Forget FOMO – embrace JOMO

JOMO (the Joy Of Missing Out) is a very welcome new conscious living trend and the exact opposite of the woeful, soul-crushing ethos of FOMO (the Fear Of Missing Out).


It’s no coincidence that FOMO (the Fear of Missing Out) first entered cyberlanguage in 2006, just two years after Facebook was launched. Social media has connected us all in many beneficial ways, but it also compels many people to stay online far more than is healthy for them, for fear of missing out on something exciting or interesting.

JOMO is the antidote. The Urban Dictionary defines it as: ‘Enjoying what you’re doing in the here and now and not on social media, broadcasting or seeing what everybody else is doing’.

Person #1: I had a great day, climbed a hill and didn’t check Facebook.
Person #2: Good day?
Person #1: Yea, pure JOMO.

Many digital apps are designed to be addictive

Steve Jobs knew very well that the devices he designed and many of the apps they run are addictive, and he took steps to protect his own children from them. ‘We limit how much technology our kids use at home,’ he told reporter, Nick Bilton, when she asked about their use of iPads. Bill Gates took a similar approach. He didn’t let any of his three children have a mobile phone until they were 14 years old.

Now current and ex-Silicon Valley tech executives are coming clean and speaking out about this. Many admit they limit their children’s screen-time and have opted to send them to low-tech schools where blackboards and chalk are the norm and technology is rarely, if ever, used. They don’t want their kids to be manipulated like most of the world is.

‘I am convinced the devil lives in our phones and is wreaking havoc on our children’, was the New York Times Quotation of the Day on October 29, 2018, by Athena Chavarria, a former executive assistant at Facebook. What people in the tech sector know, more than anyone else, is how destructively addictive digital devices can be. They should do. They designed the darn things to be that way!

A wonderful upshot of this new trend is that internet detox has now become a thing. Instead of it being cool to be connected 24/7, it’s starting to become cooler to take a break from time to time.

Full transparency

People often ask me if I have a phone. I do own one but I use it very differently to how other people use theirs.

I got my first phone in 1997 — a sweet little monochrome Nokia 3810 that had the lowest radiofrequency radiation of any available at that time. I’ve been through various upgrades since then and now have an Android smartphone. During the last 21 years, I’ve used my phone on average no more than two or three times per week. These days it’s more like two or three times per month, for only a few minutes each time. That includes data usage too.

No one except my husband knows my number and the websites that require me to use a phone for 2-Factor Authentication logon. I only use my phone if I’m lost, running late or have an emergency of some kind. Everything else can wait until I get home to my landline phone or computer, or if I’m travelling, my laptop. My computer runs on a wired ethernet connection, not WiFi, and all devices have Fiara anti-blue light filters to block the harmful portion of the blue light spectrum from being emitted through the screens.

I do use social media, but only for about 20 minutes per week to post links to my blogs and reply to messages from people seeking help of some kind. And I do use email, but never check for messages in the morning except on rare occasions when I’m expecting something important. When I take vacations, I totally unplug and don’t use any devices at all.

So how do I manage, you may wonder? Perfectly well. I’m more tech savvy than most of the people I know and very connected to the world. The difference is that I choose when to use the devices I own. I decided long ago that I would run them rather than them running me.

The effects of digital addiction

It used to be that high-income parents gave their children the advantage by equipping them with the latest devices. Now it’s the other way around. Schools in underprivileged areas tend to require kids to use screens whereas schools for the children of wealthier, more discriminating parents increasingly do not. Poor kids are bombarded by Wi-Fi for much of their waking life and live from dopamine hit to dopamine hit in an endless addictive cycle. Rich kids are more likely to escape this.

The title of a very well-researched article published in The Atlantic in September 2017 asks: Have smartphones destroyed a generation? The author, Jean M. Twenge, has studied generational differences for 25 years and cites a Monitoring The Future survey in the US that has questioned Eighth- and Tenth-graders each year since 1991 and Twelfth-graders each year since 1975. She says the findings of the survey are unequivocal:

Teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on non-screen activities are more likely to be happy.

Digging deeper, she concludes that ‘Eighth-graders who are heavy users of social media increase their risk of depression by 27 percent’ and ‘Teens who spend three hours a day or more on electronic devices are 35 percent more likely to have a risk factor for suicide, such as making a suicide plan.’

Many children are so addicted to their phones that checking it is the last thing they do before sleep and the first thing they do when they wake up. And if they leave it turned on during the night, as so many do, a part of them is always on alert and never fully rests. Sleep deprivation is now a chronic problem, not just among children and teenagers but device-addicted adults too.

And for these kinds of people, it’s not enough just to turn their phone off. A 2017 study conducted by the University of Texas found that for avid users, turning their phone off but still keeping it close by had a significant effect on their cognitive abilities because of the effort it took them to resist turning it back on. For this to make any difference, the phone had to be placed in another room.

The solution

Smartphones give us access to galaxies of information. They are a portal to entertainment, a vehicle for communication, a multi-media recording device and a vast technological resource. It’s the way they are used is the problem. Instead of making people more awakened and smarter, over-dependence makes them sleepier and dumber.

As with all great innovations, the technology itself is not inherently bad. It can be used for good or evil. With this in mind, ex-Google designer Tristan Harris is now spearheading The Center For Humane Technology, with the stated mission ‘to shift technology towards a more humane future that supports our well-being, democratic functioning, and shared information environment’. He and his team have created an excellent resource for those who want to take back control of their life. Click here if you want to know more: Take Control of Your Social Media Use.

And what will you do with all the time you no longer waste? Remember talking to people? Nurturing relationships? Having new experiences (without needing to photograph or video them)? Delving into life’s mysteries? Discovering deeper levels of yourself? Or myriads of other ways to live life to the full instead of endlessly surfing the surface? That’s JOMO — the joy of missing out on pointless titillation that does you no good at all so you have time for the things in life that truly matter.

Copyright © Clear Space Living Ltd 2018, updated 2022

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About Karen Kingston

Karen Kingston is a leading expert in clutter clearing, space clearing, feng shui and healthy homes. Her two international bestselling books have combined sales of over three million copies in 26 languages and have established themselves as "must read" classics in their fields. Her best-known title, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, is now in its fourth edition. She is best known for her perspective-changing insights and practical solutions that enable more conscious navigation of 21st-century living.
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3 Responses to Forget FOMO – embrace JOMO

  1. Over 20 years ago, only doctors (and other people on duty) had to carry pagers that would interrupt them constantly with beeping noise while they were ‘on call’. I felt sorry for them – they always look stressed. Smart phones are like pagers from the past, I think.

  2. When iphones first came out my daughter’s best friend was given one before she started college. She showed it to me and it was magical! Thank goodness it was so expensive and I never bought one. I still use a flip phone, which does everything I want a phone to do — allows me to make and receive calls, and get text messages from my 30-something kids. I can’t say for sure what keeps me from getting a smart phone. I just have an intuitive feeling that it is the best thing for me not to be connected 24/7. In recent years I’ve noticed that people don’t pity my flip phone, but actually remark it might be better if they used one instead of a smart phone.

    Karen, thank you so much for this article.

  3. Wow. Fantastic article. Thankyou Karen! You have so eloquently summed up how I feel & my concerns about technology today & our young teenagers & children (and adults too!). I have worked with technology for a number of years and have been very aware of the change in behaviour. I have not been immune myself but at age 30 I realised how it was affecting me and changed how I used my devices – so they weren’t running me! A part time passion of mine is tutoring people on how to operate their devices (smartphones, tablets, computers) and during this, I also inform of the options to remove or reduce the constant barrage of ‘pings’, ‘beeps’ & notifications, all competiting for their attention. I enjoy sharing with people that there are other ways, that we don’t have to be distracted salves to our devices. I never push this on people but just offer the information of these options. Although I often do get a ‘yes please switch them off, it’s driving me nuts!’

    It is positive to hear things are changing & about movments like Time Well Spent.
    Bring on the cool of the JOMO!

    Much love,

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