Businesses capitalizing on your FOMO

Jeremiah and I went to Winterlights, an outdoor art installation at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, on Christmas night. When we were there we got in line and started meandering through the various curves and trails.

A group behind us and a group in front of us spent the whole time viewing the lights through their phone screen. If that’s how they prefer to do it, who am I to stop them. But it struck me as vapid and lacking in a sincere experience.

The Museum, for their part, knows this. They’ve increasingly designed exhibits and attractions for the sake of getting lots of photos on Instagram. While I was there and impressed with the work, labor, and creativity of the installers to wrap every tree and bush in thousands of lights, others were there merely to show off to their friends that they were there. That Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is big business for the museum.

There’s a chapter in my book, What Does Your Website Do All Day about social media. Specifically Instagram:

“So, what do you know about how to increase the number of followers on our Instagram?” He said as he walked in our door.

I peeked my head around my monitor. “Well, are you between the age of 18-35, have great teeth, look fantastic with your shirt off, and can be funny on camera?”

He stopped for a second and thought. “No, I don’t guess so.”

“Maybe try LinkedIn then,” I said.

Then he chuckled and asked for more specifics.

It’s the most annoying question people ask me. “How do I get more followers?”

I wonder, “Why do you care? No one will use InstaFaceGram in ten years.” Facebook’s privacy problems and demand for growth will be a problem in three years if not three weeks. Twitter’s already losing money hand over fist. Facebook owns Instagram. And the new hotness, Snapchat, is a slick way for teens to send nude pictures under the guise of “security” because the photos “disappear”.

Because, honestly, what are each of them for? No one goes to Facebook to buy batteries or detergent or book a wedding band or find a doctor. When kids complain Facebook’s no good because everyone’s there, it’s really code for “I can’t post my shirtless selfies in front of grandma.”

Since it was cold, no one was posting their thotty pics that night. But the moment was surely lost on people who, despite being there with friends and family, only focused their attention on capturing a photo of every flashy, pretty thing.

In the end, did they really capture anything at all? The museum did — and to their credit, it works well in their favor for now. But long-term, it seems like a limb far out from the tree for a distinguished museum to hitch their name to.

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Photo of Justin Harter


Justin has been around the Internet long enough to remember when people started saying “content is king”.

He has worked for some of Indiana’s largest companies, state government, taught college-level courses, and about 1.1M people see his work every year.

You’ll probably see him around Indianapolis on a bicycle.

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