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For Millennials, Social Media Is Not All Fun and Games

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“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by FOMO…” If Allen Ginsberg was born 60 years later, it’s safe to say that Howl, the seminal poem he wrote in 1955 about the Beat Generation, may have been a bit different. He may have instead worried about what MTV calls FOMO, or the “Fear of Missing Out.”

It’s not exactly news that the Millennial Generation (loosely defined as people born between 1980 and 2000) spend a lot of time on websites like Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. But according to recent findings from a study conducted by MTV, for today’s young people, the constant social networking isn’t all fun and games. While more than half of the Millennials polled by MTV agreed with the statement “what I post online defines who I am,” a full 66 percent of them also said they find it “exhausting to always be ‘on’.”

And simply walking away from the computer doesn’t always alleviate the tension. MTV’s research confirmed that unplugging often leads to FOMO, or the “Fear of Missing Out”: 58 percent of study participants agreed that “when I’m unplugged, I worry that I’m missing out on something.”

Though young people have definitely led the charge for online social networking, I think MTV’s study just provides statistical backup to what many people have known for years: The Internet can be a double-edged sword for people of all ages. Anyone who’s active online knows that the same sites that provide the most satisfaction can also be the source of a strange new kind of stress. I think Hunch and Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake put it best in a post on her personal blog last month:

“FOMO is a great motivator of human behavior, and I think a crucial key to understanding social software, and why it works the way it does… There is a company that sells radar equipment to the police as well as radar detectors to the public. Clorox is one of the world’s worst polluters of water, and also sells Brita filters to get the bad stuff out of the water again. Lawyers create mazes that you have to hire a lawyer to escape. Similarly social software both creates and cures FOMO.”

Personally, I’ve found that Caterina is absolutely right in that FOMO can only be treated with the hair of the dog. If I spend a passive hour or two on Facebook or Twitter reading other people’s updates, I can start to feel lonely, agitated, and vaguely resentful– in short, I get a nasty case of FOMO. So I’ve made it a personal policy to try and equate my production and my consumption on the Internet. By making a concerted effort to spend roughly the same amount of time contributing to social networking sites as I do passively reading them, I keep the FOMO at bay.

Social networking can have major drawbacks as well as perks for folks in the Millennial Generation, the Baby Boom, and beyond. If you have any sure-fire ways to ward off FOMO, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

9 Responses to “For Millennials, Social Media Is Not All Fun and Games”

    • Colleen Taylor

      That’s really interesting Luke; I wonder what it was about the different formats that caused FOMO on one and not the other.

      I’m certainly not quitting either anytime soon, so for me it’s been about managing the negative and positive effects. Although I definitely admire the discipline of going cold turkey!

  1. Colleen, It’s no brainer to see that social media is here to stay for good. Given vast variety of the existing channels to choose and stick with, it’s time for such a hot space to enter into a new category. There is a need for a portal to provide a quick and intelligent decision for both the consumer and the enterprise about their online connections.

    A Platform to Help us to Distinguish Our Quality vs. Quantity Friends, Fans, Followers, and Companies

    Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, Flickr and others have been doing a decent job of providing additional marketing exposure and even in some cases, additional revenue. However, as more and more social networking sites pop up, how do you manage your brand across all these channels? Maybe more importantly, which one of these sites should you select as the one that will help you best reach your target audience? The proliferation of the social media avenues is becoming overwhelming.

    This glut of information reminds me of the early 90’s when WWW was adopted broadly by the general public. Every company rushed to have a presence, to the point it became literally impossible to find the right information on the Web. That’s when a better generation of search engines – at first the Yahoo! and then Google – entered the market and helped us find the most relevant information by just typing simple keywords in their search box. If you had asked before Google launched, if there was a need for another search engine – most would have said no, we already have those….

    Then came Web 1.0 & 2.0 – Youtube, Flickr, myspace, Facebook, Twitter and countless others have turned everyday people into content producers, influencers and experts. We basically tripled down on the information overload How do you know which channels to select for deploying your social media strategy? How do you know which one is the right channel to let your fans and followers to find you, your products, and services? Most importantly, who is Joe Smith that is recommending that person, that company, that product?

    I hope my can accomplish such a mission. The site is not another social networking platform. Yet the portal to all your existing social media channels. The platform helps you, your fans, your potential clients to make an intelligent decision as to which company to connect to or follow via which social media channels and why? It’s free!

    CEO & Founder

  2. The interesting thing is that the more ‘social’ people think they are, the less they actually are.
    Sitting at a computer or attached to your smart phone & having conversations or ‘following’ people doesn’t make you ‘social’ in the sense of the word.
    Agree with both of you, Balance is key :)

  3. Get some perspective on what’s important in life. Learn to use the Off button. Spend some time with somebody important in your life. Its really not that hard.