The Etiquette of FOMO

FOMO (fear of missing out) is real. I know a lot of people like to say that it’s just another thing millennials or whatever generation coming up behind us likes complaining about, but it’s absolutely a thing. Two generations ago, if your friends went out without you, you either 1. wouldn’t know about it until afterward or 2. maybe would feel a little hurt but could easily ignore it. Now, often those events you’re left out of are flaunted in your face on social media, or just with people talking about them because they forget it’s sort of rude to talk about shared experiences if not everyone in the circle has shared it. It’s easier than ever to see exactly how much fun everyone is having without you, and your dumb brain naturally concludes that they’re having that much fun specifically because you’re not there. Quit it, brain!

Anyway, let’s talk about how to deal with it, both from the perspective of the person involved and the person feeling left out.

  1. Try to include everyone: This comes with a lot of caveats. Obviously in a perfect world everyone would be welcome and present everywhere, except that wouldn’t be a perfect world because that’d be fucking exhausting. You know when you go to a big party and you’re like “that was fun and now I need to wait a month before I interact with that many people again”? TOO BAD, NO WAITING PERIOD. This is all to say sometimes you just want to hang out with one or two or five people instead of every one of your friends at once, and that’s reasonable. But if you’re planning a party and invite everyone except one person in your friend group, that sends a message, so try to at least keep groups together. This changes if there’s limited space, but you know, do your best.
  2. Ask yourself if you really wanted to be invited:  If you’re feeling left out, try to figure out if it’s because it’s really something you would have enjoyed, or if you just want to be included. Maybe you weren’t invited specifically because your friends knew you wouldn’t like that particular activity, or thought you were busy and didn’t want to make you feel overwhelmed with choices.
  3. Don’t flaunt: This is tricky, because obviously you have the right to post as many picturesque mountain views or selfies with all your friends as you want, but if you know someone wasn’t invited who would have liked to be invited, or has a tendency to feel left out if they couldn’t make it to something, maybe take it easy. Because it is hard to see all your friends enjoying themselves somewhere if you didn’t know about it.
  4. Don’t whine: The temptation to call someone out and go “why wasn’t I invited?” is strong, but generally it is not a good look. Instead, talk to your friends after the fact if you’re feeling raw about it. There may be a reason why you weren’t invited (limited space, other relationship dynamics that have nothing to do with you, email problems), or you could use it as an opportunity to say it’s something you’d be interested in next time around.
  5. Plan your own shit! The easiest way to avoid FOMO is to come up with your own plans. I also think the more people who make plans, the more people understand how tricky it can be. If you email 15 friends, and 5 are gone that weekend, do you change plans for them or forge ahead? If your apartment can only fit 6 for dinner, how do you do it so no one feels left out? It’s hard! And there are no right answers but planning at least makes everyone a little more empathetic to the invitation process.
  6. Mix it up: One great social habit to pick up is to be mixing up which and how many of your friends you interact with, so it doesn’t have a chance to turn into one stagnant “group.” Of course big group parties and outings are great, but plan smaller things too. Get dinner with friends A and B, then next week see a movie with B, C and D, and later invite A and C over for drinks. That way you set a standard of not everyone being invited to everything all the time. People have a chance to get used to seeing their friends doing stuff with out them, knowing that it wasn’t because they weren’t missed, but because sometimes you just hang out in different configurations.
  7. You’re literally missing out on everything all the time: Time to get zen about it! Your friends are probably Gchatting right now. You might be Gchatting or texting or Snapchatting with them too, but they’re having their own interactions every second of the day that have nothing to do with you. And they may even be talking about you! Friends talk about friends, and let’s face it, they’ve probably noticed that weird thing you do (you know the thing). If that makes you uncomfortable, learn to live with it, because just because people you know see each other without you or talk about you when you’re not there doesn’t mean they don’t love you or want to see you. It means they’re people with their own lives and schedules and relationships that naturally look different than yours.

But if it makes you feel better totally brag those vacation Instagrams.

Twitter RTs Are Not A Matter Of Etiquette

I can’t believe I’m actually writing this.

Last Wednesday, Vulture published an essay asking “Does Retweeting Praise Make You A Monster?” It outlines certain rules that have gone unspoken on the social media platform Twitter, but that everyone seems to get very opinionated about, from “don’t steal jokes” to “if someone follows you, you must follow them back.” But one idea that a number of people seem to think is a massive “breach of etiquette” is retweeting praise about yourself.

Author Adam Sternbergh thankfully concludes that it’s a bit of a silly idea, but not before spending a couple thousand words asking various writers and Twitter personalities about the subject. The statement that caught me was by novelist Gabriel Roth, who said:

“I think of Twitter as a cocktail party, and a certain amount of subtle bragging and self-advancement is acceptable at a cocktail party but if you show up and just stand there holding a big poster advertising your book, who’s going to invite you back? Imagine meeting someone at a party who opened a conversation with, ‘This fellow Larry Smidgen from Minneapolis says my book is laugh-out-loud funny — but also surprisingly moving!’”

What struck me is that I’ve heard this comparison of Twitter to a cocktail party before. People have expressed joy at it being a place to mingle, to make jokes, to meet new people and talk about new ideas–that sounds like a great cocktail party to me. But I don’t quite think all the rules of a cocktail party work. After all, in a cocktail party it’s harder to enter or exit a conversation. There’s body language to pay attention to. There are things, for better or worse, that you would say on the Internet, at arms-length from any immediate reaction, that you may not say to someone’s face. It may feel like a party sometimes, but it’s also an entirely different way of having a conversation.

For instance, you can’t retweet anything in a face to face conversation.

Despite having social media platforms like this for well over a decade, many people still operate under the impression that people are always their true selves online. That you are speaking to a person, and not that person’s crafted, representative self. How distant that crafted self is from their true self is different depending on the topic and on the person, but the performative aspect requires at least a second of thought and craft to whatever message one writes, whether it’s about your baby’s first tooth or your new book. People also forget that this is fluid. Twitter may be your personal confession booth one day, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be your publicity platform the next.

Editor Kurt Andersen said in the piece that “it’s a matter of not overdoing it.” I admit having been annoyed when my feed is filled with 50 retweets from the same person, whatever the subject, just as I would be if someone dominated the conversation at a cocktail party. The difference is that online, I can close the tab.

A Plea: Be Clear With Your Name Use

Even if your name is very popular you should be clear about it. [Via]

Even if your name is very popular you should be clear about it. [Via]

We’ve already discussed the problems some people face when changing their names after marriage (or divorce, or just because they feel like changing their names because you’re an adult and can do that whenever you damn well please). But one issue we keep running across is people who go by one name in some places and a different name in others. This can get really confusing.

There are many legitimate reasons why someone would want to use an alias in public, and you should be allowed to do that! Perhaps you’re a writer who uses a pen name, or a public figure who doesn’t want people to find your personal Facebook page, or are trying to hide from an abuser or stalker, or maybe you just go by a nickname. These are all fine and entirely understandable. What gets frustrating is when, for instance, you have someone who has kept one name in public spheres and uses another “officially,” but expects you to know this without them telling you. I mostly see this with people who have changed their name after getting married, continue to go by their original names on Facebook, email, and other areas, and then are frustrated when you address an invitation or a check to their maiden name.

Okay, so nothing is actually stopping you from doing this. You can do this. Go by 10 different names on 50 different platforms, whatever. But at this point we don’t use at-home cards, and we certainly don’t assume anything about someone’s name unless we’ve been told. So, if every correspondence is telling us your name is “Janet Smith”…we’re gonna go with that. And if it turns out you changed your name when you got married and you can’t cash a check unless it’s make out to “Janet White,” it’s on you to let everyone know about that.

I am perhaps speaking too much from experience, thinking back on  sending out wedding invitations and figuring out who was named what. Most of my friends emailed me their preferred titles when they sent their addresses, but others I just went off what was on Facebook and other platforms. I mean, why wouldn’t I? Maybe I’m just self conscious and coming to terms with living in a world where I do not actually know my friends’ “real” names, and rely on a website to tell me what they are. Where asking someone if the name attached to their Gmail is accurate is a thing. Where you can know someone so well and intimately, well enough to invite them to your wedding, and not know this extremely basic thing about them. And maybe I can just remember that names don’t hold that much importance for everyone, and that knowing the person is more important than knowing their name.

You should still be clear with your name use though.

What You Can and Cannot Conduct Over Social Media

Good lord just don't be this person [via Jezebel]

Good lord just don’t be this person [via Jezebel]

It’s easy to use social media. It’s too easy. I can think of at least three friends with whom I make plans entirely over social media, because I do not have their phone numbers or email addresses. I know, I’m a millennial, go ahead and yell at me or whatever. [Ed note: Millennial used to not show up under spell check, and now it does. Progress.] We’re not here to judge you for how you get in touch with your friends. However, there are some interactions that should not be conducted in a public place. Let’s go over some. (And remember, most of this varies depending on who you’re connected with. It may look different if you’re friends with 2,000 people v. 20).

1. Don’t ask someone on a date– This doesn’t even have to be a romantic date. Any question of “when are we hanging out” should be taken to a private conversation, whether it’s Facebook messaging, DM on Twitter, private snapchat (???), anything. The whole world shouldn’t see you debating whether you can make the 8pm showing of Lucy or if you should go to the 9:45pm one just to be safe. On Twitter you might be able to get away with this more, since if you message someone only the people who follow both of you can see it, but after a while it’s probably easier to switch to email anyway.

2. Don’t RSVP on someone’s public page- If you’ve been invited to a Facebook event or something like that, RSVP through that page. Don’t write out why you can’t come on the host’s page, because maybe they wanted the event kept private, and definitely don’t RSVP on social media for an invitation you got in the mail. Similarly, don’t try to host a party through your public social media pages. Saying “come to my house for a BBQ on Saturday” will either get you hundreds of people asking for your address, or you having to explain to a bunch of strangers that you don’t actually want them there. YMMV depending on privacy settings, etc., but if you have 20 people you want to invite, just invite them.

3. Don’t ask people to be part of huge life events– It’s already known that it’s a bit tacky to talk endlessly about your wedding or baby or other events on Facebook, considering you don’t want to broadcast a party that most people won’t be invited to. In that same spirit, do not ask people to be part of these events in public. Recently, my husband showed me something that popped up on his Facebook feed, where one girl wrote on another’s wall, asking her to be a bridesmaid, and naming three other women who were already on board. Would you have this conversation in a room of 50 people with everyone listening? Then don’t do it on Facebook.

4. Don’t post disgusting pictures– Pictures of you and your new baby? Awesome. Picture of your new baby covered in its own vomit? Maybe not.

5. Don’t post anything super judgmental- As usual, this is a case of “know your audience,” but posts where you’re judging a large group of people on their actions, or acting really sanctimonious about your own, are just inviting trouble. Even if you think you’re really close to all your Facebook friends, you never know what someone else’s personal life is like, and you may inadvertently be insulting a good friend.

6. Don’t be passive aggressive– It gets really, really tempting to subtweet and hint at some larger drama in your life, and you may think that by avoiding naming names, you can get away with this. But chances are, someone in your feed knows who you’re talking about and will figure it out. Plus, etiquette usually dictates you confront anyone about personal issues directly and as soon as possible, so you’re probably not even letting this problem escalate to the level where you’d need to do this, right?

Don’t worry, there are still plenty of things you can do! For instance, you can post fun or interesting articles, promote yourself, create events or just make a lot of bad jokes. You can actually keep in touch with people and have funny and inane conversations with people you live thousands of miles away from.