Your friends are probably having fun without you.

For many, this knowledge would trigger a fear of missing out — popularly acronymized as FOMO. But emerging research suggests that missing out need not be something we fear, but something we can enjoy.

For better mental health this year, try reframing those feelings of FOMO and instead, try finding JOMO — the joy of missing out.

"JOMO reminds us that we can not only not fear that we are missing something important, but actually enjoy missing something," said Tali Gazit, an associate professor of information science at Israel's Bar-Ilan University.

The research into JOMO is nascent and focuses on the effects of social media. But we can find JOMO in the rest of our lives, too, by choosing when we want to step away. JOMO can feel rejuvenating because it helps us stop being preoccupied with other people.

"JOMO is actually being able to be in the here and now," Gazit said. "To be able to enjoy what you are doing now without looking left and right and be jealous or anxious about missing something."

FOMO — a human condition exacerbated by social media

The fear embodied in FOMO is a social one. Humans have dealt with it since we realized that there were opportunities being missed, fun not being had and Joneses needing to be kept up with. But the rise of social media meant that FOMO arose in public consciousness and vocabulary.

"FOMO existed before social media did, but it just wasn't such a salient part of our experience," said Chris Barry, a psychology professor at Washington State University.

With the advent of social media, we were granted the profound ability to constantly see the highlight reel of everyone's life — and all the possibilities for self-comparison. Research shows that higher levels of FOMO are associated with lower self-esteem, lower life satisfaction and more loneliness.

"We're exposed to more people that we don't know, we don't really know their stories," Gazit said. "We are not familiar with the complexity of their lives, and everything looks so great in others' life experiences."

How a social media outage brought joy

Oct. 4, 2021, is not a day that will live in infamy. But for several hours, Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp went down, disrupting the lives of billions of people.

The outage also served as a serendipitous natural experiment on how people emotionally respond to being away from social media. Most studies rely on requesting and trusting people to abstain from their smartphones and computers. The outage was annoying for users, but for researchers interested in human behavior, "we got it as a present," Gazit said.

In the two days following the outage, Gazit and her graduate student Tal Eitan recruited 571 adults to answer a questionnaire assessing their feelings about the experience.

Initially, the researchers expected to uncover feelings of stress and FOMO, which they did indeed find in spades. In support of previous research, FOMO was significantly correlated to stress felt and the level of social media usage people normally had.

But unexpectedly, in the optional open-ended questions, many people wrote about the relief and joy they felt not being connected to social media and the goings-on of others, the 2023 study reported.

Some even directly referenced JOMO, which has cropped up in popular culture but has not been rigorously studied until recently.

"A large amount of people really enjoyed themselves, and they found themselves talking to their partners, talking to their friends and doing things, cooking, doing sports," Gazit said.

How to cultivate more JOMO in your life

Social connection is healthy, and social media, for its many flaws and foibles, provides a means for connection. JOMO is not about eschewing those connections entirely or self-isolating from others, Barry said. Instead, it is intentionally cultivating periods of disconnection and solitude for recharging and rejuvenation.

Make regular plans to disconnect: The key to true JOMO may be intentionality. The Facebook outage was not expected and still fostered JOMO in some people. But in a forthcoming publication, Gazit found that people who purposefully stepped away from social media had higher psychological well-being compared with those who did not actively decide to, such as being asked to put away their phone in class.

Use coping strategies: To reduce the allure of social media, try protective behavioral strategies — inspired by addiction research — such as turning off notifications, setting limits on certain apps or turning off your device at night, Barry said.

Be mindful when using social media: Cultivating JOMO doesn't mean a social media detox or complete disconnection from the lives of others. Instead, be more mindful of how you use social media and "think through what emotions you're experiencing as you're seeing different content and considering what's beneficial or not," Barry said.

Be aware when you're focused on others: "Most of the time we're just so occupied with others' lives," said Gazit, who named her new golden retriever Jomo. Make a conscious effort to set aside time to "be occupied with your own life," she said.

Remind yourself that everybody misses out on something: The world is too rich, vast and varied for one person to experience in a lifetime, no matter how hard we try not to miss out. Appreciate and savor the joy in what you are doing, whether with a loved one or by yourself, without thinking about what others may be doing.