FOMO, JOMO & Choice

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. 

cell-phone-iphone-textingI’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.

I give talks to groups and work with clients on staying present. Please visit me at Coaching By Nina Rubin. The photo of me was taken by Zac Wasserman

Please “like” my page on Facebook: Afterdefeat!


12 thoughts on “FOMO, JOMO & Choice

  1. A couple of thoughts on this one: 1) If my Twitter account (by far my most popular social media among others) is building my “brand,” the fact that it hasn’t gotten me a job yet is telling me something, IMO, though I’m not entirely sure what. 2) Because I have a tendency to “overshare,” I do social media as anonymously as I can. For those who like what I’m saying or who I trust, I will gladly share my identity, but because I speak my mind with 100% honesty on Twitter, I do it under an assumed name, 3) I actually had a nightmare about this topic last night. If I follow somebody on Twitter who I like, and they tweet a link to something that has a title I think I’d agree with, I go ahead and RT. The thing is, it may be a while before I go back and actually read the thing they posted. As a result, I had a nightmare last night that I RT’d something that was REALLY racist without realizing it, and hadn’t realized my mistake until much later, so I was in a panic about what everybody (who I don’t know, and who don’t know me, again) must be thinking about me, how I could go back and delete the tweet, or tweet a retraction. It was really scary in the dream, lol. 4) May I do a blog posting that springs off of this one? You touched upon something I’ve observed and that has bothered me a lot for a while now – that social media’s popularity suggests to me that humans still have a rampant desire to connect with other humans, but don’t know how to anymore. Ironically, as you point out, looking at your phone all the time seems to me to send the message that you don’t want to be bothered or “connected” with, when the impulse to post on social media suggests that you (not you specifically, just people in general) do. Some of it might also be an extension of the “curated reality” idea you mentioned, I think, in that we want to connect, but only with people we think we might like, when the real world often doesn’t work that way, IMO. Long story short, lots I could write about from here – may I?


  2. This is really, REALLY cool. I think my own FOMO comes from being in a different timezone to the people I have close friendships with, and I hate going to bed while they’re all still ‘doing’ their evening. I’m getting better at appreciating the ‘Now’, though 🙂 I’m glad you introduced me to JOMO and JOC – thank you 🙂


  3. Great insights and thank you for this outlook. When I initially read this post, it reminded me of something I had written awhile back, here’s a quick excerpt:
    Yesterday I went for a Hike as part of my Sunday/Funday Adventure, towards the end I came across a beautiful view of a beach. (I felt that it was something worth sharing, so I posted it on Facebook etc.) Sometimes I feel that when we compare or lives to others, or we see a snapshot of their lives, we’re forgetting a few important details…The climb up to this spot was treacherous, just one slip and I’d fall all the way down to the bottom. It was nearly vertical, so much so that I was also climbing with my hands. I’m not saying this to get credit, but to point out that to get to this beautiful view, it came at a steep price (pun intended). Sometimes I feel that we see other people’s lives and we don’t ask. How high up did you have to climb to get there, is it something I’m willing to do? How long did it take you to get there, do I have the time to invest in that? How did you get down from there, is it worth my life? So my point is that if you saw this picture and thought wow that’s a great view, and didn’t think of what it took to get there, you’re setting yourself up for failure…
    This brings me to my main point. It always fascinates me that sometimes people use social media as a means to gain external validation. Mostly they’re looking for others to comment on how fabulous their lives are. But in most cases, what we see is a very limited view of what their lives actually are, or what it actually took to get to the view their showing us. I sometimes wonder if you were to pan out the picture, if what we’d instead see is that they’re standing in the middle of chaos, and the view we see is literally the one ray of light.
    Including myself I sometimes have a motive, but I try to be intentional in showing not just my triumphs but my struggles also. I imagine you write and do what you do not for the compliments, and accolades. Rather because you feel that showing your authentic self not only gives others hope; knowing that you’re flawed just like they are. But that your vulnerability gives them courage to overcome their demons.
    If you’re not familiar with Brene Brown, definitely check out her TEDtalk on vulnerability.Oh as a side note, I thought of this after my other comments to you. As for your critics, check out “The Man in the Arena” by Theodore Roosevelt. Keep being a beacon of hope, and your authenticity is much needed in this world. Sorry I’m a bit long winded.


    • What an awesome post! Thank you for your insights and vulnerability. I know and like the Brene Brown talk. I try to write what’s on my mind — even if it’s unpopular or too emotional for many people.

      Sometimes it’s hard to choose what to post on social media. It’s the branding effect of trying to portray ourselves versus submitting cool pictures.

      Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. […] I’m a Life Coach and can be reached through email. Please contact me for accountability and coaching programs. You might also like these blog pieces: The 5 Misconceptions of Low Expectations, 16 Tips I’ve Learned While Working For Myself and FOMO, JOMO & Choice. […]


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