I have a talent for leaving social settings the exact moment I decide that I’ve had enough. There’s none of that ‘just one more drink’ dilly-dallying with me; I’m that friend that leaves drinks at 9pm with a flurry of air kisses and my lips plastered in an upside-down pout as a show of regret. Mentally, I’ve already queued up what I’m watching on Netflix and which snacks will be accompanying me the moment I arrive home.
A homebody, a creature of comfort, a hermit, an introvert, a party pooper. There have been lots of names to describe breeds like me. We like staying in — in our comfort zones and in our homes.
Our solitary preference is being embraced by more people, too. The ‘joy of missing out' (JOMO), they’re calling it. It’s the antithesis of FOMO; the phenomenon of feeling anxious or sad because of missing out on events and opportunities where others may be having a better time than you, without you. Instead, JOMO savours in the conscious choice of alone time.
Coined in 2012 by writer Anil Dash, JOMO characterises the pleasure and relief of missing out on what others are doing and instead, relishes in the contentment of doing what you actually want to do.
"There can be, and should be, a blissful, serene enjoyment in knowing, and celebrating, that there are folks out there having the time of their life at something that you might have loved to, but are simply skipping,” Dash wrote.
Over the weekend, my JOMO peaked. Splendour In The Grass, Byron Bay’s multi-day festival, was on, but instead of Coachella-level fun and sun, music punters were left knee-high in mud, flooded tents and horrendous queues. While I was curled up in my snug bed with the heater on, TikTok users were DIYing make-shift gumboots out of rubbish bags and forced to sleep in their cars as the camping grounds hit maximum capacity.
“I wanna go home,” croons the TikTok sound as I watch from my comfortable home. It might make me a bad person to admit this, but it was with a guilty bit of glee that I couldn’t stop watching the plastic poncho-clad people’s misfortune.
FOMO is real — it was subtly spiked as the festival managed to run somewhat smoothly for its second and third day. I feel FOMO through my friendships, through vicariously watching everyone’s Europe trips and even through others’ career progressions.
But I’ve managed to put a handle on my FOMO. I know that things never look as good as they do on social media and that late nights out can just be an unfulfilling exercise of burning money on crap drinks while complaining about how cold it is.
JOMO becomes the perfect scapegoat for my comfort-seeking self. Instead of being seen as an overly-responsible grandma in a 23-year-old’s body, I can simply point to JOMO as the reason I skip out on social gatherings. It’s a great excuse that anxious introverts can pocket: staying in is, in fact, a radical act of self-care.
“Setting boundaries starts with protecting our peace in times where we experience the fear of missing out. [JOMO] can be supportive for days when you need a break from social interaction or extra self-care time,” TikTok user @passionplanner says, recommending that you schedule in these JOMO moments in your monthly calendar or weekly time blocks.
After spending 263 days in Melbourne’s lockdown, my dependability on this mentality has only grown. In a Stockholm syndrome kind of way, embracing JOMO has been the easier pill to swallow. Why bother with stunted socialising skills, cancelled events and shrinking friend circles when you can bask in the comfort of your bedroom?
I won’t lie, there’s a loud niggling voice in the back of my head that’s hissing at me to spend my early 20s the way that pop culture has taught me — making brash decisions, staying up late and being carefree and careless. Should I be going out for the sake of going out? Should I be making up for lost time, fervently chasing what’s already gone?
We have endless options of ways to spend our time — by ourselves, with friends, with family, online, offline, in the Metaverse, on social media, on ‘real’ social media… the list is endless. With choice fatigue comes the existential headache: there will always be someplace else you could be, someone else you could be with and some other life you could be living.
In a culture that promises that the sky is the limit, the desire to turn over every rock is more exhausting than it is fulfilling.
Rather than spiral about the ‘what ifs,’ I’m content with honouring how I feel in the moment. If that means skipping my scheduled train home to be with my friends for a bit longer, I’m going to do that. If it means spending a night alone, I’m going to do just that. It’s the joy of giving into your desires.