What is your idea of a perfect evening? Dinner out, three different bars, two dance floors and home as the sun is rising? Or the sofa, a DVD and your favourite pair of pyjamas?
Your answer will help you to discern where you fall on the spectrum that exists between two related and opposing lifestyle trends, currently the subject of much debate. They’re known, for short, as Fomo and Jomo.
Fomo stands for “Fear of Missing Out”: the phrase was coined by the influential technologist and entrepreneur Caterina Fake in a celebrated blog post (www.caterina.net), and is intended to describe a novel but increasingly potent aspect of our new, connected lives. That is, the feeling, induced by social media that everyone else is out in the world with beautiful people in amazing places having a wonderful time, and you are not. You are not at the party. Ten years ago, you wouldn’t have even known about the party. But now the pictures are all over Facebook and you do know. You are missing out.
The idea touched a digital-age nerve and Fomo became an online meme. But now, a counter-trend is taking hold among the digital intelligentsia, first identified by another technologist and online culture-maker (and friend of Caterina Fake): Anil Dash. It’s “Joy of Missing Out”: the pleasure that becomes possible when you accept that, in the face of a near-infinity of social options, you are not going to choose any of them. Others may go to that VIP party and leave an Instagram trail as long as the Nile, but you are going to skip it. You can’t do everything; you can’t be everywhere. Sometimes, you just have to embrace the Jomo.
Indeed, learning to love Jomo may just be a vital part of surviving a connected life in the 21st century. Without it, we may be forever destined to be pulled back and forth by our Facebook accounts, our Twitter feeds and our inbox, attending every party, every launch, every gathering, every dinner, for fear of missing out.
For Dash, it was the birth of a first child that enabled him to regain control. For those who aren’t prepared to step into parenthood quite yet, though, the online consensus is that digital filtering tools are key: you might try Anti-Social (www.anti-social.cc), an ingenious tool that blocks access to the social elements of the internet, allowing users to work and surf without the risk of quick, Fomo-inducing Facebook visits. Others have pointed out that there’s nothing like immersion in a great novel – yes, I’m talking about the lost art of sitting down to read a whole book – to inspire some serious Jomo.
At heart, though, warding off Fomo and embracing Jomo is surely about learning to live in the moment. To stop worrying about what you could be doing and instead paying attention to what you are doing and the manifold possibilities contained within that. Cultivating that mindset has become harder than ever in an age of continuous, massive, always-on distraction. But it turns out that we’re not the first generation to identify the challenge of present-mindedness. In fact, the idea is pretty old. If you really want to experience some Jomo in 2013, try reading The Miracle of Mindfulness by the Zen Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh.
David Mattin is lead strategist at www.trendwatching.com