JOMO: ‘Joy of missing out’
Fr. Joe Corpora | Monday, October 29, 2018
I had never heard the word FOMO until about a year ago. In a conversation, someone said the word FOMO and I asked what that word meant. He explained, “Fear Of Missing Out.” My immediate response was, “I like JOMO,” which I defined as the “Joy Of Missing Out.”
I don’t know how young people do it today. I admit to using my iPhone a lot, probably too much. I am guilty of looking at emails and text messages at all the wrong times: while driving a car, listening to a homily (not my own!), during dinner with other CSCs and lots of other inappropriate times and places. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa.
My saving grace, however, is that I am not on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or any of the vast array of anti-social media. I have renamed social media to anti-social media since so much of it is attacking and slamming other people. It is anything but social. I am so grateful that I don’t get all those constant news feeds. One thing after another. I watch young people as they walk around campus, and they just keep scrolling to the next newsfeed, whatever it is. Somehow all the scanning, browsing, consuming must all run together. As they scroll down, the feed goes on and on. And when you get to the bottom, more is coming over the top. It’s endless. Dios mio.
Everyone seems to be deathly afraid of missing out on something — the latest party, the latest social gathering, the latest off-campus event. I ask students on a Friday afternoon what their plans are for Friday evening, and the response is often “TBD.” This is not because they haven’t heard about 10 things to go to. Rather, they don’t want to commit until they are sure that they have examined all their options and are going to choose the best possible option because they all have FOMO. What if I go to this party in Dillon and there is a better party in Stanford? What if I go to this event in Flaherty and there’s a better one in McGlinn? And on and on.
In her testimony to Pope Francis and the members of the Synod on Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment, Briana Santiago, a 27-year-old woman from San Antonio said, “We, young people of today, are in search, in search of the meaning of life, in search of work, in search of our path or vocation, in search of our identity. Young people dream of security, stability and personal fulfillment … of finding a place to which we feel we belong.”
She went on to explain that wounded by loneliness, family fragility and existential anxiety, we ask the Church to accompany us with “living witnesses, able to evangelize through their life.”
We acknowledge the usefulness of the “exchange of information, ideals, values and common interests,” which is possible for us through the Internet, but also how technology, used in an inhuman way, can create a misleading parallel reality that ignores human dignity.
I believe that almost all young people could have written what Briana said. Young people are truly in search of the meaning of life, in search of their path and vocation, in search of their identity. Young people are wounded by loneliness, anxiety and emptiness. Without trivializing this, so much of it is born from FOMO. Because there is an irrational fear of missing out, young people go and go and go and rarely leave time to be alone, to be quiet, to be still, to be silent, to simply be.
I don’t know how young people keep up with themselves, especially if they have FOMO. Many years ago, I read the following quote on a bulletin board in the kitchen of a Trappist Monastery: “People say that money is the root of all evil. This is not true. The root of all evil is our inability to be silent, to be still, to be quiet.” Silence. Stillness. Quiet. Every great world religion prizes silence. In the Catholic tradition, we have Centering Prayer, which simply invites us to rest in the presence of God and, as the Psalm says, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
The Trappist monk Thomas Keating, OCSO, writes that practicing silence on a regular daily basis is like turning the radio from AM to FM. Our frequency changes, so to speak, and we learn to listen on a very different level.
If you don’t have to go to everything, to read every tweet, to respond to every Facebook post, to keep up with everything, then you will have time to rest, to be silent, to be still, to be quiet. You’ll be glad to miss out on certain events because this will provide you with the time necessary to be quiet and to be still, to rest in the presence of God.
Thus, I invite the reader to think about going from FOMO to JOMO. JOMO will begin to allow for space and silence and quiet and stillness to enter our lives. And from this space you learn to listen more deeply to God. You learn to know in the depths of our being the inexhaustible, relentless love and mercy that God has for you. To not know this love and mercy and tenderness of God is the real FOMO.
Join the JOMO revolution and make space to let yourself be loved and cherished by God.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.