The joy of missing out

15 January 2013 by Ingrid

Screen Shot 2013 01 15 at 8 42 00 AM

You may never have heard the term FOMO (fear of missing out), but you’ve likely felt it. If you live in a big city like New York, it’s almost impossible not to have a pang of it once in awhile. On a Friday night, after a workweek that seemed to move through me more than with me, I’ve often succumbed to its pressure, slipped on a pair of heels, and headed out to a cocktail party or event rather than curling up in an armchair with a book. It’s not rational, which makes it harder to resist. FOMO slides into spaces of longing, the gaps between our desired lives and our real ones, and sticks there, like a fish bone you ate by accident and can’t quite seem to swallow.

Social media makes FOMO worse — for some, it may even be the root cause. No one instagrams the lame party, or posts on Facebook about the fight they’re having with their spouse, or tweets that they are ordering takeout from the same Thai place for the fifth weekend in a row. Feeds are self-edited to be glittering displays of fun, adventure, and romance. At every moment, we are missing out on something, or at least it seems that way at the time.

And it’s not just fun we fear missing. Over the last few years, as Twitter’s river of news and updates has become more rapid, I find I worry about missing an article that is relevant to my work, or some piece of inspiration that could be the vital link that brings a chapter together. It doesn’t matter that I have a folder brimming with more material than I could post in a decade. I still worry that something better might slip by right on the day I decide not to log in.

But as the new year settled in to its first days, and I went down with the epic cold that’s had everyone sneezing and hacking, I noticed something. People I talked to, and posts I read, were all talking about the same kinds of intentions for the new year: to ease up and slow down. One friend wrote about going on an inspiration diet, using the time saved by reading and browsing less to make more from the inspiration he already had. Others wrote about taking time for introspection, limiting technology, and spending more time with family and friends. It was all very in sync with what I was feeling, cuddled up and coughing on my sofa. It was the complete opposite of FOMO, something more aptly called JOMO: the joy of missing out.

I can’t take credit for the term — it was coined by writer Anil Dash after the birth of his son. He writes:

There can be, and should be, a blissful, serene enjoyment in knowing, and celebrating, that there are folks out there having the time of their life at something that you might have loved to, but are simply skipping.

By the laws of physics, you can only be in one place at a time. You’re going to miss things. The question is how you deal with it. To make deliberate choices, and to revel in the ones you’ve made — that’s what JOMO is, and what I’m embracing this year.

Joy is about presence, about being in the moment and soaking in every sensation that moment has to offer you. The fear of missing out intrudes on an experience, causing you to feel torn between different moments, and lessening your pleasure wherever you are. When you adopt an attitude of joy about missing out, you let go of other possibilities, reclaim the moment you’re in, and set yourself up to enjoy it. Often, that means choosing simple pleasures over flashy ones — the ones that feel good over the ones that look good in photos. It’s a home-cooked dinner over an eight-course tasting menu. It’s a bike ride with family over an exclusive event. It’s poems over tweets. Above all, it’s savoring what you’re doing and who you’re with, immersing yourself in the real pleasures of the experience, as opposed to the imagined ones a few miles away. It’s remembering that this moment is imperfect but completely your own, and best of all, it’s happening right now.

More: JOMO! by Anil Dash


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