You might notice an anxiety when you use social media or anywhere with user generated content. Or rather I should say, you might notice anxiety when you haven’t used it in a while. Maybe it’s best described as ‘feed FOMO’.
You fear you’ve missed something important in your feeds. In the few hours (or minutes if you’re that addicted) when your attention is diverted elsewhere, you worry. What if you never get to hear about the advice, event, book or person that could change everything? What if you miss the joke that everyone is talking about? If you’ve had one of those feed FOMO moments then you know what I mean. The question is whether it’s worth the time perpetually scrolling to head off the feed FOMO. Can we strike a balance?
Like any addiction there are many opinions and suggestions for how you wean yourself off. I can’t offer anything unique. But I can make a suggestion for something else instead…
Is there a space for something different than a social feed or forum that could reduce feed FOMO?
Perhaps it’s something that lives longer than a few minutes on social media. It could be modeled like a library, a repository, or a simple list of useful and important things – like a wiki for the best updates, posts or stories.
Here user content could live and be celebrated. This user content would be strictly knowledge and wisdom. Where a post is treated like king if it gives genuine helpfulness and insight. Where it doesn’t disappear, unread and unloved, casually discarded if it hasn’t been retweeted, liked or replied to within 5 minutes.
If I knew that there was a way to preserve the most important posts, status updates and stories, maybe my anxiety would reduce. But then so would the profit of the platforms that make money from our constant scrolling. Our anxiety goes down, big tech anxiety goes up. If there really was a successful place where content lives happily, you can go back to it when you feel like it. You don’t need to worry you’re missing out.
However, a place like this needs curation and lots of it. It goes against the ‘almost everything is allowed to be said and the most popular wins’ paradigm we have now. The only way to do it is having trust in the people curating. That’s the hard bit. It’s likely to need some new players entering the field with a new mission and new business model. A new model where clicks and views by itself are not the path to make money but usefulness of the content is the way.
Once we have that new alternative how will we use it?
Part of the beauty and promise of the internet was to get information when you needed it. But the culture of scrolling timelines and swiping stories feels more like one way traffic. You get what you’re given – or what you’re fed. Most people are happy consuming content, especially if it relieves boredom and there’s never been more boredom than now (a glimmer of useful info is handy too). Making content is a lot of effort. Getting people to read it is even harder. You’re likely to have mixed success. However big the reward in putting content out there, creating it in the first place is usually hard work.
Somewhere in the middle of consuming and creating content, there is the middle ground of ‘asking’. By this I mean asking for content that you’d like to consume. Just like we find our way round a physical library with an order and path to follow, we need some signposts in a new FOMO free ‘future media’. The creation of the question is easy (at least it should be) and it’s hardly worthy of the word ‘creating’. You just ‘ask’ the internet for some answers and hope for something more than a search results page filled with ads, and sponsored answers.
This future FOMO free place is a bit of a dream but it’s not impossible. So much of what we search for is better when curated. We have stores and business we like because they choose the right things for us to buy. We like the company we keep because they like the same things as us. The long tail of products and merchants make it interesting. We like choice. So why not with our social media? We have so many TV streaming options now so how about more social media options?
The future might be a lot more selective, more useful and (let’s hope) less taxing on our mental health.