Over the past two years, COVID wasn’t the only fear that dominated our conversations. There was also FOMO, the fear of missing out. It started with fun plans we’d have to cancel, from tropical vacations to concerts to sports. Then it spread to the life milestones that would slip through our fingers. The wedding and graduation ceremonies we wouldn’t get to celebrate. The babies we wouldn’t get to hold in the hospital. The loved ones we wouldn’t get to hug goodbye.
Now, we’re left with ROMO: the regret of having missed out. The pain is real, and there’s nothing we can do to turn back time. But moving forward, what we can do is shift how we think about missing out.
JOMO was coined a decade ago by the entrepreneur Anil Dash. He observed that we could benefit from focusing on the things we were glad to miss—not just the things we were sad to miss.
My students tell me that they’re Generation FOMO. When they curl up at home with a good book, they find themselves checking social media to see if they’re missing a great party. When they show up at a party, they worry that they should’ve gone out for dinner instead. When they go out to eat, they can’t enjoy a tasty meal because they might be missing out on a more delicious dish. They’re Peter Griffin ordering salad at dinner, learning it was too late to change the order to soup, and lamenting, “And to this day I still lay awake at night wondering about the soup that got away.”
JOMO is an invitation to focus less on your regrets and more on your reliefs. Instead of fretting about the one party that might’ve been better than your book, you count your lucky stars that you missed six terrible parties. Instead of feeling disappointed about the one soup that got away, you make a list of all the soups that have let you down in the past. As journalist Oliver Burkeman reflects, “If FOMO arises from second-guessing your choices, JOMO means taking ownership of them.”
Early in the pandemic, I started making a JOMO list. I was thrilled to miss out on:
Getting stuck in traffic on my commute to work
Taking business trips that could’ve been video chats or phone calls
Changing out of pajama bottoms
Awkward interactions with strangers
Awkward interactions with people I know
As Omicron gives us a whole new FOMO list for 2022, now seems like the right time to expand our JOMO lists. You might be delighted to avoid the cacophony of an open office or a micromanager breathing down your neck. You might be ecstatic to skip exhausting gatherings or expensive meals out. Or you might just appreciate not having to shower daily or do your hair (a form of joy not applicable to those of us having a bad hair life).
What’s on your JOMO list for 2022?