You know the pit in your stomach when you see your friends hanging out without you? Even if you didn’t want to go, you still feel envy — a feeling we’ve long described as FOMO, or the fear of missing out. But FOMO has had its day, and Indian newspaper The Economic Times has coined a phrase to sum up how we actually feel. NEMO is the new FOMO, and even though it may sound a little silly, it makes a lot of sense. But what is NEMO? It stands for Nearly But Not Fully Missing Out, which is a mouthful, but actually a pretty smart self-care mechanism.
It essentially describes intentionally limiting your time on social media so you aren’t left endlessly scrolling and feeling jealous of the people around you. Don’t confuse it with JOMO, or the Joy Of Missing Out, which is what happens when you cancel plans with friends to do something you’re actually interested in. If you’re on the couch marathon-ing Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt instead of grabbing cocktails with your work friends, you may be experiencing JOMO. But in order to experience JOMO, you need to have friends who regularly want to hang out with you. Enter NEMO, which is more of a practiced, conscious lifestyle than a split-second decision, and can be integrated into all the social media in your life.
Social media can have a profound effect on your mental health — it encourages narcissism, allows for online harassment and can make you resent other people’s picture-perfect lives. But it’s not all bad, which is the genius of NEMO. Unlike JOMO, it allows for the good that comes from spending time with your friends and keeping up with their lives online. Nearly but not fully missing out just allows you to do it in moderation, whatever that moderation looks like for you — whether that means deleting apps from your phone so you have to mindfully check up on your friends by typing in a URL to see what they’re up to, or simply limiting the number of apps you use or friends you closely follow. How you practice NEMO is entirely up to you, but the root of it is still the same: it’s about finding a balance between the sometimes unhealthy tether you have with social media, and the desire you have to keep up with the friends you love. In this regard, NEMO is easy to get behind (although the other acronyms in the article may have you questioning whether it’s all satire).
It doesn’t take a ton of effort, either. If you delete some of the social media apps from your smartphone, you’ll realize how often you open Twitter and Instagram. You can also try to spend a weekend not using your phone unless you absolutely need to — you’ll probably have more fun when you aren’t glued to a screen. According to Statista, the average person spends more than two hours a day refreshing social media apps, which adds up.
While FOMO can be a real-life phenomenon, it’s exacerbated by our time online (which may explain why it originated in 2006, according to Know Your Meme). If you aren’t invited to a party and hear people talking about it offhandedly, you’ll probably be able to brush it off. But looking at Instagram posts and Snapchat stories where everyone seems to be having the time of their lives is markedly more difficult to ignore. The Economic Times talked to millennials who practice NEMO, and they all seem to have one thing in common: They became tired of looking at social media jealously, so they spent less time online. As a result, they’re able to live their lives to a fuller extent without unplugging completely.
Most of us probably already practice NEMO to a degree. If you avoid social media when you’re feeling down — one of the things recommended in the Times article — then you already know the benefits of stepping back. And the NEMO phenomenon may open you up to other potential uses for technology that are conducive to self-care; meditation and wellness apps are already targeted toward people who want to use their devices for good instead of ditching them completely, and if you’re a person who may benefit from getting in a different headspace, you can use those to take NEMO a step further. It’s not hard to see why people love the practice so much — it gives you the freedom to do what’s best for you, without compromising your desire to keep up with your friends and the people you love.
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