On FOMO, Threads, and the de-prioritization of Missing Out.
In case you missed it, this week Meta announced its Instagram offshoot (or sibling app, if you will) called Threads: a “we’re-not-here-to-compete-with-Twitter” minimalist, words-forward app vaguely reminiscent, at first glance, to Twitter.
(And before you begin to tune me out — just know that I’m not here to write a think piece on Threads or social media, and even if you’re not even vaguely on social, this post is most definitely for you. Ok, onward!)
If you’re like me, your first reaction might have been something along the lines of:
Oh hell no.
Another thing to keep up with? Pass!
As if we need another place for people to yell at each other on the internet.
However, once I started to interact with Threads, I noticed something…refreshing.
People were happy to be there.
They were eager and optimistic.
They didn’t seem concerned with strategy, metrics, or “optimization.”
And while many people were delightfully describing themselves as “unhinged,” I noticed that they were actually just…being themselves.
The acronym FOMO — fear of missing out — is often used when talking about social events. IE: being invited to things or not, going somewhere or not, etc. And, more specifically, the worry that maybe some kind of social bond will be formed over some fun time you’re not there for. The fear that you’ll be missing out on something you can’t replicate.
But there’s also self-inflicted, self-focused FOMO — the kind that makes you fear you’re sabotaging your future self with your current decisions.
You don’t need to interact (or, I guess, not-interact) with others in order to experience FOMO. Summer, for example, is the season of FOMO. Or if not THE season then at the very least *a* season where FOMO tends to run high.
The idea of what “summer” “should” be like is engrained in us at a VERY young age. Or at least it was for me. Summer was synonymous with vacation, and vacation was synonymous with specific activities (or lack thereof). Whether I had a summer job, went to summer camp, or spent my time sleeping in every single morning, summer was all about a change in routine.
But that’s not the reality most of us experience now.
For one, we’re adults now, and the majority of us don’t get the “summer breaks” off of our work or obligations. Our routines, for the most part, for most of us, look similar throughout the various seasons of the year.
But even more than that, we’re fully formed humans with our own wants and desires and preferences that have developed by living decades of life. Even if we DO get a break in routine, we don’t all suddenly become piña-colada sipping machines or professional jet-setters or the perfect parents curating every hour of each family member’s schedule (with a smile on our face as the kids laugh with glee and of course never ever ever argue).
To be clear — those things aren’t bad to want to do. It’s just that not all of us WANT to do them.
And yet the FOMO persists.
The idea of how we think we SHOULD be spending our time (but aren’t) can give us just as much FOMO as looking at photos of a party we didn’t attend.
It can be REALLY easy to wonder:
Am I doing it wrong?
There’s a saying that’s along the lines of “nothing has killed more dreams than the attachment to how things should be.”
And it’s true. Attaching yourself to an idea of the way things “should” be and how YOU “should” be is a surefire way to miss out on living your own life.
I was thinking about this when Threads launched last week — which just so happened to coincide with a trip I took to celebrate a friend’s wedding in the Irish countryside. There I was, across the world in Ireland, fiddling with this new app toy thingie while laying in my hotel bed with my coffee in the early morning and listening to the rain.
I had a pang of FOMO. Should I be taking one of the many incredible sightseeing road trips recommended to me? Should I be standing on a cliff somewhere staring out at the ocean? We’re stopping in Dublin and Edinburgh after and have so little planned — am I doing this whole “travel” thing wrong??
But it quickly subsided when I checked my word choice — and realized that I actually didn’t feel like I was “missing out” on anything.
It has been a jam-packed few years writing Want Your Self (definitely order it now if you haven’t already), and everything has felt dialed up a bajillion notches in these last few weeks especially since kicking off the preorder campaign (because preorders are so so important and will basically determine whether or not Want Your Self gets stocked by booksellers, gets on any bestseller lists, gets media placement, and more).
While all the things recommended to me are most likely incredible, the last thing I wanted to do this trip was put another “to-do” on my list. I did not want to rush around or try to fit things in because of obligation to the term “vacation.” I just wanted to CHILL TF OUT.
Sure, some people might roll their eyes at the fact that I was relaxing in bed fiddling with a social media app. But the reason I was fiddling with it wasn’t to keep up with anything or anyone or fabricate so-called perfection. The reason I was so enjoying my time on Threads is because the vibe was surprisingly come-as-you-are. It felt low pressure. It felt novel. It felt FUN.
But most of all, I was doing exactly what I wanted to do, being completely myself while doing it, and feeling so, so much joy.
Some people call the opposite of FOMO “JOMO” – the JOY of missing out. This acronym became really trendy about a decade ago as an alternate to the pangs of fear you feel when you’re not in the IN crowd. The joy of declining a party invitation. The joy of staying home when everyone is out. That kind of thing.
But JOMO hasn’t ever really felt like the proper anecdote to FOMO for me — or at least what I’ve been labeling FOMO.
If FOMO if the fear of missing out, and JOMO is the joy of missing out…then both imply you’re MISSING OUT ON something, right? The focus is STILL ON the implication that you’re missing out on something.
But what if you’re not missing out……because it’s not a thing you’d miss?
What if there was No “MO” in the equation at all?
What if NOT MISSING OUT has never really been the priority to begin with?
Let’s go back to the vacation example. Let’s say you’re on a trip with some friends or family members. They’ve all chosen to go on a sightseeing tour that day. This hypothetical tour will take you to all the major landmarks, will end with a happy hour or really unique foodie experience, and objectively, it seems, will be a “really good time.”
But that’s not so objective. Let’s say you’re not a tour person. Let’s say you’ve been thinking a lot lately about this chapter in your life, what you love, and what you want to do differently. You love your travelmates, but you also rarely get a moment to yourself at home. You feel pressure to say yes to the tour, for all the reasons we talked about earlier, but really? You’d much rather go to a local coffee shop and journal about the thoughts bubbling up for you in this change of scenery. THAT’s the thing that would bring you the most joy right now.
Journaling at a coffee shop, in this case, isn’t JOMO. Because when you get really REALLY honest with yourself, you realize the thing you’d actually miss in this situation is that solo time to write, think, and reflect.
Experiencing this kind of situation isn’t JO-MO because there’s no MO to begin with.
Rather, it’s: JO-BO. The Joy Of Being Ourselves.
When you shift the focus OFF of “missing out” and ON to “being yourself,” you can start to make decisions that are right for you, and less of that “should” self-talk will start to come in.
And if it does? You now have language to help you to redirect it. If the opposite of JOMO is FOMO, then the opposite of JOBO is FOBO — Fear Of Being Ourselves. And…I dunno, that feels like a more empowering place to make decisions from than FOMO, doesn’t it? Instead of asking yourself what will I be missing out on?, you get to ask yourself: why am I afraid to choose what works for me?
If self-talk isn’t inherently good or bad, and it’s information — well, the answer to the latter question holds a lot more useful information than the former.
I talked allllll about JOBO on the latest episode of the WANTcast, which happens to be the Season 8 finale. I’ll be taking a mini break from the pod for a few weeks as I prep for Season 9 (and book tour — more on that below!), but even more than that, I’ll be focusing on JOBO. The joy of not only being myself, but the joy of YOU being yourself. The joy of us being ourselves, together. This means planning WANT content that helps us all feel empowered to make the choices that feel the most in alignment with who we are — from podcast episodes and interviews to new resources on the Resources page to newsletters and posts and beyond.
And, gonna experience JOBO in my personal life too! Saying yes when I mean yes, no when I mean no, and “I’ll get back to you” when I need a minute.
What about you? What does JOBO look like for you right now?
Is it choosing to get some extra work in on a Sunday so your Monday feels freer? Is it gardening in the afternoon instead of going to a happy hour hang, or going to a happy hour hang instead of gardening? Is it giving yourself permission to lounge around the house and do a little mind
lessful scrolling, or giving yourself permission to pop around town and be out as long as you please?