon lost in face-to-face conversation without ever looking at my phone.

    I think social media has ruined personal interaction for the most part, and made waaaaay too many people self-righteous and self-important. I see it EVERYWHERE I go. People can’t put their phones down for 5 minutes to enjoy the quiet scenery and just breathe.

    It frustrates and saddens me, to see the art of conversation being lost on the next generation. And yes, I know I’m a grumpy old man in a 38-year-old woman’s body.

  35. Harriet May

    It’s true– I always feel like I’m not going to cool places in my spare time, or hanging out with cool people, or working on cool projects. But without technology we’d have less of a sense of what those cool things really were, and then perhaps we wouldn’t even have the imagination to go out and look for them. Better late than never, right? Even if it is to the party.

  36. becky@sugarfromsunshine

    I LOVE this post…so true! I think the key is…you only feel inadequate if you let yourself. Being inspired by others while remaining confident in who you are and what you are doing is crucial. But, no matter what, it’s always a rooftop party when someone else verbalizes your feelings:) Pour me a cold one…

  37. Cindy

    It’s a little of both. Some times I feel like I’m in HS again and I’m looking through the window at the “cool” kids and kind of wish they thought me worthy to hang with. The difference is that when ever I’ve felt bold enough to leave a comment or say to hello in the internet world of cool kids, someone always replies with a nice hello and response back.

    I feel that social media is more important to me now considering we just moved a state away from all our friends and family. It lets us all stay connected and the 6 and half hour space in between doesn’t sting as much. It will be even better when someone shows up to install internet in our house today (two weeks…with out internet).

  38. kimberly/tippytoes

    Oh, I love this post. I suffer from it, but I’ve noticed that the longer I’ve been into social media, the less I care. When Foursquare came out, I felt like I was doing nothing, while my friends were all having fun without me. Now, I see it more for what it is and I can enjoy it as a way of keeping up with friends, rather than feeling inferior. As a positive, seeing other people’s experiences (especially because so much includes images) has helped me frame my own life. I gives me ideas for outings, and improved how I look through my lens of life to see happiness and fun.

  39. mme_M

    Interesting and timely post. Personally, I find it strangely disappointing that there’s no mention of the quake in Japan on your posts or twitter. I know it’s all a projection and totally unfair of me to think this, but the affinity I felt with you as a fellow Pocky lover is suddenly less so.

    I get that. It’s just too much sadness for me to take in right now. I’m in a place where I feel like anything I could say would be trite in comparison to the magnitude of what’s happening. -M

  40. Snithia

    Hey Maggie!

    I thought of you this morning when I saw this headline and read the article. I thought you were ahead of the game with “You Missed IT!”

    (Alas, you’ve probably already seen this, nevertheless,…it’s nice to see your material just “before” the Times thinks about doing it)!

    Their article represents a slightly different take on social media, still…I felt you were there first!

  41. Sassafras Mama

    I’m a little older than most of the women who read your blog (or that’s what I imagine…..I’m 43) and though I’m digitally engaged, I’m not consumed with it, which I think is v. generational. I read folks whose work makes me feel more connected to the world and I generally avoid social networking that makes me feel less connected (or excluded). In the 5 years that I’ve been a single mama (my son is now 11), the digital communities that I pay attention to have provided warmth, compassion, and support. If they don’t/haven’t, then I simply cut ties.

    That noted, I’ve been writing a blog ( for nearly 5 years and enjoy the sense of connection that has brought me, but I’ve never considered it for money or opportunity, just a chance to formalize my view of the world; sort of like a digital scrapbook of my life, my politics, and my beliefs. I’d love to join blogHer or try my hand at something like SxSW but have generally feared feeling excluded and so I haven’t pursued that. Lack of courage? Fear of exclusion? Probably a little of both.

  42. 101 Things Before I Die

    As a person that does Social Media marketing for a living, I often feel like there are cliques or that it’s a popularity contest. It’s high school all over again but with anonymous grown ups that can actually be meaner. And sometimes I feel like if it wasn’t for my job, I’d get a lot of work done!

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