So Long, Social Media

There’s a movement afoot, called the Joy of Missing Out, where people put down their cell phones and enjoy the world around them. We explain.

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When Judah Wiedre deleted his Facebook and Instagram accounts from his smartphone in 2015, he went through major withdrawal. “I didn’t know what to do with myself,” recalls the 37-year-old vice-president of sales at Mashable, a multiplatform media and entertainment company. “Normally, when I’m in line at the bank or waiting for a meeting to start, I’d kill time on social media. That was the hardest part – just standing there with nothing to do.” The result, however, has been life-altering. “I started to take notice of my surroundings. Suddenly, I could daydream again or let my mind wander. And I could connect with people on a much deeper level.”

Wiedre is not alone in his quest for finding balance in a fast-paced, plugged-in world. He’s part of a growing movement called JOMO ­– an acronym for the Joy of Missing Out – which counters FOMO, the fear or anxiety that comes from missing out on an event or opportunity or, in today’s world, on what’s happening on social media.

Research shows just how hard it is to turn off Facebook and Twitter: A Pew Research study discovered that 67 percent of cellphone owners find themselves checking their mobile for messages, alerts or calls, even when they don’t notice their phone ringing or vibrating.

Research shows just how hard it is to turn off Facebook and Twitter: A Pew Research study discovered that 67 percent of cellphone owners find themselves checking their mobile for messages, alerts or calls, even when they don’t notice their phone ringing or vibrating. A whopping 44 percent have slept with their phone next to their bed because they wanted to make sure they didn’t miss any calls, texts or updates during the night. The constant need to feel connected comes at a cost: increased stress, an inability to focus without distraction and even envy after seeing how amazing everyone’s life appears on Facebook.

Christina Crook was also once a constant smartphone checker. “It was almost like a Pavlovian response,” recalls the Toronto-based author and TED speaker. So she tried something drastic: a 31-day Internet fast, which she wrote about in her 2015 book The Joy of Missing Out: Finding Balance in a Wired World. By disconnecting digitally, Crook could live in the moment. “I felt free and untethered. I had clarity of mind and I was able to get a lot done,” she says. The most important lesson she learned, though, is that giving others your full presence – no cellphone on the table during dinner, for example – strengthens relationships and ultimately makes us feel more deeply connected.

Of course, the idea of giving up technology is daunting to most. But for those embracing JOMO, it’s all about moderation. “I view [the Internet] as a tool that’s there to serve a purpose. Granted, it serves a lot of purposes, but if we use it for those reasons only, then we can shut it down or move on to other things,” says Crook, who recently launched Daily JOMO – a daily hit of inspiration aimed at getting us away from our screens and living a better life.

For those looking to detox, she recommends a “text Sabbath”: Take one day of the week to unplug entirely. Start with baby steps, she says, such as leaving your phone at home during Sunday brunch with friends. “See how you operate in a world without your device, if only for a couple of hours,” she says. “Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings, to your body. Or begin your day with something other than reaching for your phone, like meditating or connecting with your partner.”

As you start disconnecting, you may really feel the joy of missing out. “Unplugging is a way of giving ourselves permission to say no to doing more all of the time,” she says. “That generates space to create. It lowers anxiety, allows more connection in relationships and, ultimately, increases happiness.”

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