Of the common ills social scientists have placed at the feet of social media, one of the most pervasive – particularly on Facebook and Instagram – is the phenomenon known by the acronym …
Of the common ills social scientists have placed at the feet of social media, one of the most pervasive – particularly on Facebook and Instagram – is the phenomenon known by the acronym FOMO.
FOMO stands for fear of missing out. It describes a sort of anxiety experienced by the social media scroller that nearly everyone in their social sphere is having a lot more fun than they are. They’re having more vacations, decorating their homes better, having more successful children – living a best life the rest of us can only dream of having. Some social scientists insist that FOMO is more serious than it sounds. It can lead to serious bouts of depression.
While I’ve never suffered a pang of FOMO from perusing social media feeds, I recently began to develop a related syndrome triggered by an increasing repetition of posts from people I know designed to demonstrate their recently acquired – and perhaps overestimated – immunity from COVID-19 after they’ve received their vaccination from the disease. These posts show them hanging out with family and friends, arms on shoulders perhaps, far closer to each other than the socially distant six feet we’ve all come to expect out in public.
These posts were remarkable at first – showing health care workers and other first responders flexing their recently punctured and Band-Aided upper arms. But in recent weeks, the progress affirming photos of essential workers began to give way to posts of average people who were making the most of their new vaccinated status to get together with others and, worse, post the evidence to rub it in the faces of the rest of us who are still waiting.
At one point earlier this month, I was pretty convinced my household was the only one left in America that had yet to been inoculated against COVID-19. It was irritating.
Now let me just pause here to say I get that news of my family, friends and acquaintances receiving vaccination doses is something to celebrate. Every inoculated person is a victory for humanity, an extraordinary accomplishment of science. It’s a harbinger of better times to come as the pandemic loses its grip. I also understand the value of demonstrating to others that you’ve gotten the vaccine in case it helps convince any of the vaccine deniers out there who might be persuaded by example.
I also get that the point of social media is to celebrate even the most unremarkable of accomplishments for the benefit of all who follow you. And I like social media for that very reason. I like seeing what my old elementary school classmates have done with their back yard, or that my high school pal had a good weekend ski trip. It’s the point of the whole thing.
I’m likely to get vaccinated myself this week. What I won’t do, however, is share a photograph of the process. We’ve yet to even inoculate a third of the population. As eager as we all may be to get back to normal, it’s probably better not to flaunt it for those still waiting for their chance to do the same.