FOMO: Are you afraid of missing out?

Am I one of the last to hear about the word ‘FOMO’ – Fear Of Missing Out? Actually, I know all about it because I am, just like most everyone else, in the grip of ‘FOMO Addiction’ – the fear of missing out on something or someone more exciting, better, or interesting than what I’m currently doing.

FOMO may be driving my urge to text, engage call waiting, or use SIRI while driving, talking with my husband, watching TV etc. Even when I don’t know who’s on the other line, who’s posting on Facebook or streaming on Twitter, I can’t risk that something more interesting might just be happening. It might be better, it might be worse – but I just can’t know for sure until I check.

Wikipedia explains that FOMO is a ‘form of social anxiety’ and researchers are discovering that sufferers are at serious risk, because those high in FOMO are more likely to text and drive. (Yes, believe it or not, research exists in this area: http://arno.uvt.nl/show.cgi?fid=130541). And, even if it’s not lethal, FOMO addiction is bad for my mental health and well-being since it produces negative emotions such as insecurity, envy, anxiety, and, of course, fear. I regularly check out my coaching colleagues on LinkedIn to determine whether they might be getting more business or have more connections than I do.

Even though FOMO seems to have emerged with the growth of social networks, which serve constant opportunities to compare ourselves to others, I think it was around even in Jesus’ time. Remember the time after Jesus was resurrected from the dead when He visited his disciples and cooked breakfast for them? Afterward, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him and commanded Peter to “Follow me.” You would think after having spent time with the resurrected Christ, Peter would be falling all over himself to do what Jesus asked him. But instead, “Peter turned around and saw behind them the disciple Jesus loved—the one who had leaned over to Jesus during supper and asked, “Lord, who will betray you?” Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?” Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.” (John 21:20-22)

As I ponder how my FOMO addiction impacts my behavior as a Christian I am convicted. Any new book or devotion that’s mentioned, I have to buy it (even if I never read it). If there’s a new bible study I have to join it (even though I stop attending after a few sessions). When the pastor’s wife is inviting women for coffee, I struggle to be included (although I complain all the way to Starbucks). It’s humbling to notice how my attention is more focused on making sure I’m not missing out on something better – better than spending some time alone, with Jesus, following Him and not reacting out of selfish anxiety! It’s His peace that’s lasting and with Him, I have enough…more than enough! And I won’t be missing out on one single thing! (Luke 6:38)