FOMO Factory Does It for the Gram

The new, colorful "immersive selfie space" arrives

Missing your inner child? They may be at the FOMO Factory. (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

I've noticed, lately, that Instagram is reshaping my brain. I'll be eating something particularly pretty, or out on a walk with my friend's cute and rambunctious dogs, and think, "Wouldn't this be a great time to take a picture?" Increasingly, my life is broken down into little visually appealing squares, like glossy-topped Pop-Tarts, tabs of acid with cartoon characters printed on them, and I don't think I'm the only person for whom this is true. Instagram seems to be spilling over into real life, as restaurants and coffee shops and museums figure out that's what we really want. More than that great cup of coffee, or delicious dish, or life-changing exhibition, we want something to photograph.

Enter the FOMO Factory. Billed as Austin's first "immersive selfie space," this two-story interactive pop-up art space promises to lead visitors on "an experiential journey through childhood." This is youth reimagined for millennial adults, obsessively documented through a highly filtered, color-popping lens. "We expect people will come for the selfies," said co-founder Rachel Youens, "but what they'll discover is a fully curated experience filled with theatre, tastes, and music specially designed to tap into childhood nostalgia." Collaboratively designed by Youens and Kara Whitten (of sugar-sweet lifestyle brand Kailo Chic), the Factory consists of a series of nostalgically designed rooms, including a birthday party, a school dance, and a playground complete with a lemonade stand, all aiming to help you get in touch with your spontaneous inner child.

Photo by David Brendan Hall

"We want to take you back to that time as a kid when everyone was a potential friend, every day was exciting, and your heart ached for your first crush," said Youens. At $23 for an hourlong tour, this regression is cheaper than a session with your local Freudian therapist. Visitors leave their names at the door and are given a nickname, à la Nineties ravers or visitors to that secret society in Eyes Wide Shut, before progressing through seven rooms full of selfie opportunities with a nostalgic bent, like the music room, where you'll be given a cassette player and a mixtape to listen to as you lounge on an oversized swing. The experience culminates in a selfie museum classic: the ball pit, where you can lie back and try to look carefree as your most patient and internet-savvy friend photographs you from above.

There's a self-consciousness at play here too, though. The Factory isn't just about experiencing the immersive magic of escaping into your pre-cell phone id: It's about selfies, y'all. After all, the name stands for the internet acronym referencing our collective fear of missing out, that uncanny frisson of regret you feel when, tucked up on your couch binge-watching Netflix and obsessively refreshing your feed, you see your friends posting images of themselves somewhere infinitely more glamorous and picturesque. FOMO is the feeling that propels you off your couch to that party you weren't sure you wanted to attend, into the indeterminable line at the latest oh-so-hip brunch spot. The propulsive mixture of neuroticism and joie de vivre that demands you get up off your butt and see and be seen, at least in digital form. A fitting name for a place that will be providing profile pics for all your friends for months to come. At least until the next can't-miss selfie opportunity crops up.

FOMO Factory, Sept. 14-Oct. 21, 720 Red River. Tickets and info at See our FOMO photogallery at

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FOMO Factory, Kara Whitten, Rachel Youens, Instagram, selfies

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