By Nina Rubin
In 2011, Catarina Fake popularized the term “FOMO,” or fear of missing out.
Ironically, five years later, we’re still talking about it, experiencing it and wondering how we can curate our Instagram feeds so we look like we’re the nuclei of the universe. A year later, in 2012, Anil Dash wrote about “JOMO,” the joy of missing out, when his wife went into labor the same night as his Prince concert tickets. Naturally, he skipped the concert and witnessed the birth of his child.
Now it’s 2016 and I have two Instagram feeds, three Facebook pages and a Twitter account. I’m not on Periscope, Snapchat, Slack or any other social media, but often question whether I should join them. So many people constantly snap the mundane and then need approval before posting many of their pictures or stories (listen to the recent This American Life episode entitled “Status Update”). It seems like this world of curated Instagram feeds is all about collage and meme apps. All of this stuff helps people portray their pictures with professionalism and also makes them feel cool or relevant, and shows the world that they’re doing something unique and special with their time.
Unbelievably, for many people, there is a great amount of effort and thought that goes into curating a social media presence that resonates with one’s real life character.
I’m faced with the topics of FOMO and JOMO as I decide what to post and what to keep private. Do I show pictures of real life on social media? Is it appropriate to pretend I’m having a great time? Over the last few years, I’ve seen hundreds of personal trainers, health and wellness coaches, love gurus, self-made entrepreneurs, business specialists, and holistic-aura readers pop into the social media realm and promote themselves with the use of fancy font and stark white backgrounds. I read swirly Marilyn Monroe quotes and stoic directives to live a full life. There are countless people promoting themselves doing super-fun activities and hashtagging their ways through life.
While people are incessantly busy with their phones and tablets, I wonder how any work gets done. These questions circle my mind:
- Does a fancy Instagram feed drive sales for service providers?
- Do you curate your own feed or have you hired someone to spread your message? What were the results?
- And what if you’re not really having fun, but it’s a scenic or picturesque place? Do you pose anyway, to capture the moment? Does the moment portray your brand?
- Is marketing yourself the key to living a full life? Or does marketing show others that you know how to have a vigorous life?
I used to feel a sense of FOMO if I stayed in at night—especially on weekends when everyone else was out having fun. Anxiety and FOMO would also hit when I realized I wasn’t adept at photography, graphic design or beach volleyball. I often felt like I wasn’t an interesting person and I’d internalize my lack of skill or social plans, thinking I was not good enough. I compared myself to other peoples’ status updates and group photos. I was blind to the fact that I was actually doing and what truly made me happy, rather than perceiving a livelier experience of others while trolling social media apps.
Suddenly, I woke up and realized that I wasn’t really afraid, nor was I really missing out. In other words, my FOMO diagnosis was incorrect and inconclusive. Maybe the catalyst was time, or experience—or probably more than anything else, it was confidence and belief in myself.
I’ve made a conscious decision to devote time and energy saying yes (or no) to things that are real, rather than abstractly wondering if I could be doing something better.
Anil Dash describes JOMO and says:
So often, we point the finger at our technologies for creating the fears, the insecurities, the tensions that arise in our social lives as they get increasingly run by social software. But if tech is to blame for our feelings (and I’m not sure I want to concede that point), then certainly we can make apps and sites and software that makes us joyously celebrate for the good time that our friends and loved ones and even complete strangers are having when they go about living their lives.
My response is that I need to put my phone down and actually enjoy the moment. Each time I set my phone on silent or leave it in my handbag, I’m much happier and more present to the experience. Additionally, I’ve had a recent revelation that not only have I not missed out on something, it’s okay to decidedly pass. We are not obligated to like or be good at everything. There are some things I simply don’t have a strong desire to learn and that’s A-OK. I no longer feel self-pressure to be good at everything or develop certain skills just because they’re popular on social media or in real life.
Instead, there’s a certain respite in being enough.
My own JOMO moments are a giant relief. It feels awesome to realize the pressure is off and I can choose to say yes and no, rather than wistfully stare at my phone waiting for invitations for something better to potentially roll around. My JOMO is not actually Joy Of Missing Out; it’s Joy of Choice, or JOC.
There’s no fear or missing out in my current status update.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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- Ask Nina: My Husband Passed Away, How Do I Move On? - September 10, 2016