At worst, FOMO – the fear of missing out – can lead to feelings of inadequacy, inferiority and crippling self-judgement. At best, it becomes a form of social comparison where you base your personal worth on how you stack up against others. When you’re constantly plugged into everyone else’s lives, via social media for example, the worry that you’re being left out or left behind can become all-consuming.
On the one hand, you want to feel like you belong, while on the other, you need time out from the effort of trying so hard. You may be aware that FOMO invites feelings of stress into your life and make an effort to avoid it, only to find that it ends up doubling your attempts not to miss out.
Say, for example, you risk the FOMO feeling by skipping post-work drinks to spend the evening at home. This could be a night in with a good book or a TV drama, but then FOMO compels you to spend hours on Facebook keeping track of what your colleagues are up to.
Antidote or avoidance?
JOMO has been sold as the emotionally intelligent antidote to this double bind. Advocates tell you to embrace the pleasure of choosing what you want to do (or not do) regardless of the social influences around you. JOMO is another way of describing a night in or me-time – it just lends itself to a hashtag. It’s possible JOMO could become an avoidance tactic rather than an antidote. So, how can you fully embrace the joy minus the ‘OMO’?
Juggling JOMO and FOMO
The juxtaposition of FOMO and JOMO can provide a useful sense of perspective. While both are based on the premise of missing out, one is driven by a negative emotion and the other is powered by the positive. Working with these opposing concepts can give you a frame of reference for understanding how you experience both.
If you’re doing something that isn’t entirely satisfying or that’s proving to be rather tiresome, for example, you can use this as a point of comparison to go and seek out the opposite experience.
Say you prefer to stay in on a Saturday night, but always end up consumed by thoughts of everyone else having a great time without you. Maybe the solution is to invite friends over to your place for dinner. Equally, social media might be a cause of stress, yet it’s also an essential tool for making important business connections. This means the usual advice to ‘delete apps from your phone’ isn’t necessarily wise as you might lose out on some exciting work opportunities. You could, however, restrict notifications to standard business hours.
There’s no right or wrong way to do this. FOMO and JOMO are not the only options and overcoming any sense of missing out is a question of addressing and understanding the full spectrum of your personal fears and joys.
Joy is often sold as something that can be bought, consumed or hard won by being popular and meeting expectations of conformity. Real joy, however, comes through doing your own thing without worrying what others think. It comes through breaking from conformity in any way that feels right to you. Just as you notice the sting of FOMO, you can also pay attention to moments of joy.
These bring a sense of lightness, and feelings of safety, warmth and freedom. Where are you when you feel this way? What are you doing? Can you introduce any of the joyful details of that moment into your everyday life?
The way the sunlight falls on the trees may inspire you to join a walking group or take up gardening. The satisfaction of completing a complex task at work could motivate you to ask for more of the same. Helping a young relative with schoolwork might spark a desire to further your own learning, just for fun.
Ultimately, these joyful moments serve to remind you that you’re never really missing out on anything. Everything you need is within your reach right now.
How to anchor your joy
Some joyful moments make their mark as powerful memories. These can help you to access feelings of joy when FOMO begins to take hold. You can create a physical trigger, or anchor, that stimulates the memory whenever you need it.
- Begin by recalling a time when you felt truly happy, safe and fulfilled. Close your eyes and build on the memory with colours, sounds, sensations and smells. Fully immerse yourself in the experience until it becomes as vivid and intense as it can be.
- Now choose a point on your body that you can access without drawing attention and won’t be easily stimulated by accident. You could press the tips of your thumb and middle finger together, for example, or squeeze your ear lobe between your thumb and forefinger.
- Keep applying pressure until the intensity of the memory passes. Then ease off once the feeling has faded completely. Now sit for a few breaths before you test your newly created anchor. When you’re ready, apply the pressure once again. It should rouse the same happy feelings effortlessly, meaning joy is always at hand.
Words: Jo Murphy
This article was originally published in Issue 17 – Going with the slow