JOMO, the joy of missing out, is an emotionally intelligent antidote to its feral counterpart: FOMO. FOMO, the fear of missing out, lurks in every corner — but is especially dominant on social media. You might experience the FOMO fog after the scroll of the thumb, a double tap or when you find yourself on your ex’s new partner’s best friend’s brother’s feed. We’ve all been there, lost within the realms of comparison, but what is FOMO exactly?
FOMO is when your innocent scrolling on Instagram turns into a self-sabotaging session that leaves you feeling like something is missing in your life. FOMO is why you are getting triggered by friends — or people you don’t even know — looking tanned from their Greek island holiday or wearing white robes poolside or dancing in a cave to your favourite DJ.
Oh, and a side note: we’re talking about a post-COVID world; surely no one has experienced FOMO during COVID-19 lockdown? No one has been anywhere or done anything. Don’t be fooled by those “throwback to” or “BTS” (behind the scenes) photos, wild ones.
The good news is, you can learn to see FOMO for what it really is: fear. Unfounded fear, in fact, fabricated from a false sense of “reality”. FOMO very much exists online — almost exclusively online. Think about it; when your friends tell you in person that they loved swanning around the Maldives drinking cocktails, you don’t really feel FOMO, right? Because you’re enthralled by their words and not a flurry of intrusive social media images, so you can’t really “see” these usually FOMO-inducing moments. But if you were to scroll through that same scenario on their social media feed, you’re more like to feel that pang of FOMO. Why is that? Like most things, it comes back to our belief system.
You are enough
FOMO keeps you shackled to social media yet it’s because you’re chained to your phone that you experience FOMO. It’s a vicious cycle. In those FOMO moments, you’ve lost control. You’ve also probably lost a few hours. Why? Because you’ve been taken hostage by a feeling of “lackness”. Much like that made-up word, this feeling of “lackness” is absolute bogus. Social media and its meticulously curated landscape couldn’t be further from the truth. “Real” life is magic because it’s messy and chaotic. But it’s hard to separate “real” life online so, instead, you do the dance, the FOMO prance.
You know the one we’re talking about. It happens after a session of mindless scrolling or in a time of high anxiety, when those worn-out beliefs ripple up to the surface and start penetrating non-consensual sentences in your mind again. Words along the lines of, “You’re not doing enough” or “you don’t have enough”, both of which ultimately lead to the clincher: “you are not enough”.
Stop. Wrong. You are enough. You’re just caught in the web of FOMO and need to break through your social media-infused coma. It’s time to flip the F (and the bird if it feels good) with a J and learn to embrace JOMO.
Just saying those four letters — JOMO — brings on a sigh of relief, right? The joy of missing out. Yes, there is joy in saying “no”, staying home and being completely content with your decision. And there is so much joy in embracing life “offline”, freed from your social media feed.
JOMO was first coined by tech entrepreneur Anil Dash in 2012. Of the concept, Anil says, “I don’t think this is a particular idea of mine. It is the articulation of a broader concept in our culture that simply did not have a convenient name. Sometimes naming things helps us think about them. And, of all the things we might be trying to pay attention to, perhaps feeling better about our choices to spend our time wisely is the best thing to think about,” he adds.
Christina Crook, the leader of the global #JOMO movement, developed Anil’s concept, going on to write The Joy of Missing Out: Finding Balance in a Wired World. In her book, Christina defines JOMO as “making a conscious choice to disconnect and experience the joys of life offline”. Sounds simple enough, right? So then why is it so hard to live life offline?
Two words: social contagion. Social contagion, Christina explains, is wanting what other people have. It’s a type of social influence that refers to the tendency for a person to copy certain behaviours of others who are nearby or whom they have been exposed to. In the digital age, however, social contagion is also concerned with the spread of online behaviour and information.
“The danger of forces like FOMO is not only in the pressure to do, be and experience everything, it’s the lie that we’re told that it’s possible,” Christina shares.
Thanks to having every little bit of information about everything and everyone at our fingertips, social media has very much amplified our collective feelings of FOMO. An innocent scroll through the ‘gram a few times a day can very easily leave you with a heavy case of FOMO — and even more so if you’re feeling particularly low that day.
Relationships form us
Over the years, our addiction to our phones has grown exponentially. You simply need to jump on a bus or train to see how many eyes are looking downwards at screens, completely absorbed in their own exclusive digital world. Not a day passes without a new study revealing the true costs of our screen obsession: global loneliness, burnout, mental distress and posture problems. It seems we’ve forgotten that, while data informs us, relationships form us. Yes, we’re digital natives but we need more than just information to make meaning. We need face-to-face time, moments of connection and shared experiences — in real time. We need JOMO.
Unplug and self-love
Christina’s journey to JOMO began with a 31-day fast from the internet. “My decision to unplug came gradually after moving away from family and friends across the continent, from Vancouver to Toronto, Canada. I was tired of Facebook mediating my relationships and discontented with my compulsion to constantly check-in online. I knew the internet was allowing me to emotionally disengage from myself and my loved ones. I was living in a constant state of information overload and a vacuum of joy. I had too much information and not enough wonder,” she says.
“During my fast from the internet, I discovered peace of mind and an abundance of time I never thought I had. I connected with close-to-home neighbours and friends because I was forced to turn to people rather than Google for help. It reengaged creative parts of me that had been dormant. I felt alive.”
So, how can someone transmute FOMO into JOMO? We need to learn how to turn down the background noise. Start by unplugging one day a week as a way to reset and remember that you’re not the centre of the universe — which, Christina reminds us, is a good thing.
“Lean into joy on that day off. Plan what you’ll spend your time doing. Will you cook a meal? Walk in nature? Spend the afternoon with a friend? The JOMO way is not about limiting technology, it’s about leaning into what brings you most joy,” she explains.
“We’ve all been sold the promise that technology will empower and simplify our lives, but for all of the affordances and ease our devices give us, they’re also costing us our time, attention, creativity and relationships. It turns out the ability to simply do more doesn’t lead to a richer, satisfying life,” Christina says.
Quoting novelist Flannery O’Connor, Christina shares, “You have to push as hard as the age that pushes you. So what would we say is the great push of our age? The insatiable thirst for more. More products. More likes. More connections. More information. More validation.”
How, then, do we push back? By revisiting our values. What do you value? Is it connection, family and friends? Being in nature and slowing down? Feeling present? Having time to do the things you love?
“Saying yes to our values keeps us connected to our humanity and to reality. Say ‘yes’ to intentionally missing out on (at least some of) the whole circus,” Christina shares. Being comfortable with — and eventually joyful about — missing out on some parts of life takes practice. You need to set healthy boundaries and form good habits. Christina has some ideas on that.
“I check my email once per day. I write a hard-copy to-do list on a piece of paper before I log on to my computer. I work through that list as swiftly as possible, then close up my computer and move on to other things. I limit my social media ‘presence’ to make space for embodied relationships and experiences. I orient my life towards the joyful and the life-giving and away from the exhausting and life-taking demands of the internet and relenting hustle,” Christina shares.
Due to the global pandemic, humanity has been thrown into a perpetual state of JOMO. So, what better time to ride the momentum and bid your farewell to FOMO. Embrace JOMO, get offline and into life.
6 ways to flip FOMO into JOMO
- Give yourself regular “tech-free breaks” during the day.
- Be ruthlessly clear about the things that bring you joy. It might be sitting at home or it might be going out dancing. Know that those things may change over time.
- Sometimes saying “no” is the best kind of self-love. Say “no” to things you don’t want to do and, once you’ve said no, don’t think about it anymore. The more you do this, the more comfortable it will be.
- When you catch yourself scrolling Instagram, ask yourself: what do I love more than scrolling? Then go do that.
- Unsubscribe from uninspiring social media accounts and un-follow anyone who triggers your FOMO or leaves you feeling negative.
- Experience real life, not social media life. Go “play” in the world and don’t post about it.