Friday, July 5, 2013

FOMO, Facebook and Feeling Fabulous

When asked to comment about how much the advertising and fashion industries retouch photography, supersmart supermodel Cindy Crawford once joked "I wish I looked like Cindy Crawford." In other words, even someone that close to perfection had been artificially enhanced. A lot.

These days, I think many of us are artificially — or I should say, digitally — enhancing not just our looks but our lives. Or, to paraphrase Cindy ...

"I wish my life looked like my Facebook page."

Here's what I post on Facebook on a regular basis:

- Pretty pictures of the beach from my morning walks
- Blooming flowers from our garden
- Vacation scenes from weekends away
- My teenage daughter the way she looks at a horse show, pressed and dressed
- Drinks and dinners with friends from out of town
- Thin, youthful, flattering pictures of myself

Here's what I don't post:

- Photos of the massive construction project I walk through to get to the beach
- Our withered impatiens which all died from something called "downy mildew"
- Everyday scenes from weekends of household chores and grocery shopping
- My daughter the way she looks at the stable, caked in mud and manure
- Microwaved leftovers, eaten standing in the kitchen 
- Any pictures in which I look like the love child of Dame Edna and Eraserhead 

Yeah, I wish my life looked like my Facebook page. Everyone is fabulous there.

There is an inherent showing-off-ish-ness to the whole social media experience. Would I post a picture of my daughter's A+ English paper? Sure! Would I post one of her B-? Probably not. (Actually, I wouldn't post either, but I know moms who do.) On Facebook, we tend to emphasize (overemphasize) the very good rather than the just normal. Through our posts, we turn up the volume on the minority of life's extraordinary moments, and turn it way down on the majority of the ordinary.

Do we look as good as we do on Facebook? No. Are our lives as interesting as they are on Facebook? No. Are we as funny, smart, happy or popular as we are on Facebook? No, no, no, no.

Chances are, if we're on Facebook, we're living a little bit of a lie. And since we're all doing it, we're all suffering from the same thing: FOMO.

FOMO is the fear of missing out. It's not a new idea, but it's changing. When I was a teenager, I might have been aware that I had been excluded from a party, but aside from some jealousy, I could distract myself and move on. Today, if my teen daughter is left out of a gathering, she can be there virtually. She can go on Facebook (or myriad other social sites) and vicariously participate. Oh look, there's the birthday girl blowing out her candles! Oh look, there's my crush with his arm around another girl! Oh look, there are five of my closest BFFs having a blast and not giving my absence a second thought! 

With Facebook, you're a digital fly on the wall. 24/7. Kinda creepy, isn't it?

Even the most popular teens (and moms) worry that they might be missing something. So, they (we) check Facebook incessantly. And — guess what? — we're always going to be missing something. Someone will always have a better job, a bigger house. And all that envy is exhausting. So, we weave better, bigger versions of ourselves. If we're going to suffer from FOMO, we're going to make damn sure that other people do too. And so the vicious circle continues.

Here's what I propose. Let's take the phrase (oxymoronic as it may be) "Truth in advertising" and flip it to "Factual on Facebook." Let's declare one day when everyone agrees to make their Facebook pages exaggeration-free, when we post the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." 

Instead of saying "Home with my honey. Still my best friend after 21 years. So happy," we say "Long day at work, no energy to go out. Spouse is in the other room watching baseball. So bored."

Or instead of "Wow. Really proud of my teenage son. Varsity next year. Can't wait," we'll say "Damn. Really hoped he wouldn't make the team. Can't believe I'll be driving to games three times a week. Where's the pinot?"

Factual on Facebook, that's the ticket. And, I'll start. Soon. Really.

But, first I have to go on Facebook and see what I've missed while writing this.

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