Holly Dellamura
Mar 19, 2015

The rise of JOMO: Solitude chic

In a reaction to an overly connected daily existence, people are beginning to see the value of turning off and tuning out digital distractions in order to spend a little quality time with their own thoughts. Holly Dellamura, senior digital research executive at Flamingo, explains.

Holly Dellamura
Holly Dellamura

JOMO is in, FOMO is out. Today, the joy of missing out (JOMO) has replaced the fear (FOMO) that preceded it. JOMO was born from macro-demographic trends such as the global rise in one-person households, which increased from 153 million in 1996 to 277 million in 2011 (Euromonitor International), and the shift toward marrying later in life in both the East and the West. Both of these big changes suggest an appetite toward me-centricity and an embracing of ‘the self.’

This fascinating trend, which celebrates being alone, is even more potent given its dichotomous relationship to what society deems ‘normal.’ Society tends to favour extroverted, social people. And this is intensified on social-media platforms, which are all about 24/7 interactions and continuous social exchange. So, if JOMO was born from macro-demographic shifts, what micro, cultural trends on the ground are driving it?

Let’s start with one of the drivers: digital detox—a response to our overly saturated, hyper-connected lifestyles and social-media addiction symptomatic of modern-day culture. Digital detox is all about letting go of the impulse to be ‘in the know’ and unplugging from emails, messaging, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all the countless information intersections you read and share online daily.

You can unplug from the noisy world on digital detox retreats, like this one in Atami, Japan, or in the comfort of your own home. By detaching yourself from friend requests, followers, event invites and the latest news, you are able to indulge in undisturbed alone time, cultivate your relationship with yourself and find joy in missing out.

There’s something quite bold about detoxing from the digital sphere, given that the average user checks their phone upwards of 110 times a day. Stopping this habit and switching off is a sure way to garner social capital, as it speaks volumes about your commitment to change your behaviour and realign with your sense of self.

This article is part of the Cultural Radar series

As author Charles Bukowski wrote, ‘isolation is a gift’, and the mainstreaming of the mindfulness trend certainly emulates this idea. We’ve seen a rise in the number of apps that help you to meditate and relax such as headspace, calm and buddhify.

These antidotes to our excessively stimulated lives and short attention spans encourage the practice of solitude and promote the benefits that many people believe come with regular meditation, such as increased mental awareness, creativity and even reduced risk of heart attack and stroke. Even though these apps live in the very devices that distract us, there’s something quite clever about using a smartphone to switch off from the world and rejoice in missing out. Interestingly, it’s not just apps that are teaching us inner peace; there are a number of vloggers on YouTube who are giving us tips about how to be alone and thrive.

The restaurant industry is also tapping into the rise of people living by themselves and the increase in solo activity by designing spaces where diners can enjoy eating alone, such as more communal tables, bar seating and stools facing into the kitchen.

Taking this trend further is Amsterdam’s table-for-one popup restaurant, Eenmaal. Speaking about the innovative idea, the restaurant’s creator, social designer Marina Van Goor, said that through Eenmaal she “wanted to break the perception that eating out alone isn't very attractive. Solitary dining can actually be an inspiring experience, because you get a chance to disconnect for a while in our hyper-connected world." Eenmaal is a game changer, this fresh response to increased urbanisation and solo living breaks the unspoken codes around dining, which are especially prevalent in the west and envelopes eating alone in delight, creativity and liberation.

The rise of JOMO indicates a shift in mindset, as people are becoming more open to spending time alone. Research that has reached the masses shows that alone time can boost cognitive power, overall wellbeing and suggests that some of the best ideas and work come from a quiet, inner place. Even daydreaming is thought to promote creativity. The trends and examples discussed in this article indicate the wealth of opportunity for researchers, designers and marketers to think innovatively and adapt to the changing sociocultural landscape. We have only begun to scratch the surface of the unique products and services that could appeal to this new solitude-chic mindset.

It’s time to stretch our minds and eschew our preconceptions around leading a solo lifestyle. JOMO is here to stay.

Holly Dellamura is senior digital research executive at Flamingo


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