You may or may not have heard of FOMO. The abbreviation of fear of missing out, FOMO (pronounced ˈfəʊməʊ in British English and ˈfoʊmoʊ in North American English) is defined as “a feeling of worry that an interesting or exciting event is happening somewhere else”. It is a word that has been in common parlance since circa 2012 and was added to Oxford Dictionaries Online in 2013. FOMO can affect our professional lives, making us log into our work emails outside of working hours to check that we haven’t missed anything momentous while we’ve been away, or to spend valuable time attending optional meetings “just in case” something relevant comes up. But it is with social media that FOMO is inextricably linked. Social media allows us to easily track what is happening in others people’s lives, sometimes even in real time. We are exposed to people’s posts about graduations, engagements, weddings, baby showers, new homes and swanky holidays (see our blog post on humblebrag). FOMO can prompt you to take part in things that you don’t really enjoy, to compulsively check your social media channels to ensure that you’re keeping abreast of all happenings, or to compare your own life to the lives of others. Understandably, this has a negative effect on mental health; FOMO has been linked to stress, anxiety and even depression.
Personally, when I first heard of FOMO, I was slightly nonplussed. The idea of worrying about what I might be missing out on while happily curled up on the sofa at home with my cat, a book and a cup of tea was baffling to me. So when JOMO entered the English language, I felt reassured that I wasn’t alone in my perspective and also relieved that there had finally been a backlash against FOMO.
JOMO (pronounced ˈdʒəʊməʊ in British English and ˈdʒoʊmoʊ in North American English) is the opposite of and the remedy for FOMO. It is the abbreviation of (you may have guessed it) joy of missing out and can be defined as the appreciation of the way you choose to spend your time, regardless of what anyone else seems to be doing. It means that not only is it perfectly OK to spend a Saturday night binge-watching your favourite television series instead of going out partying, it’s something to be celebrated.
JOMO is becoming more and more pertinent. At a recent conference, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, announced the company’s intention to bring users JOMO through the introduction of new features such as apps to track the number of times you check your phone. A school in London recently launched a #JOMO campaign to encourage pupils to spend time away from social media. It is now possible to go on JOMO retreats to learn how to be digitally healthy. There are over 100,000 instances of #JOMO on Instagram, which demonstrates a slightly odd paradox: pure JOMO happens away from our device screens, so why do we need to document it digitally with an accompanying hashtag? It could be argued that JOMO is becoming the new FOMO …
Nonetheless, JOMO still has value. Modern life can be busy, to say the least. Technology means that we are constantly connected and it is all too easy to lose yourself in the midst of a maelstrom of digital notifications. As such, over the last few years an array of concepts have sprung up to help us to reconnect with ourselves and ignore the digital hubbub. Mindfulness, self-care and self-awareness are just a few of these concepts, and JOMO is a joyous encapsulation of all three. It is about accepting and embracing the present moment, regardless of what else you could be doing; it is about turning your attention to your own well-being instead of competing with those around you; it is about taking the time to do the things that make you happy without judgement or comparison.
JOMO is the digital detox we’ve all been craving.
I didn’t get time to check Instagram yesterday , and I am feeling pure JOMO.
So if you find yourself in bed at 9pm on a Saturday with a book and a hot drink, or if your social media profile contains more photos of your pet than of exotic holidays and big celebrations, don’t let FOMO take hold – just embrace the JOMO!
Stacey Bateman is a Development Editor in OUP’s ELT Dictionaries and Reference Grammar department.