Sunday, May 29, 2011


Mister Rogers by glindsay65
Mister Rogers, a photo by glindsay65 on Flickr.
There other day, I was approached by a friend who let me know that she was giving up on Facebook. The reason? She felt that reading other people's posts, looking at pictures on other people's walls, made her feel like she was missing out on something. You’re home alone but watching your friends' status updates tell of a great party happening somewhere else. You are aware of more parties than ever before and like gym memberships, adding Bergman movies to your Netflix queue and piling up unread copies of the New Yorker, watching these feeds gives you a sense that you’re not participating and missing out on something.
The feeling she was experiencing has a name and it is FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and many critics of the inter-web believe it will ultimately be the undoing of most social media. But my question is this: hasn't it always been thus? Doesn't this ring of hand-wringing of both the personal and the cultural variety?
Radar equipment companies sell radar equipment to the police as well as to the general public. Clorox is one of the world’s worst polluters of water but they also own Brita who make filters to get the bad stuff out of the water again. Lawyers create mazes that you have to hire a lawyer to escape. Facebook and Twitter create FOMO and also cure it.
Do you see where I am going with this?
Despite the occasional sense that everyone is popping bottles of champagne on city rooftops while I watch Modern Family reruns in my yoga pants, I still love participating in social media. And, believe it or not, seeing what I’m “missing” has shaped how I decide to spend my time. It has reminded me to fill my life with stuff that makes me feel like there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. If 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 friend's photos photos on Facebook!
There can be true meaning in social media—real connections, real friendships, devotion, humor, sacrifice, joy, depth, love. And filling your life with a sense of constant craving and desire (also called defilement, affliction) will make you feel like a slave. Is what we are looking for when we log on? No. What we are looking for is connection and you can find it on the interweb is you look in the right places. It's in the earnest posts of friends who've lost loved ones, in the pictures of their dogs dressed up like movie stars and the heartfelt bragging of their children's accomplishments. It is even in this speech that I found of Mr. Rogers accepting an Emmy. Read this and ask me if the interweb can be so bad when there is this type of stuff to be found on it:

mister rogers went onstage to accept a lifetime acheivement award — and there, in front of all the soap opera stars and talk show sinceratrons, in front of all the jutting man-tanned jaws and jutting saltwater bosoms, he made his small bow and said into the microphone, "all of us have special ones who have loved us into being. would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are. ten seconds of silence."

and then he lifted his wrist, looked at the audience, looked at his watch, and said, "i'll watch the time." there was, at first, a small whoop from the crowd, a giddy, strangled hiccup of laughter, as people realized that he wasn't kidding, that mister rogers was not some convenient eunuch, but rather a man, an authority figure who actually expected them to do what he asked. and so they did. one second, two seconds, seven seconds — and now the jaws clenched, and the bosoms heaved, and the mascara ran, and the tears fell upon the beglittered gathering like rain leaking down a crystal chandelier. and mister rogers finally looked up from his watch and said softly "may god be with you," to all his vanquished children.


  1. I don't think the inter-web is a bad thing. Spending too much time doing any one thing isn't good.

    Liking the Mr. Rogers bit. :)

  2. Mr. Rogers is a legend. And how great is that speech?