scholarly communication

FOMO: Fear of Missing Out

I’m coming up on the end of my residency at the University of Chicago, which means I’m back out on the job market. I’m throwing out CVs, composing letters of interest, and constantly looking at job ads. I’ve also spent a lot of time looking at my peers. Finding librarians who finished their MLIS around the same time I did, and seeing what they have done in their time since. Today was an especially deep dive in other peoples’ accomplishments. Today was also a day when I left the library demoralized.

I walked out of the doors frustrated at myself. I felt like there were people out there that were doing better than me, that I hadn’t achieved enough in my first two years of being a librarian. I needed to be on more committees, I needed to publish and present more. I needed to be more active on social media.

And then I turned on the podcast Hidden Brain. For those of you not familiar, Hidden Brain is a podcast hosted by NPR that distills social science research to explain unconscious patterns of human behavior. I started listening to it after hearing teasers on my morning news. It’s always interesting, very digestible, and short (30 min).

This edition of Hidden Brain was focused on social media. Shankar Vendantam took a brief look on how and why we use social media, and how use of social media can affect our perception of self. He featured very interesting ongoing research on how social media can contribute to diminished enjoyment of one’s current experiences. And as I was listening to this, I couldn’t help but saying, ‘yaaaaasssss.’

The phenomenon of looking at others online, be it their social feed or their current CV, is the phenomenon of constantly comparing yourself to others. The constant comparison can break you down until you think you’re not good enough. As Ohad Barzilay says in the episode,

“it’s not that you think that others are happier [or better] than you are, but you need to prove yourself to yourself over and over again, and this social comparison engagement makes you less happy.”

So how can I use this in the future? When I look at others’ profiles, analyze their publication history, I need to remind myself that theirs is not my story, and they are only showing the best side of their professional history.

Rather than compare myself to others, I need to work on comparing my accomplishments to the goals I set for myself. Two years ago, I had established a few goals for myself:

  1. Be published
  2. Be professionally involved
  3. Find a job after the residency is over

I’ve achieved two, and am well on my way to knocking out the third. Rather than getting down that I haven’t achieved as much as other people, I should be proud that I achieved what I set out to do.

What do you think? Where is the balance between comparing yourself to others and being present in your own profession?

Currently listening to: Perfume Genius: Slip Away


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