July 22, 2016

Rambling thoughts on FOMO, email and the news of the world

Filed under: Media, Personal Blog, Technology — marcstober @ 4:44 pm

I have over 50 thousand messages in my inbox. Most of them unread.

Cheryl makes fun of me for it because she manages to keep pretty close to “inbox zero.” But I think she’s more the exception than I am.

It’s all FOMO. For example, I just deleted hundreds of message from Glassdoor. But I’m hesitant to completely unsubscribe. What if I missed the perfect job or bit of career advice? It could be like leaving money, or my happiness, on the table.

Heck, I don’t want to unsubscribe to coupons I might get. I just got an e-mail from a certain business and was reminded to use a $20 promotional gift card before it expired. Score! If I delete promotional offers what I end up needing what they’re promoting? Unsubscribing from Constant Contact with its “SafeUnsubscribe” is especially fraught. It make is hard for a company to add you back to a list, even if you want them to, without an extra opt-in. I suppose the one time it happened (that I wanted to restart getting news from a certain company) it worked out but….

Of course, the thing about FOMO is that it’s not humanly possible to keep up with everything. By definition, you are missing out on 99.99% of what is going on in the world. If you’re a big media junkie, 99.98%. (Not exact numbers, but you get the point.)

The interesting thing is that we ever think we weren’t missing out on most of everything. There is this expectation that we are supposed to be keeping up with everything. For my parents’ generation, that was watching the nightly news. Which has turned into having CNN on, all the time.

The usual fiction goes like this: there is normally nothing going on and if there is, then we hear about it and do something about it. For example, if there’s a murder or an accident in our community, we expect to turn on the news or open the paper and hear about it. And there’s a response, and then things would recover and go back to normal. I don’t think I’m the only for whom that’s the expectation of normal, even though I know that not every disaster in someone’s life is actually in the news.

Presumably there is some weird mash-up of human brains evolved to participate in communities of hundreds or thousands of people, and technology that makes a small world out of millions or billions of us. I may lead a someone privileged life, but in a community of thousands—a college campus, my office building, the public schools on my side of town—this pattern holds. Emergencies happen once in a while, and we notice them, and respond, and recover.

It is so hard not to apply that principle to the whole world. Something terrible happened somewhere, we’ll see it on TV or the Internet, respond, and things will go back to normal.

It is so hard to really believe that the world as a whole is so big. That the one-in-a-million event in a small community is a daily event in the world, and the pattern of news, response, and recovery doesn’t apply.

The irony is that fear of missing out on everything doesn’t mean I’m not missing out on something. How do I not miss out on what I really don’t want to miss out on?

November 26, 2013

Feeling Inadequate About Feeling Inadequate (as a man)

Filed under: Gender, Media, Personal Blog — marcstober @ 8:02 am

I’m always hearing it’s a problem how media portrayals of women set unrealistic expectations: how they should look, how they should eat, how they should work, how they should be as girlfriends and wives and mothers. Maybe it’s a more of an issue for women than men, but men have the same issue–at least this man does. It’s insidious because the messages are usually subtle. But sometimes they are so ridiculous they just make you laugh, and remind you that you shouldn’t be paying so much attention to what other people think at all.

Like the profile of Bryan Goldberg in the New Yorker with this picture of him surrounded by women, one of whom he’s using as a desk:


I feel inadequate as a man because because I’m not Goldberg. Driven by money and sports. Doesn’t read books, but is president of his own company. Says he doesn’t care about beauty, but gets all the beautiful women. I bet he eats steak and drinks whiskey.

Ironically, 50 years ago, mid-century modern decor was considered progressive, while the media’s portrayal of a successful male would have been old-fashioned nobility, complete with smoking jackets, and certainly not in Brooklyn. Then, the way you would degrade a woman was by making her do your typing. In today’s image, the possibly Ivy-League-educated woman is positioned so she can’t use her hands while the alpha male does his own typing; he can communicate with the outside world via WiFi but she has to remain focused on him.

The hard part is, while I feel inadequate because I’m not Goldberg, I also feel inadequate because I’m not the perfect liberal above the temptation either. I like shiny new MacBooks. And I’m still a cismale who’s attracted to 25-year-olds in short skirts and high heels (or boots…). And, while it’s not my thing, I know perfectly decent guys who actually do like football, or the stock market, or beer and steak. I could just be thankful that I have the freedom to sit at a Starbucks drinking good coffee, blogging on my MacBook, watching all the attractive people go by, plus I have a great wife and kids that love me. I mean, most men should be so lucky. (Well, except that you can’t really find a seat at Starbucks, they just give the illusion of a third place to attract customers and make their money in take out. But that’s another topic…)

But, no, the media has to remind us that a real man would get a woman use her bare legs as a desk for his laptop. (Which, as I sit with my Macbook in my own lap to write this, I realize would get hot enough to seriously burn her.)

Of course, really, the photographer probably posed them this way. I’d like to think he had all of this mind.

Thanks to “Blogging Like A Mother” by Kara Van Cleaf (who’s a graduate student at CUNY; I have a graduate degree from CUNY!) via @sarahkendzior (who’s from St. Louis, where I also went to school!). Photograph by Pari Dukovic; while I do not have his permission to use it here I believe it is legal according to the principle of fair use.