Scrolling through Instagram and TikTok on a Monday morning is an easy trigger for the dreaded fear of missing out–or FOMO. To push back against this need to never miss a party or fancy vacation, the term JOMO (joy of missing out) has been popularized for those who report a healthy level of enjoyment of solitude.
However, most people who also have high JOMO also report higher levels of social anxiety, according to a study published this month in the journal Telematics and Informatics Reports.
For the study, a team from Washington State University looked at two 500-person samples of adults recruited through Amazon’s crowdsourcing platform MTurk. As a way to measure JOMO, they asked a slate of questions about enjoying spending time alone and experiencing disconnection. For example, whether subjects liked having time to self-reflect and if they were happy to see friends and family out enjoying themselves even if they weren’t there. Questions to assess loneliness, social media use, social anxiety, personality traits, and general life satisfaction were also included.
The surveys revealed mixed results, with some evidence that there is actually some anxiety hiding behind the joy.
“In general, a lot of people like being connected,” psychology professor and co-author Chris Barry said in a statement. “When trying to assess JOMO, we found that some people were enjoying missing out, not for the solitude or a Zen-like, calming experience of being able to regroup, but more to avoid social interaction.”
This avoidance might explain the correlation the team found between social media use and JOMO, which surprised the team. They anticipated that people who wanted to miss out on social gatherings would not care to check in to see what their friends or family were doing. Instead, they found that those who have social anxiety may find social media as a less intense way to connect instead of interacting in person.
The study of the first sample group showed connections in those high in JOMO and social media and also general life satisfaction, but social anxiety actually had the strongest correlation.
After getting these mixed results, they designed a second study to see if there was a group of people high in JOMO, but without that anxiety. While they did find these blissful introverts, the group was small and represented only about 10 percent of the participants in the study. This group was not socially anxious, but still reported some moderate feelings of loneliness.
Previous studies have linked FOMO with low self-esteem and loneliness, but these findings indicate that the experience of JOMO is not as clear. The team believes that JOMO might be more of a momentary phase of needing to disconnect instead of a constant state of feelings. Other studies have also shown that continued exposure to anxiety triggers can help lessen stress later.
“There are a lot of unanswered questions like ‘what’s a good dosage of social interaction versus disengagement?’ I think that’s going to differ for everyone,” Barry said. “The motives matter,” Barry said. “Why are people missing out? If it’s because they need to recharge, that’s maybe a good thing. If they’re trying to avoid something, that is probably not healthy in the long run.”