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The world is our buffet. In our hyper-connected society, we’re presented with so many opportunities to “do” — to connect online, to keep up with social media, to attend social events, parties, sporting activities, and webinars. We can learn new things, meet new people, network, and do whatever our hearts desire (including things we didn’t even know we wanted to do).
With so many opportunities, it can feel tempting to do them all. Combine this temptation with “fear of missing out” (FOMO), and it’s little wonder we can feel depleted after doing too much.
Note: Unless you’ve been living under a digital rock for the past few years, you’ve probably heard of FOMO. It’s an underlying form of anxiety that we’re missing out on something or that other people are having more fun than us.
Given that FOMO can be exhausting and overwhelming, it makes sense that FOMO’s counterpart — JOMO (joy of missing out) — has recently emerged. In stark contrast to FOMO, JOMO encourages us to embrace the pleasure of choosing what we want to do (or not do), in a way that engages and fulfills us.
JOMO is about understanding yourself, your needs, and your desires, and choosing to live in a way that energizes you. But to fully embrace this joy of missing out, we need to better understand what’s driving our fear of missing out.
Social Media and FOMO
Depending on which side of the fence you’re on, social media could be man’s greatest invention or a blight on our existence.
Regardless of your position, most would agree that the rise of social media has led to an over-reliance on technology for “connection.” Some may even argue that the use of social media has developed a compulsion, urge, or addiction in many of its users.
Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram personify FOMO. Our news feeds are filled with status updates, photos, memes, and the latest breaking news. Everything is amazing. We wield the power of a “like,” which stimulates a dopamine hit for the receiver. We become addicted to the likes, the knowing, and the busyness, so we go back for more. Minutes and hours can slip by unnoticed while we hunch over our smartphones and laptops, afraid we’ll miss out on something.
Our heavy reliance on social media for connection is developing an arms-length style of communication. We substitute conversations, phone calls, and letters for status updates, post comments, and instant messages. This fragmented, indirect form of communication is dissatisfying to our innate human need to connect with others. It’s why we can spend all day on social media, texting, or emailing, yet still feel lonely.
Social Pressure and FOMO
Another driver of FOMO is the pressure to be seen in the right places with the right people. Whether it’s from a sense of duty or striving to get ahead, we feel obliged to attend certain events for work colleagues, acquaintances, family, and friends.
We’re human. We love to feel part of something. It’s in our nature to be tribal and we’re wired for connection. But participating in an activity merely because we’re afraid of missing out misses the point. We need real connection, of the type and variety that fulfills us.
Spending Friday night at a large social event — when all you want to do is have a quiet dinner with your family at home — is not fulfilling. Attending a colleague’s baby shower out of obligation — when all you want to do is have lunch with your friends — isn’t fulfilling. The resentment and frustration it can breed is unproductive.
This societal pressure — and the accompanying fear of missing out — can compel us to do things we don’t enjoy. JOMO, on the other hand, encourages us to understand what we want, why we want it, and how we’re feeling in the present moment. It directs our energy and time into the activities that truly engage us. Regardless of what we do or don’t do, it’s the intention behind those choices that’s important.
4 Reasons to Embrace JOMO
Clearly, FOMO has its downsides. So why should we embrace JOMO instead? Here are four reasons.
Joy Giver #1: More Time
Moving away from a life filled with over-commitments mean more access to that finite resource: time. Given that we’re so quick to lament our lack of time, how wonderful would it be to treasure more of it?
Instead of spending our free moments consumed by the drama of social media, email, and text messages, what if we chose to disconnect and spend time doing things we’re too “busy” for, i.e. exercise, play, self-care, experiencing life?
Joy Giver #2: Spontaneity
Freeing yourself up from unwanted commitments and online addictions means more space and time for spontaneity, unplanned moments, and the surprise of chance encounters. What would you do if you had no plans? What does that quiet inner voice want to experience?
Joy Giver #3: Waking Up
Excess technology dulls the senses and deadens the emotions. Therefore, it’s often used as an avoidance strategy. We don’t want to feel bored, lonely, sad, or frustrated, so we turn to our smartphones for a fix.
Yes, it can hurt to be alive. As humans, we feel the full range of emotions from happiness to anger, joy to despair. Life can get messy. It can’t be controlled in an orderly fashion. That’s what makes it so wonderfully vivid – embracing the highs, weathering the lows, and savoring everything in between.
That is life, not a mind-numbing technological existence. We need to wake ourselves up and JOMO can help us.
Joy Giver #4: Slowing Down
JOMO lets you do things at your own pace. To be here and now. To experience life at its purest essence.
Seeing the sun glinting off the morning dew. Hearing the tinkling notes of laughter. Feeling the warm sunlight on your skin and the grass between your toes. Smelling freshly brewed coffee. Experiencing the world moving beneath and around you. These are the things we should fear missing out on. These are the things that make us marvel at the world and its true aliveness.
Not surprisingly, this slower pace also enhances our creativity. Have you noticed you get the best ideas when showering, daydreaming, or walking in nature? That’s because we’re more creative in the quiet spaces, when our minds are free from distraction, hurry, thinking, and obligation.
How to Embrace the Joy of Missing Out
At this point, JOMO sounds like a welcome relief from the franticness of FOMO. So how do we fully embrace the joy of missing out?
Step 1: Disconnect
As a first step, remove distractions. Put down your smart phone, close your laptop, and step away from your devices. These electronic distractions will prevent you from determining if you truly wish to engage in an activity.
Step 2: Reflect
Create spaces of unstructured time in your week to reflect. Perhaps start with an hour, half a day, or a weekend. When there’s nothing to “do,” your quiet inner voice can be heard. You get a greater sense of which activities you enjoy (and why). This is a clue in determining what fills you up and what drains you.
If the concept of doing “nothing” seems overwhelming, try these activities as a starting point:
- Stay in your pajamas all day
- Eat a leisurely breakfast in bed
- Re-read your favorite novel
- Watch a classic film
- Wander in your garden
- Meander through the neighborhood
- Lie in the grass and stare at the clouds
- Cook a meal from scratch while enjoying your beverage of choice
- Go for a drive with no destination in mind
- Play board games with your family or friends
- Write in your journal
- Go through old photo albums
Step 3: Reconnect
Rather than reconnecting on the Internet, start by conversing with a friend or family member. Look them in the eye. Treat them as the most important thing in the world at that moment. Notice how you feel. Or reconnect to yourself by indulging your love of photography, music, cooking, gardening, writing, hiking, or surfing.
If you want to reconnect online, first take a breath. Ask yourself, “Are you sure?” Recognize whether going online will leave you feeling distracted, depleted, or uneasy. If so, choose to connect in another way.
Step 4: Keep Testing
A great way to decide if an activity is worth doing is to imagine your eighty-year-old-self looking back on your life. Will you remember that time you accepted a Facebook invitation out of obligation to an acquaintance, or will you remember the time you spent precious moments laughing with your loved ones at dinner instead?
Similarly, if you really want to know what matters in the end, take advice from the dying. While it may seem morbid at first, their message is wonderfully uplifting. It turns out, the things we regret most at the end of our lives aren’t the missed parties, Facebook events, and drunken weekends.
We regret the deeper stuff — not living our personal truths, not appreciating our relationships, not spending more time with friends, and not being honest about who we really are.
More JOMO, Less FOMO
As Henry David Thoreau said, “Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.” Be joyful. Be simple. Be together. Be real. Be messy. Make life personal. Remove the arms-length distractions of technology. Choose real connections rather than shallow distractions.
Each moment we have is a gift. Will you choose fear or joy?