FOMO – it sounds like an ominous superbug, doesn’t it? Like MRSA or SARS. Well, the chances are it’s a bug that you have...

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FOMO: The Fear of Missing Out

FOMO – it sounds like an ominous superbug, doesn’t it? Like MRSA or SARS. Well, the chances are it’s a bug that you have.

Research by marketing strategist Dan Herman, who claims to have identified and named the phenomenon, shows that around 70% of adults experience FOMO: The Fear of Missing Out.

Psychologist Arnie Kozak explains that ‘FOMO happens when we invalidate the experience we are having because we’re obsessed with the ones we’re not having’. Handled positively FOMO can motivate us to seize opportunities and be open to connections with new people. However, managed badly, FOMO cripples our ability to be fully present because we always have one eye elsewhere, on what could have been or might be instead. 

FOMO can manifest itself in the small decisions of life (I should have said yes to that weekend away, they look like they’re having a great time) and larger life choices (I probably won’t stay with this company/church/partner long, I’ll keep my eye out for a better option). Whether it leads to anxious feelings of inferiority in which we feel depressed about our perceived social isolation, or a frantic, restless lifestyle that feels obliged to say ‘Yes’ to everything (even if we don’t really want to go), both are borne out of a desire to be all places at all times.
A symptom of living in a world in which we have increased choice, FOMO is made all the more acute by the use of social media. Not only am I aware of the party that I chose not to go to, but I can pour enviously over the instantly uploaded photographs and real-time status updates that tell me I am missing ‘The BEST night EVER!’ My smartphone can be both a beautifully vibrant window into the world and a dirty mirror that muddies my sense of self-worth and magnifies my insecurities.
At root, FOMO feeds off our desire to be God-like – to be more than the time-bound creatures that we are, and instead be omnipresent, never having to miss a thing. In battling FOMO we are challenged to trust God, to relinquish control over what could be and instead focus on what he has done for us in Christ, to lay down the regrets of yesterday and the endless possibilities of tomorrow and ask ‘Lord, how can I serve you today in the place that I find myself right now?’

Sarah-Jane Marshall

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