In the past few years, the term FOMO has sprung up to describe the uniquely modern malady of “fear of missing out.” But what’s the opposite of that fear? As a backlash of sorts to the FOMO trend, the term JOMO has appeared at the fringes of the cultural lexicon to describe how great it can feel to not do things. But what is JOMO?
“In high school, I probably had FOMO for, like, Backstreet Boys concerts, and, like, the delusion that I would miss some opportunity to meet the band.”
That’s what Meghann Boltz, 35, of Buffalo, New York felt like growing up. Although she wasn’t consumed with a fear of missing out—or FOMO, as it’s colloquially known today—she wasn’t unacquainted with it either. And as her dispassionate attitude about the band now makes clear, a lot of how FOMO functions is in making us care in the moment about things that we actually won’t later on.
What does JOMO mean? It could be a balm of sorts to those stressed out by the constant hamster-wheel sense of needing to attend, check in and participate in the trappings of modern life.
What would your life—and your mental state—be like if you tried dropping out, skipping and declining more often?
What is JOMO?
To grasp JOMO’s meaning properly, though, we need to understand FOMO a bit better.
What do people fear missing out on, exactly? That remains up to the FOMO-er in question: Are you missing out on an acquaintance’s wedding you weren’t invited to? A birthday party thrown by a friend you’re just not close with anymore? A concert whose tickets you can’t quite afford? An art happening that will be over by the time you get off your shift at work?
All the above and more can feel crushingly important to attend—regardless of whether we might actually enjoy ourselves if given the opportunity to go. FOMO is more about the fear than it is about what’s being missed—the idea that our lives (or our selves) won’t be complete unless we’re constantly participating in things.
Signs you need to embrace JOMO
So how can you recognize whether your FOMO is negatively impacting your life? How can you know when it’s time to add a little JOMO to the mix?
“Generally speaking, experiencing too much of anything is a bad sign, FOMO included,” said Rachel Gersten of New York, co-founder of Viva Wellness. “My general advice is to check in with yourself and ask if you’re doing something because you feel you should, or because you genuinely want to. It should be the latter, as much as possible.
“If it’s not, I’d say that’s a sign that you need to take a step back and see if it works better to skip some things and take a breather,” Gersten said.
Boltz agrees. “I think it’s important to do things if you want and are able to do them, and if you don’t want to do them, don’t,” she said.
“Your life shouldn’t be dictated by some culturally imposed idea of what you should or shouldn’t be doing. If you want to stay in, stay in. If you want to go out and do something, go out.”
“I do think if you find you’re never going out, then you might want to reconsider why, and the fact is, you probably are missing out on some possibly great experiences,” Boltz said.
“And if all you ever do is go out to things—even things you don’t necessarily care about—just because of some ‘fear’ of missing out, you also probably need to re-evaluate things.”
Aiming for a happy medium seems like the best approach: One where you’re comfortable missing out on certain things—but also amenable pushing yourself occasionally to experience things that might be easier to skip.
If you find yourself at a bar or a venue every night, or letting personal responsibilities fall by the wayside in order to attend every social event you’re invited to, that might be a sign that your FOMO is causing problems.
Learn to embrace your inner hermit sometimes
Like almost anything in life, a healthy sense of JOMO will vary from person to person.
“A lot of things come into play here: time, money, transport, health, mental health, etc.,” Boltz said. “That complicates things a lot further than just whether or not you generally stay in or go out and the fear or joy you take in that.”
She added that it’s worth remembering that people with disabilities that impact their ability to leave the house or participate in certain events experience the FOMO/JOMO conversation in a much different way.
And if you’re looking to foster a little more JOMO? It might be time to rethink your relationship with your phone. Boltz pointed to the hypervisibility of the best parts of other people’s lives via social media as being a big part of the problem.
“Social media, and in the case of FOMO and JOMO, the advent of Instagram probably has had the greatest impact on this,” Boltz said.
“Like, I think it extends beyond a specific event, but just life in general, when you see people always seemingly doing amazingly fabulous things, and looking great, and that doesn’t reflect your current reality, I think that brings up, like, true FOMO.”
“But,” she said, “you can always remind yourself that most of it is an illusion anyway—and that can temper some of the fear.”
Case in point for her: “This past year, rather than doing something I knew I wouldn’t enjoy just to do something on New Year’s Eve, I planned ahead that I was not going to do anything and stayed in with a bottle of champagne and watched Hereditary,” Boltz said. “It wasn’t the best night of my life, but at least had no regrets, and had no hangover, which was great.”