A few weeks ago I was at a restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the annoyingly pretentious kind that's given an ironic Hebrew name because its menu mainly consists of pork and shellfish dishes.
Usually I Instagram Story my experience — after all, how can one enjoy their meal unless everyone else they know can see what they are eating? — but on this occasion I put away my phone. It wasn't because I was enjoying the company of close friends as we shared multiple small plates portioned for a toddler. Nor was it because I wanted to disconnect from technology.
It was because another friend had invited me to hang out, but I told her I didn't feel like going out that night. If she saw my posts on social, it would start a petty fight that I, as a woman in my 30s, don't have the time or patience to deal with.
This isn't FOMO, or fear of missing out. If anything this is more like ROMO — rage originated by missing out.
Instagram, Snapchat and other platforms are supposed to connect people, or as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg constantly reminds us, "bring the world closer together." But as in-the-moment posts become more popular, they create digital receipts of our white lies thanks to a neurotic obsession of capturing minutiae of our on-goings. At the same time, it's also turning us into paranoid voyeurs who jealously look through every post to see if we've been excluded from the fun for some reason we've concocted in our heads.
While you're probably not shedding a tear over the unshared photos of my kung pao sweetbread dinner, the societal requirement to post the highlights our lives has devolved us into a constant state of middle-school drama.
A recent example: A friend and her boyfriend had to choose between two weddings to attend on the same weekend where the couples did not have mutual friends. After they decided on attending her friend's nuptials, the boyfriend asked her not to post anything on social media —despite the fact she had never met the other couple. He spent the rest of the night avoiding being in anyone's posts.
"I also wasn't invited to his friend's wedding — no plus one — so f--- them," my friend explained.
Another colleague had the urge to hang out with an acquaintance so she texted her. She didn't receive a response, but later saw woman's post on Instagram Stories of her with mutual friends at her apartment. It was a social event my colleague feels could have easily been invited to, and now she's wondering why she was left out.
"It was three of my friends with her dog watching TV," she recounted. "That's literally the captions, 'Lazy night in.'"
Before you blame this on millennials or Gen Z, this is not a youth problem. I've got family members angrily commenting on posts asking why they weren't invited to certain events. My own mother has told me not to post photos of us together, lest others will know we were hanging out. (Sorry Mom.)
This argument that social media is this force to help foster friendships couldn't be further from the truth. It's tearing us apart. Now, excuse me while I hide this post from all my social media accounts before my friends and family find out I'm talking about them.