There’s much talk of FOMO, nowadays. Fear Of Missing Out. I blame Instagram (and other social media, to a lesser extent): when we scrawl through pictures of yummy dinners in fancy restaurants, once-in-a-lifetime finds in a posh department store’s Blue Flag sale, or see pictures of perfectly-manicured toes in front of an azure horizon on a sun-drenched beach, it’s easy to feel that we are indeed missing out. On life, bargains, exotic cocktails with paper umbrellas in them, whatever. So the other day, my heart did a little dance when I heard about FOMO’s (much saner) close relation, JOMO. It’s short for ‘Joy Of Missing Out’ – and I realise, I’ve pretty much been embracing this my whole life. Only now it’s got a name. (Or rather, an acronym.)
Technically, in 2019, JOMO is about disconnecting from tech and embracing real life. It’s about not picking up our phones to scrawl through pretty images that make us feel inadequate, every five minutes. JOMO is also very much about not letting social media make us feel that we really need to be keeping up with the Joneses. (Or the Kylies. Or the Beckhams. Or any ‘influencer’ who ever learned to use an iPhone filter, frankly.)
Indeed, there are now websites (experiencejomo.com), podcasts (the JOMOcast), and even books (Christina Crook’s The Joy of Missing Out: Finding Balance in a Wired World), which encourage us instead to reconnect with the ‘real world’. You know, that quaint old place where people actually talk to each other and eat food together and maybe even leave their phones in their coat pockets for the entire duration of these experiences.
Now, I absolutely, 100% love those definitions of JOMO. As any of you who read Victoria Health editorials regularly will have observed, I’ve developed all sorts of strategies for cutting down my exposure to technology and e-mail. Fact: nobody, but nobody, will go to their grave wishing they’d spent more time on Instagram, no matter how seductive and gorgeous and pretty it often is.
Because the trouble with social media (one of them) is that it can be the fast-track to a misery-inducing case of envy – and not for nothing was that declared a ‘deadly sin’, several millennia ago. If you’re not at peace with your home, the luxury level of the holidays you can easily afford, the size of your car – and so on and so on – then you’re likely always to suffer, comparing yourself unfavourably to others who are ‘better off’ (or ‘luckier’, as some people tend to think of it). Because the fact is that even if you’re a millionaire, with an envious mindset you just can’t win. There’ll always be someone with a faster yacht/car/bigger walk-in wardrobe/more houses/private jet/whatever – and I’ve seen it eat people up inside, frankly.
But for me, JOMO has another meaning, too. It means not feeling bad about refusing to fill my precious time with stuff I don’t want to do. Literally: the joy of not doing anything that doesn’t make my heart soar, at the prospect. For each of us, that’s different. But top of the JOMO list, in my case: going to parties. Now, you may love them. Be the very embodiment of the life and soul, and all that. But I am really, really happy to miss out on almost any party, anywhere, ever. (While being perfectly happy for my party-loving partner to go to just about any party he wants to, so long as he doesn’t expect me as his arm candy.) It’s just who I am, and there’s no point pretending otherwise.
For various reasons, sometimes professional, I have been invited to flower-filled, wall-to-wall-celebrity parties in glamorous locations that people would all but kill for invites to – and I’ve mooched miserably in the corner, just counting the minutes till I could go home. Fact: sequins and I are not best friends. High heels, ditto. (See last month’s editorial.) I loathe small talk. I don’t even like alcohol, much. And since an Ayurvedic doctor told me last year that I really should be in bed by 9 pm at night, on the basis of my dosha (or constitution), I now have the perfect excuse to be a party refusenik. For me, there is literally joy in missing out… on any social gathering of more than eight people.
It isn’t that I don’t like people. I love people! But I’d far rather see them in small groups, or even individually. In a (not-too-noisy) restaurant is fine. But I’m just as happy with a bowl of home-made soup or a cake at a kitchen table decorated with nothing more extravagant than a bunch of daffs in a jug, where I can actually hear what they’re saying, and chat properly. (Preferably my own kitchen table, but I’m not that much of a hermit.) Frankly, there’s almost no party I’ve ever attended that has felt more fun, to me, than reading my book at home would have been.
Once upon a time I’d have been called a ‘party pooper’ for that, but now I can just say that I was an early adopter of JOMO. And I’m just going to share with you just the best tip if you’re someone who, like I was, would often say ‘yes’ to an invite far off in the future, where the diary was entirely empty, and then increasingly come to dread the event as it hurtled towards me, wondering how I could gracefully cancel. Every time an invite comes in, ask yourself: ‘If it was tonight, would I want to go?’ And in my case, the answer is almost always: ‘Noooooooooooooo!’ Making it much, much easier to decline at the time the invite arrives.
True JOMO boils down to experiencing gratitude, too – on a daily or even hourly basis. Enjoying small pleasures, rather than lusting after what we don’t have (and probably never will have, lottery win aside). The sunny beauty of that jug of daffs. The trouble someone’s gone to, to bake a cake. Losing myself in a good book (which can be a library book, or a well-thumbed paperback). A walk in the spring sunshine, appreciating the clouds scudding through the sky, or the feeling of fresh air on skin after months shrouded in layers. Watching an old movie, curled up on the sofa with family. (Or a pet, if you’re an animal person.) A hot water bottle on a cold night. Honestly, teeny-tiny things that when you take the time to appreciate them are very, very happy-making. Much, much happier-making than a yacht, I’ll warrant. (Though I’ve no intention of finding out.)
So if the JOMO movement’s looking for a poster girl, I’m right here. Admiring that spring flowers on my kitchen table. Listening to the soup simmering. But most importantly, not wishing to be somewhere – or someone – else, ever.