When it comes to culture, I consider myself to be pretty on top of things. My Google Reader is chock full of relevant blogs, my iTunes is brimming with MP3s from the newest “buzz bands” (though honestly, I most likely won’t care about most of them after the next few months), and minus a few rom-com guilty pleasures, my Netflix queue is pretty stellar. I like to think of my social life as being above par, which is saying a lot for twenty-something Brooklyn standards. It’s kind of awkward to say out loud, but in marketer terms, I might be a tastemaker, or something like that.
But alas, I did not attend SXSW this year, nor have I ever. I don’t work in the music industry (or whatever other industry that would send me there on their tab), I’m not in a band, and I guess I don’t care enough to make the effort to go there on my own. So last month, when my Twitter feed started exploding with tweets about the alt-celebrity sightings, the insanity of watching Odd Future and James Blake live, and the deliciousness of Austin’s Mexican food, I admittedly felt a twinge of jealousy. At first, hearing about the shows, parties, and ridiculousness of it all was entertaining – something I could live through vicariously. But after the first two days, and the seventy-seventh time I scrolled past yet another blog post on some awesome show where everyone was wasted on margaritas by noon, I was starting to get bummed. Or annoyed. Most likely a mixture of both.
I spent most of that same week of the middle of March sitting at home on my laptop, working from home at a mediocre job I really don’t care about, while attempting to fight the “it’s March, it should feel like spring, why does it still feel like the death of winter” blues. Meanwhile, I couldn’t escape from the epic tales of SXSW. The internet wouldn’t stop telling me how I was missing the biggest party of the year, at least for the elusive 18-34 year-old hipster demographic that I’m associated with.
The same feelings came about a few weeks later when LCD Soundsystem played their final shows. Everywhere I looked – newspapers, blogs, Twitter, Facebook – someone was talking about how amazingly epic James Murphy and the rest of his band was. There were three sets! A video of crowdsourced cloud footage! The Arcade Fire joined them on stage! Aziz Ansari was crowdsurfing! Okay guys, I get it. It was awesome, the end of an era even, and I wasn’t there. The weekend of Coachella, it happened again. Kanye West killed it. The Arcade Fire killed it. The Strokes killed it. Young adults ran free to the soundtrack of our generation, wearing revealing clothing and basking in the desert sun.
A recent New York Times article explored this phenomenon, awkwardly titling it “FOMO” or “fear of missing out.” I honestly want nothing to do with the term “FOMO,” but there’s no denying that it’s a thing that exists – a new form of anxiety brought on by the ever-communicative Internet.
I can rationalize to myself that the Internet tends to make things sound more important than they really are – but I’d be lying if I said that I’ve never worried about the fact that missing out on major events such as these might mean that I’m missing out on defining points of my generation’s culture. Am I not living my youth to its fullest? After all, I’m only in my twenties – shouldn’t I be spending my last few drops of youth on the most excitement possible?
I can tell myself all I want that SXSW sounds exhausting, that LCD Soundsystem was better when I saw them 5 years ago, or that Coachella was full of fake L.A. girls costumed as hipsters for the day. I can also tell myself that a lot of these events were blown-up through online hype. But the fact of the matter is, I know I’d have an awesome time at all of these things, and it sucks that I wasn’t there.