One stupidly-early morning while I was playing bleary-eyed with my spry-eyed son with the TV on in the background, I decided to stray from the staple diet of cocaine-induced children’s TV presenters lest I grow homicidal tendencies. Suddenly I shot bold upright.
I noticed a show title I hadn’t seen since I was young: Cheers.
Where everybody knows my name!
I moved to change channel.
And they’re always glad I came!
If you were there, you know what a deep impact American TV from the 80s makes. Jingle driven, plot light and safe for all ages, but boy do I remember this show.
For a few minutes I was transported back in time. A simple time. A time I knew had long blown past me and will likely never return for my son’s generation: a time of JOMO (Joy Of Missing Out).
I sat open jawed and watched a few segments of the show. Here was a sitcom that lasted 11 seasons from 1982 to 1993 and churned out 270 episodes (including three double-length episodes and triple length finale). Never again will a run like that be repeated in today’s on-demand, throw away society.
It was a show about a bunch of people in bar. Pretty much a talking heads comedy. In one location.
But I digress. What got me was the JOMO. The characters didn’t have social networks or mobile phones. They enjoyed the company of other humans, had long-form conversations with slow burn punch lines and yelled out “NORM!” when the character Norm Petersen entered the bar.
And if the bar or pay phone rang, everyone in the bar would all shout (this is emotional for me) “I’m not here.”
“I’m not here” (!!!) <-- think about that! These people wanted to be off the grid. Nay, quested to be off the grid. JOMO is the opposite of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). The latter term was coined to describe an “always-on”, “always connected” generation that are driven by… well, fear of missing out an update – any update – on anyone else’s life or promoting their own life for public liking. The former term is a backlash for people remembering a time when humans did congregate to shut the world out for sustained lengths of time and focus for more than three minutes on one task, or one conversation. Granted, Cheers was scripted and written during an era when people made an appointment to be with their TV to watch a show (or at least had an engineering degree to figure out how to set the VCR to tape it) and then go on to discuss the plots over a coiled-cord telephone call or the next day at work. I say this because I was there, man.
Imagine what Cheers would look like today. People instagramming their beers and sharing them, refreshing their screens obsessively for the little red “like” notification before sipping their brew. Imagine the selfies generated, the A.D.D. style conversations, people answering a phone in the middle of conversation and the fact that someone like Norm Petersen would have to compete – yes, compete – to be “Mayor of Cheers” on a social network not by length of service or size of bar tab, but by number of check-ins.
The world has changed from a time of “I’m not here” to “I’m here, look, I’m here. Everyone needs to know!”
A friend of mine summed up Twitter as “public masturbation”. I don’t think he was far off.
As the show ended, the famous Cheers jingle in saxophonic glory played over the credits. I was nostalgic.
But I also decided that while I was playing with my son, my phone would not be near. He may be growing up in a FOMO generation, but that doesn’t mean the lessons Cheers taught me can’t be his as well. Like Ying/Yang, he also needs to learn about JOMO.
The Social Media Generation