Tag Archives: social media

Life Envy: The FOMO

 

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I want to be living that life. By myself, late at night, sitting in the dark of the back yard with my phone, the dog, and a drink, I actually heard myself say this out loud: I want to be living that life. It’s crazy, I know, but looking sometimes at pictures of people on Facebook doing things you would like to do, having experiences you would like to have, you get this feeling, an inescapable feeling that you are missing out. We call it FOMO. I must admit that I have experienced the FOMO. I try as best as I can to massage my FOMO into something like happiness for the person in the post: I am so glad they get to have this experience. Then, I take it a little bit further by thinking that I am so glad they decided to share this moment with their friends, of which I consider myself one. Then, the conclusion of the exercise is to think or actually say out loud how grateful I am for the experiences I have had, the luck, and the privilege. I know, in these moments, I have had experiences that some of my friends have never had, and I know that I am super fortunate because of that. In 95% of my waking existence on the planet I would not trade my life for anyone else’s. But on this last occasion, when I caught myself expressing the FOMO out loud to no one in particular, to the trees, to the dog in the yard, to the martini I was sipping, to myself, I panicked for a moment. What is it about this that I desire? The person in question may be beautiful. It may be that they seem extremely happy or content. In all likelihood, they are in a place I have always wanted to go, seeing something I have always wanted to see, learning something I have always wanted to learn, successful at something at which I too would like to succeed, or doing something I know I would enjoy but find I have not yet had the opportunity to enjoy. It is ridiculous and ridiculously human, a tendency we have always had, to be envious of others, but now exacerbated by social media because we are not only hearing ABOUT the experiences of others, we are seeing them in photo, or seeing and hearing them in video, ALL THE TIME. And that pushes the buttons of desire and envy. But . . .

It’s like meditation. You don’t beat yourself up when your mind wanders. Instead, you simply notice its wandering, you pay attention, and then you come back to the breath or the mantra and you continue. Maybe that’s why I said it out loud: I want to be living that life. I was paying attention. It was kind of an alarm set off by my internal brakes to the wheels of envy and desire. This is better than what I suspect a lot of people do: they see their friends and acquaintances living a great life and they begin to feel anxious and sad without being aware of the connection. And we have to remind ourselves, don’t we, that our facebook personalities are self-curated. Some people select only the happiest moments and ignore the trauma and sadness, others, in an effort to be authentic, balance the joy and the suffering, while still others use social media to essentially suffer in public. While the middle way seems most admirable, none of these strategies are inclusive of a life. They’re still just snapshots. Judging me from my facebook posts, it might seem like the only thing I ever do is play the drums and listen to music and that I am an extremely cheerful guy. Only partly true. There are things that make me fearful or anxious; there are issues that need attending in my own inner and outer work; I sometimes question, as William Stafford does, if “what I have done is my life.” It is pointless to haunt one’s self with What If questions. If one is haunted by a What If question, perhaps some action is necessary. But if one is suspicious, self-reflective enough to recognize the FOMO for what it is, sure, go ahead and say out loud, I want to be living that life. In the next moment, though, allow the gratitude to bubble up for this one–and then put your phone away, write a poem or read a book, or have a drink outside with your dog.

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Filed under Culture, Self Reflection

#178: A Friend Has Commented On My Memory

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the result of reposting a “memory” of myself from exactly one year ago

A Friend Has Commented On My Memory

Facebook tells me when someone,
a friend presumably, has commented
on my memory. I like this.
I like, first, that my friends can see
my memory. It’s remarkable.
No where else is it possible to
for friends to see my memory.
If they are in a room with me,
perhaps, and I say something like,
I remember the time–
then, it seems like friends are able,
however corrupted or filtered
it may have become,
to see my memory, or at least,
a very small slice of it.
It’s possible that I’ve misunderstood.
Maybe friends are commenting
on my lack of memory. They’re
saying something like,
That Michael Jarmer, his memory
is not what it used to be.
That’s an unpleasant thought.
Or worse, they might be commenting
on their own memory of me,
in which case, they might be saying
something like, Gee, that Michael
Jarmer turns out to be nothing like
the way I remembered him.
Or worse still, the very worse still,
they speak of their memory of me
because they think I am no longer alive.
You know, in memoriam.
This last possibility is the most troubling.
But I comfort myself: how likely is it
that Facebook would be telling me
what my friends thought of me
after I was gone. Right? Not likely.
How likely would it be that I’d be
checking my Facebook in the afterlife?
Not likely. So I arrive back where
I started, saying that I am appreciative
of the fact that my friends are able to see
and then comment upon and sometimes
even go so far as to like my memory.
I remember as I am remembered
and it’s a loop that goes around
and around.

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#157: A Spectacular Cat Gif

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Pretend, for a moment, this poem
is a spectacular cat gif, and you like it.
You like it very much. You like
your liking it, and you share or reblog,
perhaps you’ll even tweet, instagram, or vine;
you’ll repost in every imaginable
format and your friends will follow
and follow, like and like,
to the extent that this
spectacular cat gif, which is not
really a spectacular cat gif,
but a poem, will go
absofuckinglutely viral. This will
all be very good for me and my cat,
who co-writes most of my poetry,
as we will instantly be known
as the greatest (in this moment)
producers of poems disguised
as spectacular cat gifs
on the entire world wide web.
Some will say that we have
broken the internet and that
will also be good for me and my cat.
It has been our design all along.
Finally, we will have our dominion
over the very short attention spans
of internet users far and wide
and our poems disguised as
spectacular cat gifs will become
the stuff of legend for as long
as it takes to view a single cycle of this
spectacular gif.

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Filed under Culture, Poetry