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TV/Film Pics or it didn't happen: FOMO culture and Fyre Festival

Feb. 8, 2019
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With the recent release of both Netflix and Hulu documentaries about the notorious Fyre Festival, the highs and lows of an experience sold via social media and bought by celebrity-worshippers and social media influencers have been pushed back into the public eye once again. 

Need a recap? Fyre Festival was a luxury music festival that was supposed to take place on the Bahamian island of Great Exuma over two weekends in April and May of 2017. Attendees were to stay in luxury tents and be served high-class cuisine, all while partying on a private island previously owned by Pablo Escobar.  The festival became famous for its use of models and social media influencers in advertisement, including Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, and Emily Ratajkowski, as well as Fyre’s extensive participation in fraudulent activities to raise funds for the festival. The festival later flopped as attendees arrived to FEMA tents and cheese sandwiches; it became an internet meme after attendees paid anywhere from $500 to $12,000, the latter of which included airfare and luxury tent accommodations.

As a result of the festival, Fyre founder Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule are the subjects of a $100 million lawsuit in the state of California. It was filed on behalf of plaintiff Daniel Jung by entertainment lawyer Mark Geragos, who is seeking class action status for the lawsuit with more than 150 plaintiffs who suffered “damages” due to the festival. 

Perhaps the most curious of all the details surrounding Fyre Festival was its promotion launch. The company used a now infamous orange tile picture on Instagram that influencers were all supposed to post at the same time across the globe. This orange tile caused an entire generation of millenials scrolling through Instagram to stop, click on the Fyre Festival Instagram profile, and go to desperate measures; some took on two or three additional jobs to pay for their ticket, and others quit their jobs altogether if their bosses wouldn’t give them time off. All of these themes are touched upon in the Fyre Festival documentaries, but the influence of FOMO (“fear of missing out”) on the radical actions that took place surrounding Fyre Festival is definitely still worth looking into.

FOMO was developed for millennials by millennials. The phrase was coined to describe the loneliness and isolation that many millennials and social media users experience when presented with a person, experience, or “facade” of a life that looks more exciting or fulfilling than their own. In a way, social media serves only to amplify this feeling. 

The experience of being able to instantaneously view another individual’s “highlight reel” has worsened the unstable nature of millennials’ relationship with the internet. While social media is a place to explore new ideas and broaden one’s knowledge and creativity, it is also watered down with experiences curated and selected by influencers to cause envy. This is exactly why Fyre Festival’s marketing scheme worked so well. The unfortunate reality is that envy and jealousy sell. It is hard to watch a promotional video made as well as Fyre Festival’s and not want to be on the beach, partying with beautiful models, listening to great music, and eating elegant food. When your daily life consists of trying to get by at a nine-to-five desk job, praying you’ll have enough money each month to chip at towering student loans, and wondering if everyone else in the world is having fun without you, going to Fyre Festival understandably feels like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

But this is where reality comes into play. Fyre Festival was built on FOMO and social-media culture, and it was destroyed by this same principles. Once allegations of Fyre Festival’s terrible conditions began flooding Twitter, including the now famous cheese sandwich picture, the FOMO culture that had worked to promote Fyre Festival was now destroying it. Instead of desperately wishing to go to the festival, the public was now getting FOMO about potentially missing out on making Twitter memes and jokes about all of the people that had spent so much money to attend a joke of a festival.