FOMO – New Media are Designed for the Fear of Missing Out

As I’ve been participating in Infomagical, an attempt to MOOC-up a week-long learning experience in information literacy on the part of the fine podcast Note to Self, their recent episode on FOMO has sprung back into my consciousness. Infomagical has been fairly cool, but a few comments – gems in a podcast that otherwise wavers between interesting and so hipster-navel gazing as to be maddening – are worth sharing.

First, FOMO, Fear Of Missing Out, is a phenomenon that self-replicates and feeds on the impulses woven into social media – to shape our public personas into fabulous brands, to feel anxiety over some lack that can only be pursued, purchased, photographed, shared. FOMO is an echo of instant nostalgia.

Caterina Fake claims in the course of this podcast that we need media literacy to remember how to be human in the face of technology. The tech has a bias – she worries about us “productizing” ourselves as we “peacock” through social media. I couldn’t agree more. Media literacy is an essential piece of education, but it isn’t really in style (so sadly – this was a GREAT organization). As a former student told me last year, “now that I am literate, I just can’t stop seeing.”

Media literacy prepares us to recognize persuasion, to examine subtext and purpose, to expect untold stories and describe them, to become creators ourselves. As we engage in dialogues (multilogues?) through social media, guarding our humanity against the relentless “desire” of design requires the active engagement of a media literate public.

Language, Image, Editing, & Bias: A Quick Case Study

Chuck Norris and his wife Gena recently published a video urging their fellow conservative Americans to get out and vote to end an “attack” on freedom during this “tipping point” election, because “quite possibly, our country as we know it may be lost forever if we don’t change the course in which our country is headed,” which is “the direction of socialism, or something much worse.” Action on the part of Christian evangelicals is urged by the Norris couple in order to head off disaster. Via a series of quotes from Edmund Burke and President Ronald Reagan, the couple paint a goal of fighting the “triumph of evil,” keeping “freedom” from “extinction,” and avoiding “the first step into a thousand years of darkness.” Pathos aplenty drips from this video, stoking fears among their audience of evil, the other, and left-wing politics. Check it out for yourself.


The language employed in this piece is inflammatory, and often delivered by proxy through out of context quotations. Apocalyptic at times, I thought. Which was why I was a bit surprised by the kid-glove treatment given Chuck Norris by Bill O’Reilly on his Fox News show. It is no surprise that the two share a common political condition, but the soft-serve question and lack of a follow-up question by O’Reilly are quickly subsumed by a series of images – boarded up houses and storefronts – flashed over Norris’s unsupported claims about Obama’s economic policies create a clear tone with obvious implications laid down over a discussion devoid of hard facts (insofar as they still exist today!). This could be the basis of an interesting deconstruction and comparison exercise a la the IB Language and Literature curriculum.

http://video.foxnews.com/v/embed.js?id=1834875062001&w=466&h=263

Watch the latest video at <a href=”http://video.foxnews.com”>video.foxnews.com</a>Some questions to guide students may be as follows:

  • What is the purpose of the “Chuck Norris’ dire warning” video?
  • Who is the intended audience of the Norris video?
    • What words or phrases inform your answers above?
  • How are quotes used in the Norris video?
  • How would you describe the relationship between Chuck Norris and the interviewer in the Fox News video?
    • What words or images support your answer?
  • Does the Fox News piece suggest a viewpoint on the part of the media maker for the topic being discussed?
  • How does the Fox News video use images with speech? Why?
  • What sorts of arguments are laid out in the two videos?
  • In a well-written response, support, defend, or qualify the following statement: The media makers behind these two videos hold independent views on the topic of the 2012 presidential election.