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#HonorsProblems: FOMO and JOMO: Learning to Balance the Two

The following blog post was written by Peer Advisor Michelle, an ESIA sophomore studying international affairs and economics.

Avengers: Infinity War, that was the first movie that I went to by myself. Yes, that’s right. I was that person in the theater. The reason why my decision to go alone is so taboo can be attributed to FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out. This feeling is especially felt by our age group and is further exacerbated by the college setting. We’re keenly aware of our constant connection with others, but that connection often lends to social comparison, a behavior destructive to our sense of well-being.

As Montesquieu said, “If one only wished to be happy, this could be easily accomplished; but we wish to be happier than other people, and this is always difficult, for we believe others to be happier than they are.” In my first year, I remember constantly wondering why I didn’t have a close-knit group of friends yet. Why was I not as happy as the people on my Instagram feed?

The problem with FOMO is that it causes people to look outward instead of inward. When you’re so tuned in to others and things that are deemed as “better,” you lose your authentic sense of self. So, how do you maintain this authentic sense of self? Well, I am no philosopher king, but I can offer knowledge about FOMO’s antithesis. Welcome JOMO: Joy Of Missing Out. JOMO entails spending time alone, disconnecting, and being okay just as you are. It can be equated with solitude, a word that gets a negative connotation. It’s tough to think that solitude is acceptable when society, and especially college, tends to favor extroverts. But, cultivating one’s relationship with one’s own self is crucial. Solitude can boost overall well-being, and most importantly, help to prevent burnout.

As we’re gearing up for the chaos of finals, it’s important to remember to take time for yourself. I was overloaded, overwhelmed, and tired from the constant social interactions. Hence, the solo Avengers movie trip during finals week. Phone turned off, those couple of hours disconnected and in tune with myself was enough to improve my headspace and mood.

As proposed by economist Paul Dolan, happiness is determined by how you allocate your attention. If you aren’t as happy as you could be, then you must be misallocating your attention. Linking to Origins (because you’ll find that it links to literally everything), the best practice is moderation. You can’t always go out. But you also can’t live in isolation. A step to having this healthy balance is feeling secure in your relationships, which in turn, makes you feel less compelled to always be connected. Know that if you choose to take some me-time, your friends will still be there and eager for the next chance to hang out.

In short, here is the most concrete advice I can offer: utilize Screen Time (sorry Android users), scoot to Smithsonian Zoo alone, meet up with friends there to enjoy Zoo Lights.