The new FOMO: How JOMO (the Joy Of Missing Out) can result in less anxiety and more peace

More and more people are finding how empowering it is to let go of needing to be 'in the know'.

Whether it’s that twinge of regret when you see a picture on Instagram of your friends having a blast at that dinner you ditched, or a niggling suspicion that shunning a workmate’s housewarming lost you some valuable bonding time with your colleagues, we all know about the infamous FOMO (fear of missing out).

But these days, there’s another player in the game, and it’s not only the polar opposite of its better-known four-letter counterpart, it’s also being hailed as the answer to managing stress and easing anxiety.

Joy of missing out, or JOMO, is all about savouring some solitude without caring what everyone else is doing. It’s turning down invites and avoiding get-togethers without the worry of social demerit points. It’s about switching off from social media, unplugging from the world and learning to be at peace with your own company. And more and more of us want in.

Cultural attitudes are changing

It’s not hard to see the appeal – our search for ways to take the pressure off in increasingly stressful times means JOMO is the ideal catchphrase for a modern era, but why is it now a ‘thing’? With social media giving us a bigger window into the lives of others than ever before, the insidious fear of missing out has in turn reached new heights.

Some believe our FOMO was first triggered by the tendency for Westernised culture to favour extroverts, with socialising and being busy with activities generally held up as a marker of success. When you add the voyeuristic and popularity pulling power of social media, it’s not only the perfect storm for FOMO to reach fever pitch, it also gives the prevailing vibe that solitude is decidedly uncool.

But psychologist Sara Chatwin says the growing interest in JOMO as a backlash against FOMO signals a shift in thinking.

“I see JOMO as like a ‘coming of age,'” she explains. “More people are realising that it’s not essential to know what everyone else is doing all the time, or to compare yourself constantly to others. It’s coincided with a time when we’re starting to wake up to the impact of social media. Until now, we’ve let social media plonk itself into an important position in our lives, and it’s gone relatively unchecked. JOMO is about giving yourself the freedom to opt out.”

It’s empowering to say no to social media

It might sound simple, but a key concept underpinning JOMO is empowerment.

When we consume social media, we’re passive, we’re scrolling mindlessly and putting ourselves at the mercy of whatever happens to pop up as we flick through our feeds. But when we embrace JOMO, we’re making a conscious decision to take back control, which creates a positive ripple effect for many areas of our lives.

“Social media has taken over people’s lives,” says Sara. “It hurts people, it promotes anxiety and self-loathing. I’ve seen a big increase in the negative aspects of it on teens. Whereas I’ve heard people say that making more of a conscious effort to opt out of social media more often is liberating and it makes them feel good.”

Sara says getting more in tune with JOMO is an important stage of our overall self-awareness and personal development. “There’s something to be said about getting to a point where you can sit by yourself and be completely comfortable,” she says. “That’s when you’ve landed. It’s understanding your needs, learning to say no, and being empowered in your life.”

Digital wellbeing is a growing industry

As the dangers of an overexposure to technology become increasingly well-documented, the US even has an organisation dedicated to making change in the media and tech industries. According to the Center for Humane Technology, carrying a smartphone around is like having a slot machine in your pocket – everything about it is programmed to get you addicted.

It’s ironic then that Google CEO Sundar Pichai is said to be a fan of JOMO, and the company’s plan to introduce ‘digital wellbeing’ tools for healthier tech use. This includes a dashboard on new model phones to show how much time you spend on each app, and notifications that are designed to come through in timed batches, rather than continually popping up on screen.

Apple has also followed suit and plans to develop enhanced ‘do not disturb’ functions on iPhones.

Getting into the JOMO zone means thinking more about your tech use and monitoring the way it makes you feel.

We can’t rid ourselves of tech altogether, but we can keep tabs on it the same way you would your diet – what energises and nourishes you and what makes you feel unhappy and lethargic?

For more health and wellbeing stories, pick up a copy of the latest Good Health magazine.

Related stories