Misc for Monday, June 30, 2014

My name is Mike Morrow, and I am addicted to my phone and the Web. I’m not proud of it, but it’s true. More specifically, I believe that my proclivities toward Internet distraction are the result of a different affliction: that of FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out.

Wikipedia defines FOMO as:

a form of social anxiety — a compulsive concern that one might miss an opportunity for social interaction, a novel experience, profitable investment or other satisfying event. This is especially associated with modern technologies such as mobile phones and social networking services such as Facebook and LinkedIn, which provide constant opportunity for comparison of one’s status.

I first became aware of the phenomenon—and felt an uncomfortable twinge of recognition—a couple years ago, when I came across this NYT piece, “Feel Like a Wallflower? Maybe It’s Your Facebook Wall.” The term was added to the Oxford Dictionaries Online in 2013. As reported on HuffPo, University of Essex’s Dr. Andrew Przybylski has studied the phenomenon (full study here) and found:

“Social media engagement presents a high-efficiency, low-friction path for those who are oriented toward a continual connection with what is going on,” he writes. “There is good reason then to expect that those who are high in fear of missing out gravitate toward social media.” Sufferers of FOMO were more likely to check their phones as soon as they woke up in the morning, right before they went to bed and, disturbingly, while they were driving.

Kevin Holesh saw a similar pattern in his own life, and not only wrote about it on Medium, but wrote an app (Moment) that tracks daily iPhone use and provides alerts when you use the device for “too long.” There’s something delicious about the irony in that, wouldn’t you agree?

All of which is clearly different than the separate pathology (the narcissism?) that drives us to proclaim our every thought on every social network…or to start an email newsletter.

(Shhh. Don’t say it.)

Truth is, we are still early-days when it comes to understanding how all this technology at our fingertips is affecting our minds and our culture. Indeed, “computer metaphors are ‘invading’ our language.” And just this weekend came the disturbing news that Facebook has experimented with its users in a massive “psychology experiment.”

While I refuse to go the Jonathan Franzen route and blame the Internet for everything (my own experience provides ample room for optimism), I think we have to be careful what we wish for, and vigilant on the ways that our technologies affect what we perceive as “real life.”

PSA about backups:

Speaking of your digital life and how important it may or may not be, I must also confess to being one of those dreadful people who will talk at you incessantly about making sure your digital life is backed up. Twice. Ideally three times: one local, one offsite, one in the cloud (I use Backblaze). I’m a total prick about it. These days there are almost no excuses for you to not have a solid backup strategy, especially if you use a Mac.

My favorite disappointed nerd, good friend and Internet Pope TJ Luoma has written a fantastic resource for getting started with Mac backups over at TUAW. Read it, save it, live it.

One of my other favorite Web writers, Matt Gemmel, also just wrote up his thoughts on the subject.


The best thing I cooked last week was Ellie Krieger’s Corn and Quinoa Salad with Chicken Sausage. If you’re not familiar with Krieger—we first learned of her from her short-run Food Network show—I recommend you check out some of her recipes or cookbooks. Her food is consistently tasty and accessible. Along with Mark Bittman, she’s become a go-to recipe author when we don’t know what else to make.

Bittman himself had a great op-ed in the New York Times (“Rethinking the Word ‘Foodie’”). It touches some of my all-time favorite topics: food, language and semiotics, activism. I won’t spoil it by quoting too much—go read the full piece—but here’s the setup:

We can’t ask everyone who likes eating — which, given enough time and an adequate income, includes everyone I’ve ever met — to become a food activist. But to increase the consciousness levels of well-intentioned foodies, it might be useful to sketch out what “caring about good food” means, and to try to move “foodie” to a place where it refers to someone who gets beyond fun to pay attention to how food is produced and the impact it has.

The best thing I didn’t make, but believe me when I tell you I’ve been thinking about it a lot is this recipe for One Big Chocolate Chip Cookie.

Three other things to think about:

Have a great week, and enjoy the Fourth of July holiday here in the States!