Forget the FOMO: We All Need JOMO in Our Lives

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If you had a dollar for every time you’ve heard or read that human beings spend too much time on social media, you might be able to afford back row tickets to Hamilton or even a fluffy pony. You know the routine: a jolt of self-esteem from folks you haven’t spoken to since high school because they liked your beach picture, an argument with total strangers in the comments of some politically-charged meme, or a laughing emoji for grumpy old man Wonkers who said something snarky about all those damn millennials.

Put aside the tropes and consider this alarming data: teenagers spend an average of six hours – or 37% of their waking hours – refreshing their social media feeds. Adults spend an average of four hours – or 25% of their waking hours – refreshing their social media feeds.

We get it – it’s hard to resist FOMO – fear of missing out – and that vicarious sensation you get when you see your squad at a Galantis concert, or your neighbor looking so gosh darn pretty heading off to prom. You want to be there, or be them, and every time you refresh, refresh, refresh your browser, there’s a new experience or person to be jealous of. What to do?

Embracing the Joy of Missing Out

A philosophy has emerged that will save us all – JOMO – the joy of missing out. JOMO disciples recognize that social media and tech devices are necessary in this digital age, but we really don’t need to stay “plugged in” as much as we do. Ashley Whillans, a behavioral psychologist, states it plainly: “We see time and time again that the constant distraction is making people feel very unhappy.”

The JOMO philosophy is not a quit-cold-turkey detox of tech. Instead, it means finding the balance between when being on your phone is necessary, and when it’s a tormenting distraction. As described by Hayley Phelan in The New York Times, JOMO disciples seem to operate under a few basic tenets:

  1. If you have a smartphone, you’re already at risk for unhealthy tech habits. Companies have spent years making their mobile products addicting – buying one means you’re at-risk for FOMO.
  2. Your quest for a balanced “digital diet” is a lot like maintaining a real food diet: “Gorging on clickbait content and empty-calorie YouTube sessions probably isn’t doing us any favors. But, as with our tummies, starvation isn’t the answer.” Healthy, selective consumption is key.
  3. Break the expectation that you’re quick to respond to emails, texts, and other pings. You’ve probably had a boss or colleague who took their sweet time to respond to your messages – don’t be afraid to be that person.
  4. Make decisions about your habits consciously. If you’re going to pass up that creative writing project to watch another episode of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (and who can blame you!), be comfortable with that decision.

Ultimately, you have to practice JOMO on your own terms. There’s no better motivation for finding that balance than knowing a moderate approach to tech can generate more free time and improve your mental health.

The Workplace Connection

“Staying connected” is especially necessary on the job, but there’s a thin line between using your smart phone to check your work email, and unconsciously swiping your screen to refresh your Facebook feed.

Even within the internal ecosystem of the workplace, it can be hard to escape the trivialities of social media. Often, businesses use messaging platforms like Slack that allow for multiple channels. Most channels might be purely focused on work, but the “fun” channel might be riddled with memes, gifs, weekend plans, and general office gossip.

When Slack went down last June, those particularly impacted were remote workers, who successfully use digital technology to stay connected to onsite colleagues. But when technology doesn’t work, we’re back to square one – some folks panic at isolation, others embrace the quiet silence.

As JOMO catches on, perhaps more employees will reject the superfluous benefits of tech in and out of the office. With workplace cultures so driven by digitization, it will be fascinating to see businesses strike their own balance.

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