Armed with M&M’s and a bag of extra buttered popcorn—the theatre lights dimmed.
I reached into my purse to check Instagram Stories one last time before the movie began.
Three of my friends were in Napa. They were all dressed to the nines and drinking Zinfandel at a fancy vineyard.
Worst of all, they were having fun without me.
My stomach churned and all I could think about what I was missing. I felt restless and jealous. I was upset. I hadn’t been invited and I wanted to be there with them.
This is FOMO (fear of missing out).
But then I sat back in the theatre chair and paused for a second.
It didn’t matter what they were doing. The only thing that mattered was what I was doing at that moment.
I wasn’t going to think about my friends’ trip to Napa. I wasn’t going to check social media the rest of the day. And I wasn’t going to fret about missing out.
I was going to enjoy exactly what I was doing right then and there.
This is JOMO (joy of missing out).
And you know what? It worked.
The acronym, ‘FOMO’ was coined in the 90’s to describe the stressful or anxious sensation one gets when they miss out on an activity.
But FOMO actually originated long before the decade of frosted tips and Beanie Babies.
It was first used as a survival mechanism for our ancestors. Back then, people had to have as much information as possible to understand their surroundings and stay alive. And if they weren’t part of the in group, then they weren’t getting the right information to survive.
Clinical Psychologist, Anita Sanz said, “Our survival as a species, once hinged on our being aware of threats both to ourselves and to the larger group…Not having vital information or getting the impression that one is not a part of the ‘in’ group is enough for many individuals’ amygdalas to engage the stress or activation response or the ‘fight or flight’ response.”
But times have changed and “needing to know” everything has evolved from a means of survival into unnecessary stress that’s causing society more harm than good.
FOMO today is intensified by technology, such as email and social media. Office workers receive at least 200 messages a day and spend about two-and-a-half hours reading and replying to emails. When workers finally get time away from email, it’s hard to not go back on and check in on work activities because of fear of missing something important.
A whole company could also get FOMO from social media when their feeds fill with what competitors are up to, such as launching a new product, going on fun work sponsored trips, or posting pictures about engaging team building activities. Distracting yourself with what competitors are doing will take away from your work and lead to unproductive behavior.
According to Saarthi Counselling Services, “FOMO in social media may sound harmless, but global experts suggest when a person experiences an overwhelming amount of activities seen on social networking sites and faces an inability to attend all of them or be a part of each event can lead to feelings of stress and depression.”
So what can we do?
The answer’s simple: JOMO.
JOMO is the opposite of FOMO. It was developed to encourage people to stop checking technology and enjoy being present.
Letting go of FOMO and welcoming JOMO isn’t always easy, especially with technology in every corner of our lives. But there are a few things I’ve done to get on the right track personally and professionally.
1. Be self-aware
The first step to changing any part of your life is to be self-aware and acknowledge why you do the things that you do.
To get over my FOMO, I started by asking myself a few questions: Why do I get FOMO? Am I really missing out on anything? What if I choose to not entertain these thoughts? Being self-aware helped me get to the root of my FOMO, and I learned that practicing regular self-awareness is great for mental health because it allows you to see your life through various lenses, perspectives, and possibilities.
Applying JOMO to your life will work best when you’re cognizant of what triggers FOMO. When you understand the social posts, emails, etc. that set you off, you’ll be able to stop FOMO before it starts and better serve yourself.
2. Disconnect and reflect
Once you figure out the main causes of your FOMO, it’ll be helpful to create a schedule where you integrate solid time to disconnect from technology, reflect on how you feel, and focus on being in the moment.
If you’re hesitant about taking a breather from technology, you can start slowly by putting your phone in a separate room for an hour. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can follow what Aytekin Tank does and take a digital sabbath to break from the online buzz.
When you’ve taken a rest from technology, write about it. Ask yourself a few questions: Do I feel anxious? Do I feel better than expected? Do I feel worse? Did I actually miss out?
Jotting down how you feel after being “off” technology and “out” of the know will help you learn more about yourself and get you comfortable with the idea of not needing to check everything constantly.
3. Build meaningful relationships IRL
The thing about pictures and statuses in our online world is that a lot of it is superficial. You may have 1,000 Twitter followers, but how many of them do you have real, meaningful relationships with? Probably not all 1,000. And if you don’t know all of them well, then why do you care what they’re up to?
Social media helps people stay connected and up to date with what’s going on, but there’s something to say about hanging out with friends, family, and coworkers in real life. Strong personal and work relationships are associated with better health, greater happiness, and even a longer life.
When you focus on being in the moment with people you truly care about, the FOMO generated through lots of phony social media will disappear.
When you take a step back from FOMO and embrace JOMO, you’ll feel happier because you truly enjoy the present moment.
“Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.” —Jim Rohn
And when you’re focused on the moment, you’ll forget about anything you might be missing out on.