#JOMO Over #FOMO: How to Find the Joy of Missing Out

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#JOMO Over #FOMO: How to Find the Joy of Missing Out

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

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ike the majority of woke millennials, I proudly identify as someone who is a voracious reader. Every year, I make it a point to broadcast the Jaipur Literature Festival line-up on Twitter with the unparalleled vivacity of a “Frida Kahlo on acid”. I also meticulously update my reading list with the names of authors whose books get adapted into Netflix series, so that I can actively participate in joining the “The book was better!” chorus.  

Yet I’ve also noticed that the only time I actually manage to finish a book cover to cover – without reaching out for my phone to double-tap on a flurry of Instagram posts or LOL at some memes – is when I’m on an airplane. I vividly remember one flight only because I ended up finishing a book I had given up on, twice. Miracles do happen. Hallelujah.

But why do I attain reading nirvana only when I am 10,000 feet above sea level? The obvious explanation is, of course, that I do not have my usual distractions: No WiFi, mobile internet, my overactive Twitter timeline, umpteen WhatsApp messages, the temptations of my Netflix account, or work emails. I flip through the pages, indifferent to what’s unfolding on these busy fronts. In those brief hours on every flight that I spend completely attuned to and immersed in reading a book, I discover something I haven’t had in a long time: peace of mind and the small joys of missing out.

The New York Times describes JOMO as “the antithesis of FOMO (fear of missing out), JOMO is about disconnecting, opting out and being O.K. just where you are.”

As it turns out, taking a moral high ground against FOMO is easier in the sky than it is on land. After all, we are all part of an attention-deficit culture where we trade in relevance – the road to which necessitates a social life designed around 24/7 availability. And even for the most introverted soul, it’s not very difficult to feel left out, especially when people around us thrive on incessantly broadcasting their evening dates, weekend brunches, daily TV binges, weekly concerts, and monthly getaways. In the age that we live in, it is imperative to always have a plan.

But allow me to propose a ridiculously crazy but empowering idea: What if we have been looking at the idea of missing out through the wrong lens all this while? As I finished yet another book on a flight, a realisation dawned on me: Wouldn’t it just be easier to turn my life into a never-ending flight – where I stop responding to every juicy piece of gossip, or every popular tweet with a funny retort. Wouldn’t this ensure that I only do things I know I’d pay full attention to and derive joy from, without any terms and conditions attached? I’d no longer reluctantly chase something for some social media gratification. Isn’t missing out on stuff that I wouldn’t have done anyway – if I wasn’t in a rat race to be somewhere or know something at all hours – actually a good thing?

Why do we fear missing out so much?

So then why do we fear missing out so much? In fact, as I have learnt lately there’s joy in missing out. This joy comes with respecting my time and dedicating it to pursuits of pleasures meant not for display – but for myself. The joy that accompanies accepting that I may not have an Instagram timeline full of adventures, but can have a head free of unnecessary noise. And the joy that informs me that it’s okay to not know and do some things.

I’ve finished three books since finding my JOMO and I didn’t have to be 10,000 feet above sea level. I also had a fabulous time on a weekend getaway and did not check Instagram to FOMO about how much fun someone else was having on their vacation.

The New York Times essay states, “Don’t think of JOMO as a detox, but more like an integral part to a healthy, well-balanced nutrition plan for your brain. You may not always want to do it, it may not always feel natural or fun, but, like that kale smoothie you choke down or the probiotics you spring for at Whole Foods, you do it because it’s good for you.”

JOMO then is about being in places you really want to be and accepting that missing out on things isn’t the same as being left out.

Somewhere, there’s a movie premiere that I haven’t heard about. Nearby, people could be thronging the newest ramen restaurant in town. Someone could be taking the best vacation of their life. Someone is outraging about something on Twitter and someone is sharing their engagement photos on Facebook. Every second, somewhere, some people might be doing cool things that I have no idea about and living their best life. But they don’t have to be me – I am living mine by being tuned out.

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