The Chasm Between FOMO and JOMO: An Awareness of a Lack

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The Chasm Between FOMO and JOMO: An Awareness of a Lack
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We live in a time of endless possibilities. The Internet constantly lodas them on us, especially on social media, but also every time we click on news portals, watch YouTube videos and listen to podcasts. And we find ourselves thus glued to our smartphones. This creates new dependencies. To qualify those dependencies 2.0. new terms have appeared, among which FOMO and JOMO. What are they? Do they concern you? What is the Christian approach to it?





Missing a mission land, missing some people, missing a friend, missing a plane, missing the bus, missing a particular celebration, in one way or the other, we have all experienced missing out.

Even though the scenario seems to be better with the advent of internet, given the fact that we can talk in real time to people, participate or join in real time different events and be informed, the situation is in any way easier: We want to know what is going on, see what is happening, and Tweet about it. With the flow of information available we always want to be “in the know,” we want to be sure we are not missing anything by refreshing our feeds, consulting new pages, new messages. Our worry of missing out are constantly refueled with the flow of information disseminated by social media. This worry is what is referred to as FOMO.

What is FOMO?

Acronym for “Fear Of Missing Out”, FOMO translates the feeling that you are missing out on something fundamentally important that others are experiencing right now. It also refers to the anxiety that drives many people to stay permanently connected so as not to risk missing an event; a direct consequence of the galloping use of digital technologies, and in particular social media.

Besides the permanent flow of information, accessible at our fingertips on any mobile phone, which can trigger FOMO, another FOMO trigger is the amount of free time we have at our disposal. Fear of loneliness, idleness can induce FOMO.

FOMO can apply to anything from a community social time to a synod, but it always involves a sense of helplessness that you are missing out on something.

FOMO is seen by some observers as a new evil of the century. It is an insidious feeling that you have probably already experienced without knowing it. And one may say that many of the worst phone habits are borne out of FOMOphobia.

Anyone can be affected

Even though particularly evident among younger generations, FOMO can be experienced by all age category, several studies have found. One study in the Psychiatry Research journal found that the Fear Of Missing Out was linked to a greater phone and social media usage which has nothing to do with age or gender.

FOMO shapes our desires from childhood into adulthood. FOMO is there in midlife crises and falls into our empty nests. FOMO burns into the elderly years when the sting of missing out becomes more and more obvious.

By the diversity of social media, most connected people, be it young or old can fall victim to this syndrome.

Let us look at some statistics:

          in April 2021 the total number of global internet users was 4.72 billion that is 60,1 of Global population (Datareportal);

          7 hours a day: this is the time internet user between the ages of 16 and 64 spend online. If we assume that the average person sleeps between 7 and 8 hours per day, that means internet users now spend an average of more than 40 percent of their waking time online (Datareportal);

      –     Apple in 2013 released data showing that its users unlock their device on average 80 times a day; meanwhile android users do it more                  than   110 times a day. For fear of missing out, one is constantly checking his or her cell phone multiple times a day.

          69% of 20-40 years old are affected by FOMO, according to a study realized by Eventbrite. The percentage drops below 20% from the age of 50; In cause, the high proportion of these populations to be present on social networks.

These statistics give us a clear idea of the possible victims this syndrome has at hand. Being connected feeds this fear of missing out and seems at the same timeto be the solution, which obviously isn’t.


Some claim that this social phobia was first identified in 1996 by Dr. Dan Herman, who saw it as a fabulous marketing opportunity, then published about it in 2000 in the Journal of Brand Management.

But it seems that it was Patrick McGinnis, a student at Harvard Business School, who in 2004, in an editorial in the student magazine Harbus, was the first to formalize the concept of FOMO. In front of the many social events which students disposed at hand, he described precisely how the two forces that guided students’ social programs were the “Fear Of Missing Out” and the “Fear Of Better Option” (the fear that there is always a better option than the one in front of you and which, for this reason, you give up).

For about ten years, the term FOMO has not been heard of again, until about 2013, when the researcher Andrew Przybylski published an article that is still considered an essential reading for those who want to read up on FOMO.

The first victims of FOMO

FOMO, certainly exacerbated by contemporary technology, is not a new phenomenon in human history. It is a phobia that be traced back to ancient human experiences.

Adam and Eve, were the original victims of FOMO. In other words, FOMO was the first tactic used by Satan to sabotage our relationship with God. He played on the natural human tendency to want to be “in the know”, and insinuated that God was holding out something from them by not allowing them to eat of the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil. Unable to navigate the fear that they might be missing out on something, they ate the forbidden fruit.

So, if such fear is ancient and universal, where do we go from here? How do we think through FOMO as Christians? Where does FOMO die?

One Legit FOMO

FOMO has many facets. As we underline, there is the fear of missing something in real life; fear of missing information, which pushes us to stop in a moment to look at our emails, the news feeds, the messages. But, among all the FOMOs that may exist there is one legitimate FOMO we should all be concerned about, especially as Christians: the fear of unbelief and missing out eternally or missing out on the joy of eternal life.

The Bible is clear on this: what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Mk 8, 36).

To paraphrase the words of Paul: I count everything as worthless in light of never missing out on the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord for all eternity (Philippians 3, 8).

There are a lot of things, in this world, in this life, if missed out, would actually be of a benefit for us.

The season of lent precisely remind us of that: Missing out for 40 days on things that keep us away from God, from ourselves and from others.


At the antipodes of FOMO, is its sworn enemy: JOMO, “Joy of missing out,” an acronym invented by entrepreneur Anil Dash, who is committed to a global scheme to reduce consumption on computers, tablets, smartphones and encourages disconnection.

Instead of being a fear, missing out can be a source of joy, as Svend Brinkmann, Professor of Psychology at Aalborg University and author of “The Joy of Missing Out” explains in a video.

As legitimate as the Fear Of Missing Out eternal life may be it is still a fear; and fear as St John puts it “has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.” Fear should not be the one driving us, love should; that is why we should not remain at the level of that one legitimate FOMO but should rather pass from FOMO to JOMO.

We should not miss out on worldly things (worldly things as compared to heavenly things) out of fear but preferably miss out on them out of love, out of Joy, for the sake of the kingdom.

Besides, FOMO can be likened to biblical Egypt (a place of slavery) whereas JOMO is the promised land (the place of freedom).

If we have not yet been swallowed by this new social phenomenon, which FOMO is, or even if we find ourselves deep into its mouth, it is ever too late for a U-turn. A line must be drawn on our desire for ubiquity – to know everything, and to be everywhere at once.

As the saying goes, by not wanting to miss anything, it’s life that we end up missing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Brice Ulrich AFFERI

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