We’ve probably all heard of FOMO, or “the fear of missing out.”
FOMO is the currency of social media platforms, eager to encourage us to compare our lives with those of others. For each post depicting health, wealth, and happiness, we might pay with the discomfort and dread of missing out on something, often forgetting that posts are heavily curated presentations of “the good life.”
Conversely, the joy of missing out (JOMO) refers to unplugging from online life and reconnecting to simple pleasures in the present moment and has been touted as an antidote to the fear of missing out.
This article will encourage you to explore JOMO as essential self-care in our fast-paced digital culture.
FOMO refers to the “fear of missing out” — that angsty, anxious restlessness we experience when we have a sense that we’re not included in something interesting, important, and enjoyable. Human beings are social animals, and the fear of being excluded has a biological evolutionary basis (Davis et al., 2023).
In our not-too-distant past, being excluded from social groups could lead to hunger, illness, and death. Our brains are hardwired to seek belonging, social approval, and acceptance. This helps to secure resources, enhances physical safety, and improves reproductive success (Tomasello, 2014). So, the fear of missing out has an important function.
However, in our fast-paced digital age of hyper-connectivity through multiple social media platforms, the hardwired need for social inclusion has a cost (Davis et al., 2023). Endless scrolling on social media in an attempt to feel included may evoke angsty feelings of inadequacy resulting from relentless social comparison and competition, while forgetting that what we see on social media is not an accurate representation of other people’s lives.
At its most intense, FOMO can lead to jealousy and envy of what others have that we ourselves seem to lack. No matter how hard we try to keep up with the notifications of everything that is happening in other people’s lives, we will inevitably miss out because there is simply too much going on all the time (Dalton, 2019).
This sense of missing out can be painful and lead us to feel unfulfilled and inadequate. Scrolling on social media has been linked to an explosion of low mood and anxiety among digital native generations (Firth et al., 2019). Check out this Boonmind video for a deeper reflection on FOMO.
Break free from FOMO: unlocking a life of fulfillment - Boonmind
What Does JOMO Mean?
JOMO refers to the “joy of missing out” — in short, unplugging from all media, practicing self-care, reconnecting to the present moment, and learning to appreciate the peace of solitude (Dalton, 2019).
JOMO is especially important for digital natives who have never known life without social media, including some Millennials and Gen Z. Unplugging from our devices can help ground us by reconnecting us to the natural world and giving us a break from the relentless social comparison that may be at the root of a lot of the anxiety and dysphoria experienced by these generations (Lusk, 2010).
In short, JOMO gives us a break from processing endless streams of information and notifications that can overwhelm our minds and leave us feeling exhausted (Barry et al., 2023). JOMO provides an opportunity to experience gratitude for all that we have right here and right now (Dalton, 2019).
This video by Boonmind describes how we can make the shift from FOMO to JOMO.
From FOMO to JOMO: embracing the joy of missing out - Boonmind
Comparing JOMO vs. FOMO
While JOMO embraces offline living and embodies social connections with friends and family in the present moment, FOMO encourages a preoccupation with whatever is beyond the here and now (Brinkmann, 2019).
By definition, if we feel we are missing out, something is lacking. This can lead to a sense of living an unfulfilling life characterized by the endless pursuit of more rather than gratitude and appreciation.
Curiosity drives our FOMO. Curiosity is a positive human motivator that has driven all the great minds who’ve made technological breakthroughs throughout human history. However, a problem arises when our digital devices and their constant stream of notifications that oversaturate us with information hijack our curiosity.
To avoid FOMO and embrace JOMO, we need to discern what is worth our attention and how to curate information accordingly. In the TED talk shown below, documentary filmmaker Barbara Krieger explains how our ongoing attention to information does not necessarily make us more informed. Rather, we need to understand that much of the information conveyed online is repetitive and distracting (Firth et al., 2019).
Krieger (2016) explains how information conveyed by the news cycle becomes “knowledge,” meaning the things we need to know to navigate our way in the world. The consolidation of information into knowledge takes place both online and offline.
She argues that we don’t need to fear missing out if we unplug digitally for hours or days, as much of the information we absorb when constantly plugged in isn’t useful and undermines our focus and attention span.
JOMO no FOMO: keeping curiosity afloat in a sea of rising information
Benefits of Embracing JOMO
The benefits of embracing JOMO cannot be overstated. The fast and frantic pace of digital life threatens to drown us in information. For many of us, it feels overwhelming, unnatural, and unproductive. The endless distractions provided by being constantly plugged in can drain our social battery and lead to burnout (Barry et al., 2023).
While most cannot afford to unplug completely, carving out time for living in line with our values is necessary for our subjective wellbeing (Brinkmann, 2019).
Embracing a more cyclical, simple lifestyle that aligns more with our natural biological rhythms is deeply replenishing. A periodic digital detox while embracing the joy of missing out will benefit both our mental and physical health (Dalton, 2019).
Psychologist Svend Brinkmann (2019) wrote a book explaining the benefits of JOMO, and it is reviewed in the books section below. He recommends JOMO as the antidote to the hedonic treadmill that drives our consumer society.
According to the hedonic treadmill theory, the more possessions and experiences we acquire to fuel hedonic sources of happiness, the more of them we require to maintain happiness (Klausen et al., 2022). Such hedonism can result in an unfulfilling life characterized by endless craving.
You can watch Brinkmann discuss the book in an interview below.
The joy of missing out: why we should learn to be content with what we have
Strategies for Finding Joy in Missing Out
Productivity expert and author Tanya Dalton (2019) wrote a book about JOMO that is reviewed in the books section below. The following strategies to find joy in missing out have been drawn from her writings and podcasts:
Make a list of activities you really enjoy doing.
Post it in an accessible place so that at a moment’s notice, you’ve got a reminder of activities that bring you joy and include them in your day.
Make plans for your time off.
Too often we just go with the flow and wonder what we did all day once we are in bed. The key is balance: not over-structuring our lives but carving out time for meaningful connection, creative pursuits, or whatever brings you joy offline.
Do a regular digital detox.
A lot of FOMO is generated by scrolling through social media and the resulting social comparisons that inevitably happen. Make sure you unplug for a set time each day or week to ground yourself in the present moment.
Invest in offline connections with others.
This can include family, partners, friends, and neighbors. It doesn’t have to be a huge amount of time, but a shared activity is a great way to build meaningful relationships rather than investing time in connecting with relative strangers online.
Carve out time for self-care.
This is often the most difficult thing to do for those with demanding fast-paced lives, but it’s essential to stay well and to take care of others. It might be a solo nature walk, a warm bath, meditation, or soothing music — whatever makes you feel more comfortable in your own skin.
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Using JOMO to Enhance Productivity
There is no such thing as time management.
This may sound totally counterintuitive, but as productivity expert and author Tanya Dalton (2021) found, letting go of measuring our output against the clock and instead focusing on the quality of our work enhances productivity while also freeing up time.
How? Simply put, we are human beings — complex organisms that exist in a dynamic relationship with our environment and its natural cycles and rhythms.
Dalton contends that clock-watching time management, however, is a legacy of the industrial revolution and Henry Ford’s advocacy of Fordism, the assembly line production method (Hudson, 2009). There was a period in history when many were required to work in production lines like cogs in a machine. Dalton argues that this is an outmoded approach to productivity.
The transition to a knowledge-based information economy coupled with AI-controlled automation means this pattern of work is no longer required for many of us. Instead, we can afford to reconnect to our natural rhythms and embrace nourishing activities on our JOMO list during our organic cycles of more or less focus throughout the day, week, and year (Dalton, 2019).
Dalton argues that completing tasks when we are at our most focused — whatever the times of day, week, month, or season that happens — makes us much more productive without being prisoners of the clock. For a fascinating and concise presentation of how less time dedicated to work enhances productivity, see her Oxford Talk given in New York.
Time management is killing your productivity - Tanya Dalton
3 Must Read Books
I have chosen the following books to help you embrace JOMO and ditch FOMO with attention to the science of subjective wellbeing and productivity.
1. The Joy of Missing Out: Live More by Doing Less – Tanya Dalton
Named a Top 10 Business Book of the Year by Fortune magazine, I referred to this book and the author in the sections above. The image on the cover depicts a woman struggling with impossible demands leading to stress and overwhelm.
Many of us start the day already feeling behind. The race against the clock while tearing through our to-do lists can make us anxious and irritable. This is a far cry from a good life.
CEO and productivity coach Tanya Dalton recommends a liberating shift in perspective — embracing the joy of missing out. This book is packed full of printable resources to help you overcome overwhelm and live your best life.
The author coaches you on how to identify your values, clarify priorities, streamline your workflow, and discover your purpose. Dalton explains how when you refuse the pressure to do more, something amazing happens: You discover that you can live a productive and abundant life where less is more and where fewer activities lead to greater fulfillment.
2. The Joy of Missing Out: The Art of Self-Restraint in an Age of Excess – Svend Brinkmann
I’ve referred to the author Danish philosopher and psychologist Svend Brinkmann in the sections above. In this book, Brinkmann focuses on JOMO as an antidote to the consumerist drive to gain better and more experiences or products.
The problem with pursuing endless gratification is explained by the hedonic treadmill and hedonic adaptation theory.
Psychologists have found that despite spikes in short-term pleasure provided by novel and interesting events, experiences, and bigger and better consumer products, human beings quickly return to a baseline level of happiness. Brinkmann argues that this means that the never-ending pursuit of consumer-based gratification can quickly develop into a flatlining treadmill leading nowhere.
A far more effective way to cultivate happiness is to practice moderation, self-restraint, appreciation, and gratitude, by embracing the joy of missing out. Brinkmann educates readers by presenting five arguments based on political, existential, ethical, psychological, and aesthetic rationales for the joy of missing out. Readers learn how to enrich their lives and those of others while protecting the planet from the ravages of excessive consumption.
3. The Joy of Missing Out: Finding Balance in a Wired World – Christina Crook
The author wrote this book after a month-long digital detox from the stress-inducing clicking, beeping, vibrating notifications that threatened to overwhelm her.
She shares her experience of unplugging to help readers rethink their relationship to technology and the avalanche of data that bombards us daily from our laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
Christina Crook considers the impact of a technology-focused world on our children, families, friendships, communities, wellbeing, and work life. The book is not anti-technology, but explains the merits of intentional living that includes a disciplined use of technology rather than being used by it.
During her month-long internet fast, Crook describes how she rediscovered the richness of offline existence and a quietness of mind beyond the now normalized state of what Sherry Turkle (2016) called “distracted connectedness.”
This book is poetically written with rich references to a range of literature past and present, making it a pleasure to read. It is highly recommended for all those seeking balance, peace, and genuine connection while maintaining a stake in our fast-paced digital age.
Here at PositivePsychology.com, we have a range of resources to support your exploration of JOMO. Topics cover happiness and subjective wellbeing, work–life balance, and helping enhance your connection to the present moment. Related articles with links to free tools and resources include:
The joy of missing out is something worth considering when we notice we’re spending too much time trying to keep up with the constant influx of information.
Our natural curiosity about the world is a key motivator for action, but in our fast-paced digital culture, it can also be draining.
Keep in mind that social comparison is not necessarily a bad thing. Seeing others do better can also inspire us to improve ourselves.
The key to managing our fear of missing out is embracing moderation. Take time to switch off and connect with those around you. Take the time to care for yourself. Embrace balance and enjoy the present moment.
You can foster JOMO by disciplining your social media use and periodically unplugging. There’s no need to go offline altogether; it’s more about striking a healthy balance between online and offline life.
Can JOMO improve my mental health?
JOMO can definitely enhance your sense of wellbeing and your mental health. Taking time to ground yourself in simple offline activities and meaningful embodied social connections may reduce stress and may help prevent burnout.
How do I get rid of extreme FOMO?
Try a digital detox in stages, focus more on offline relationships and interests, take up a practice that grounds you in the present moment (like mindfulness), and try gratitude journaling to appreciate what you have.
Barry, C., Smith, E., Murphy, M., Halter, B., & Briggs, J. (2023). JOMO: Joy of missing out and its association with social media use, self-perception, and mental health. Telematics and InformaticsReports, 10.
Brinkmann, S. (2019). The joy of missing out: The art of self-restraint in an age of excess. Polity.
Dalton, T. (2019). The joy of missing out: Live more by doing less. Thomas Nelson.
Dalton, T. (2021). On purpose: The busy woman’s guide to an extraordinary life of meaning and success. Thomas Nelson.
Davis, A. C., Albert, G., & Arnocky, S. (2023). The links between fear of missing out, status-seeking, intrasexual competition, sociosexuality, and social support. Current Research in Behavioral Sciences, 4.
Firth, J., Torous, J., Stubbs, B., Firth, J. A., Steiner, G. Z., Smith, L., Alvarez-Jimenez, M., Gleeson, J., Vancampfort, D., Armitage, C. J., & Sarris, J. (2019). The online brain: How the internet may be changing our cognition. World Psychiatry, 18(2), 119–129.
Hudson, R. (2009). Fordism in R. Kitchen & N. Thrift (Eds.), The international encyclopedia of human geography (pp. 226–231). Elsevier.
Klausen, S. H., Emiliussen, J., Christiansen, R., Hasandedic-Dapo, L., & Engelsen, S. (2022). The many faces of hedonic adaptation. Philosophical Psychology, 35(2), 253–278.
Krieger, B. (2016). JOMO no FOMO: Keeping curiosity afloat in a sea of rising information. TEDxBasel.
Lusk, B. (2010). Digital natives and social media behavior: An overview. The Prevention Researcher, 17(S1).
Tomasello, M. (2014). The ultra-social animal. European Journal of Social Psychology, 44, 187–194.
Turkle, S. (2016). Reclaiming conversation: The power of talk in a digital age. Penguin.
About the author
Jo Nash, Ph.D., is a writer, editor, and writing coach. Jo obtained her Ph.D. in Psychotherapy Studies from the University of Sheffield, where she was a Lecturer in Mental Health at the Faculty of Medicine for over a decade.
Today, Jo combines her passion for language with mindfulness skills when coaching writers to help them cultivate flow and optimize productivity. She is the creator of the ‘focused flow’ approach to writing coaching.