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“Without my phone, what would I do – just stare out of the window?!”

You might have heard of FOMO – the fear of missing out.

The Oxford dictionary defines FOMO as “Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media.”

As you can see in the definition, our smartphones and with that social media and other applications are the fuel for FOMO. That’s why putting aside our phones is so hard.

You have some extra time? Check out this 1,5 hour session on FOMO in smartphone use!

Even though you might have heard about FOMO, JOMO will be most probably new to you. JOMO means the joy of missing out, a term coined by Google User Researchers Julia Aranda and Safia Baig. Earlier this year they published an article about their latest qualitative research on smartphone addiction and communication obligation.

They interviewed and observed smartphone users across cultures (in US and Switzerland), devices (running on iOS or Android), self-reported smartphone use (continuum from satisfying to unhealthy), and age groups (18 to 65) to learn more about the difficulty to disconnect. The two main reasons they identified why people are so tied to their smartphones are the critical utility of smartphones and their usage habits coming with that and secondly, the social obligation towards your peers to keep the conversation going and be available

“If I have my phone, the world is my oyster. I can reach people, I can search anything. It’s my comfort blanket, it’s part of my natural existence.”

A shockingly honest citation from one of the study participants

To understand how they could turn FOMO into JOMO for their users, Aranda and Baig developed a nice and comprehensive framework including four conditions of disconnection.

The involved dimensions are level of control (I actively choose to turn off my smartphone vs. I run out of battery) and the duration of time (few minutes to have a focused conversation vs. digital detox weekend at a spa) and result in four quadrants of disconnection.

Aranda, J. H., & Baig, S. (2018, September). Toward JOMO: the joy of missing out and the freedom of disconnecting. In Proceedings of the 20th International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services (p. 19). ACM

Based on the insights from their interviews they see voluntary short-term disconnection as the most promising condition to experience JOMO. That way they can balance the stress of “always being on” with “the stress of being off and not knowing what is going on”.

So what can you do to reach the transcendental state of JOMO?

  • First, become aware of your (un)healthy smartphone use. There are apps that reveal your shockingly high smartphone usage.
  • Find a sparring partner to work on it. Social influence helps you keep the promise.
  • Set yourself boundaries and create new, healthy habits. The following apps can help:

Moment: Moment is not only available for your iPhone but also for your iPad (and Android devices). It tracks your usage and gives you a notification once you reach your daily limit. If you want to learn it the hard way, you can even opt-in for a hard cut once you’re over the limit. They count 7 million downloads and report to give back a total of 49 years to their users every day.

Space: What I like most about Space is that it allows you to set individual goals for your smartphone usage. That puts the user back in the driver seat and is perfectly aligned with the research I just presented that concluded that we can only disconnect successfully if we do so voluntarily. Another nice twist to the app is that you can share your progress with your loved ones. As we learned earlier, social influence can help us keeping the new and healthy habits going.

Flipd: Flipd is available for iOS and Android, it’s free and it’s beautiful. You can even flip off with others in the “Flipd community”. Next, they work together with educational institutions to help students create healthy habits and stay focused.

Siempo: They had me at their headline „use your phone, not the other way around“. Siempo allows you to schedule notifications. Can you remember the days when we waited for the postman to arrive? As we exactly knew by which time our mail was delivered, we could spend the rest of the day productively. With siempo we can have that luxury again: no need to check our screens constantly anymore.

With that, I’ll suggest spending some time staring out the window or using your daily screen time for reading the original publication here.