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How To Practice ‘The Joy Of Missing Out’ And To Say ‘No’ When It Matters Most

  • 9 min read

Reflections from a Covid-survivor towards the opposite of FOMO

We’re all familiar with the concept of FOMO — the Fear of Missing Out. But what about its opposite — the Joy of Missing Out?

As it turns out, I’ve been practising JOMO behaviour for over a year without knowing it, and it’s good for my mind.

As Corona came to dominate the media, I was reminded of a German self-help book I bought years ago with the hope of clearing my mind. It reminded me of the tip to consume as little news as possible, to reduce social media consumption, and to put the smartphone aside. In fact, research shows that the really important events are communicated via family and friends anyway.

Meanwhile, the ‘noise of the day’, all the ‘just now’, ‘this is the current status’, ‘5 minutes ago’ and so on, is swallowed up so you don’t have to deal with filtering and selecting it and thus feeling ‘maxed out’ or ‘not having the bandwidth. The majority of the news is obsolete because the news cycle churns violently.

Breaking News: We’re tested Coronavirus Positive

With the outbreak of the pandemic in Germany and other overwhelming shocking news, my husband and I retreated into a cocoon in early 2020. I was pregnant with our son and I didn’t want our child to be affected by all the horrific news in the media and the resulting anxiety and stress.

Now, unfortunately, my family and I have been directly affected by Coronavirus. We were devastated when the doctor broke the news to us that we’d tested positive with no idea how we could have been infected given we have been living in self-isolation for over a year and only ever see our son’s grandparents. With the test result and a stay in the isolation ward of the hospital with suspected pulmonary embolism, I pulled my smartphone out of my pocket and fired it up in order to enlighten myself and to become a ‘well-informed citizen and patient’ again.

Opinions Differ Widely About the Mutant Strain Called ‘X-Man’

I Googled: What’s the current status in our country and in our region? How are other people affected who also had to go to hospital? What does it mean when my lungs burn like this? I quickly found out that the opinions differ widely, as we were also told by friends and family before.

There wasn’t ONE website that told me, as a Covid sufferer, in no uncertain terms: these are the symptoms. This is how sufferers with x or y symptoms feel after recovery. I couldn’t even get any valuable information when I verbally asked whether it was possible that I had the mutant strain of the virus (affectionately called ‘X-Man’ by the health department, which is supposed to be particularly contagious and had perhaps been transmitted by a jogger on a walk via aerosols during heavy exhalation.).

Here, too, opinions differed. When I spoke to the emergency doctors at the hospital, who had been looking after people infected with Covid for over a year and some of whom had had Covid themselves, they only told me that the ‘X-Man-question’ would not contribute anything to the severity of my symptoms.

Not so contagious despite what’s been said in the media? I no longer understood the world. Now, lying in the isolation ward, completely isolated like a leper and with my husband and son alone at home, the family doctor and the health department were still telling me that it was important to exclude ‘the X-Man’. Days later I learned that it also depended on which mutant the laboratory had tested me for: British, African, Brazilian, or the new one, a mixture of all three because they were now intermarrying! Congratulations!

Like Sokrates, We Know Nothing!

Even when I came out of hospital and was finally allowed to join my family in quarantine, my husband and I continued to research. But I soon realised that, like Socrates, I knew nothing. All the searching for clarification got me nowhere. On the contrary: I felt unhappy when I read about possible lack of concentration, hair loss, low lung volume due to Covid, or that if I had a headache, it could be a sign that my nervous system was affected too. In the media, experts say Covid can attack the whole body, every cell. But we don’t know any more details…

One evening, when my symptoms worsened — my lungs were so congested it felt like a rubber band around my chest, my pulse was racing and my muscles were aching, I just couldn’t take it anymore. My husband asked me to put my smartphone down again and concentrate on my recovery, to leave world events and all the negative news out of it. Indeed, I had not found any positive reports about people infected with Coronavirus, only terrible patient stories about mothers who had to be separated from their children in quarantine so as not to infect them, who later complained of severe fatigue and others about the effects of the virus in children (for instance, I read this very well written article by Emily Willingham).

The New York Times Named JOMO a Trend

The moment I consciously put my phone away again and concentrated on my body and mind, I felt better. A few days later, I became aware of an article in the New York Times, which led me to the phenomenon of JOMO — the joy of missing out. That’s me, I thought! That’s exactly what I’ve been practicing for months.

The JOMO phenomenon is the antithesis of FOMO — the fear of missing out — which is mainly fuelled by social media. People just want to be up to date, fully involved, and in the know about what’s trendy — moreover, I learned from Manoush Zomorodi the term ‘infomania’, the fear of missing out on content. In her article, she refers to a study showing that since the beginning of the pandemic, the time we’re consuming content has doubled.

The New York Times named JOMO the trend of 2018 in their article “How to make this the summer of missing out: being OK just where you are”. Our generation Y is often stressed and overwhelmed by (social) media. It’s not only the news anchors but also the influencers who show us the endless possibilities we have, thereby stressing us out with their seemingly perfect worlds as we suddenly find our lives boring.

Setting Personal Boundaries is Key For Your Health

Finding the balance with our technological devices and establishing healthier tech and news-consumption habits is key. The most important thing is setting personal boundaries.

Let me give you an example: in addition to being selective about my media consumption, I also started taking several days to respond to messages via WhatsApp. Being in isolation, you’re not interested in staying on top of things and responding quickly anymore. I also found out that the constant distraction with messages asking about our health status and informing us about the latest news distracted me and made me unhappy. Healthy people expect responsiveness because they worry otherwise. If you don’t respond, they’ll ask you within hours if everything is ok with you.

What’s happening? Who cares? I’m OK just where I am!

Winter photo created by pvproductions

In quarantine, cut off from the normal world outside, I realised that it’s good to consciously shift down a gear and listen to one’s own needs, far away from all the noise of the media. I could concentrate on the most important people and activities in my life. I could think, just do nothing, relax and finally take time for myself. I’m happy to be alive, enjoying my family and sitting on my couch at home. I don’t have to climb mountains or travel to exotic places to feel happier.

Life is not particularly beautiful when something new is happening all the time. It is precisely the quiet moments that are precious.

There’s a sense of peace that comes with pulling back from the zeitgeist of FOMO and spending the day with more awareness. I’m telling you this from my own experience, JOMO is real and its benefits can be achieved at any age if the desire is strong enough — you don’t need a pandemic or quarantine to change the way you live your life.

And the great thing is that it doesn’t require any special method or skill. That’s the beauty of it. You don’t always have to be productive, up to date and online. It’s unusual but it can lead you to self-reflection and true joy — without all the unnecessary noise.

Final Thoughts

In April 2019, Casey Neistat made a video about FOMO, in which he compares news in the (social) media to candy. Everyone likes candy. Everyone wants to have enough candy in their cupboard at home or in their pocket. But they can’t eat it all the time. So he advises cutting back a little on consumption.

The news is a powerful tool. It creates an impact, negative or positive. Each letter of the word ‘news’ has a meaning: news can come from anywhere: North, East, West, and South. And for that reason, we should all think about our consumption of it and its (negative) impact on our way of living.

Practice JOMO! Maybe that’s the best piece of news you’ve heard for a long time. Try it once and experience more joy in life!

PS: Medium editor Anna Maltby asked the Medium community about their pandemic reflections, and this is an answer to it. With the tag ‘pandemic reflections’ you can browse and find articles such as this great article from Victoria Ponte about the sweet memory of holding hands. Other inspiring medium writers are: John Gorman Nkeonye Judith Izuka Emily Mullin Ranjani Rao Craig Spencer MD MPH Donald G. McNeil Jr. Glynnis MacNicol Adam Horowitz Kerala Taylor Rebecca Laura Alessandra

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