I've suffered from the fear of missing out — what the young folks call FOMO — since I was in seventh grade and my preteen heart was certain the popular girls were living a life I knew nothing, but wanted to know everything, about.
And though a love of writing initially drew me into journalism, it was the entrée into exclusive events like New York Fashion Week that kept me hustling. No FOMO here. I was there.
So in 2013 as FOMO peaked — that was the year it landed in the Oxford English Dictionary — and defined our anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere without us, often aroused by posts on social media, I was living the FOMO life. If I was ill, on deadline, visiting family at the holidays and happened to miss say, a bangin' Made in America after party, I would get all in my FOMO feelings.
But something strange is happening.
As my daily scroll through life continues, the Instagram posts of my homies holding frosty glasses of rosé without me don't make me sad. Instead, I revel in the money I saved drinking Cupcake pinot noir on my couch catching up on Starz's Power.
Apparently, I'm subliminally connecting with a slightly newer phenom: the joy of missing out — JOMO. Don't believe me? Just look at all the shared memes — ignore the fact that I'm making you turn to social media to justify not being on social media — that revel in just staying home and chilling. Relaxing. If someone cancels plans, that's OK with us; we'd rather be home. Our pets are in on it, too, featured in memes wrapped up in a blanket like it's a Snuggie, holding a glass of wine.
Last week, I vacationed in Orlando, spent endless hours at the pool, and visited Legoland and Universal Studios with my sister and her kids. I left my cell in our hotel room because why take a chance on losing it? The Omarosa/President Trump and the Tevin Campbell/Aretha Franklin/Awsomely Luvvie drama was yesterday's news by the time I caught up. My JOMO was spending time with my family and being present without worrying about what I was missing.
It was was delicious.
"JOMO is about doing you," said Prince Ghuman, cofounder of the San Francisco company 15-Center, which aims to educate companies about the connections between neuroscience and our behavior as it applies to marketing. "It's about taking a moment out of the day or several days without wondering what your social connections are doing, or broadcasting what you are doing."
"It's about taking back our autonomy over our feelings of self-worth," said Matt Johnson, 15-Center's cofounder.
I think of JOMO as freeing up time in my life for the things that really matter to me. Ironically, that has been a personal quest of mine for the last year.
Some months have been more successful than others.
But in the last few, I've realized taking joy in missing out is about finding the antidote to being tired from being on the go (and on blast) all the time.
"You only have a limited amount of bandwidth," said Pax Tandon, the Philadelphia author of Mindfulness Matters: A Guide to Mastering Your Life, (Schiffer Publishing, 2018) who explained to me that not only are we inundated with social and work obligations, but our social media feeds are also overwrought with negativity, and we are all just exhausted.
"You have to preserve your energy for things that fulfill your purpose." Tandon said. "JOMO is the hack to figuring that out."
FOMO has been driven by our consumer-based lifestyle since the early 1900s, when the phrase "keeping up with the Joneses" was coined in a newspaper comic strip. But it didn't become an idiom until 1996, when marketing strategist Dan Herman applied it to middle managers and entrepreneurs who lived in constant trepidation that a great business opportunity would pass them by.
In 2004, writer Patrick J. McGinnis shortened fear of missing out to FOMO in an op-ed in the Harvard Business School magazine the Harbus. Also using it in marketing jargon, he coined its fraternal twin (and my dating nemesis), fear of a better option, or FOBO. In 2011, New York Times writer Jenna Wortham linked FOMO to our social media addiction, and a hashtag was born. The next year, tech entrepreneur Anil Dash took FOMO to the next level and introduced JOMO on his blog, signifying the beginning of today's collective sense of fatigue.
"Sometimes, you don't go to that amazing event because you're just going to stay home and read a book or watch TV or flick away idly at your phone, only realizing you've missed the moment when it's already too late," Dash wrote. "And then, when you get old and wonderfully, contentedly boring like me, you stay home because you'd rather be there for bathtime and bedtime with the baby than, well, anywhere else in the world."
But we — or at least I — wasn't ready for JOMO yet. I didn't trust that my gut was stronger than the fun I could have had.
My, how time changes things.
Fast-forward six years. In addition to the nightly news coming out of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., that makes my stomach turn, I realized my social media feeds were bubbling with events that weren't really that much fun. Or that made me feel been there, done that. Where is the joy in muscling my way through a crowd just to get a dance and a drink or a front-row seat at a fashion show? These out-and-about folks leave the long lines out and cranky doormen and dirty bathrooms and long drive home at 2 a.m. out, don't they?
"This idea of JOMO, it's a correction," Ghuman said, adding that JOMO is an extension of minimalism. "It's a deliberate rejection of having too many choices. JOMO happened because we got drunk on choice and we realized that these choices, these events, these things we're afraid of missing out on weren't even real. We can't ignore the inauthenticity any more.
Call me spiritually wacky, but the best thing about JOMO is that by giving myself permission to go home and shut down, I'm appreciating the life I have. By unintentionally wanting to take an end-of-summer jaunt on a yacht with bubbly, like some friends, or wishing I had delightfully cute little ones to snap first day of school pictures of, I'm dissing my serene, free-to-do-yoga-anytime-I-want life.
And how would the universe feel about that?