Education & Career Trends: FOMO gives way to JOMO — The Joy of Missing Out!

4 min read

Edition: March 21, 2022
Curated by the Knowledge Team of ICS Career GPS

Re-evaluate your priorities and think of activities you would enjoy doing instead of committing to plans under FOMO. (Image Credit: Canva)

One positive by-product of lockdowns and physical distancing is that a lot of us learned how not to be afraid of missing out on things, after all. In fact, we came to realise that it was quite soothing and refreshing — the Joy of Missing Out (JOMO).

In John Mulaney’s first Netflix special, New in Town, he acknowledged the antidote to the seemingly inescapable ‘Fear of Missing Out’ or FOMO. He joked how cancelling plans, instead, gives a boost of instant relief and joy. The bit originally aired in 2012, but was ahead of its time.

As a therapist who specialises in treating adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder(ADHD), Billy Roberts has helped many clients cope with the anxiety and self-esteem issues related to FOMO.

Roberts has found that the joy of missing out, or JOMO, is actually a marker for improved mental health.

“When I start to see folks experience the joy of missing out, it’s usually when they recognise their ability to live life in their own lane.”

Billy Roberts, Therapist

The term JOMO was coined by blogger and tech CEO Anil Dash.

He posted about how he related less to FOMO since becoming a parent and being offline for more than a month. He recounts how he barely checked in on anything online and seldom left the house. Dash wrote in July of 2012, mentioning how the FOMO lament didn’t particularly resonate with him.

He realised that rather than being in fear, what he experienced was a state of joy.

Resurgence of JOMO

JOMO received a lot of attention during the summer of 2012, but usage trickled off until recently. Over the past two years, though, we’ve seen a resurgence of JOMO, mostly in meme form.

Psychotherapist Erica Cramer attributes this trend to a healthy perspective gained from a temporary time without FOMO. According to Cramer people having a legitimate excuse to not attend certain events helped them practise effective assertiveness.

Experts often talk about setting boundaries as a practice that is essential for health and happiness. In less clinical terms, it means giving yourself permission to not feel obligated to do something you don’t want to. Cramer explains how most of us accept invitations without considering if it is something we want to do not.

Likewise, a lot of outgoing people might have assumed they were extroverts before the pandemic. They learned during quarantine that they are more of an ambivert, or someone who gets energy from social interactions but also needs alone time to recharge. It is critical to maintain a balance.

Google searches for JOMO peak

As per Google Trends, searches for JOMO peaked at both the beginning of the pandemic and at the end of summer (when so many of us were socially overextended and mentally exhausted), which could mean that we’re still searching for that delicate JOMO balance.

Even if JOMO is generally seen as an unexpected positive byproduct of quarantine, it’s important to note that the pandemic also came with a lot of uncertainty, grief and anxiety. JOMO may give people who are dealing with these issues an excuse to isolate, which could further compromise their mental health in the long-term.

How to differentiate Isolation from JOMO?

The best way to tell the difference between isolation and JOMO is inherent in the name: Is there joy involved?

Cramer explains how when we find ourselves committing to nothing , we should re-evaluate our priorities and think of activities we would actually enjoy doing. The issue arises when we cannot think of any such activity.

At the same time, there’s evidence that FOMO had been causing anxiety and depressive symptoms in people long before the pandemic.

In a review of literature on the topic, researchers warned that FOMO in the long-term “leads the individual to feel a deeper sense of social inferiority, loneliness or intense rage.”

FOMO is an experience largely manufactured by social media, and one that can appear back in your life quickly.

That’s why JOMO is important — it’s not about shutting out human connection, but figuring out what genuinely brought you joy before the ‘doom-scrolling’ and Instagram posting became such a constant part of your life.

“Once we can declutter our minds by letting that anxiety go, we can be more intentional about being present in our particular moment,” says Roberts.

Have you checked out yesterday’s blog yet?

Career Trends: HBS Professor’s 3 Keys to Happiness at Work

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article mentioned above are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)

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