Did you know that they have diagnosed there is an actual phobia about missing out in life? It’s a real thing and it has been heightened due to social media. It’s called FOMO-Fear of Missing Out. FOMO happens when you realize that other people are somewhere or doing something that you are not. If has been defined this way by the Oxford English Dictionary as, “having anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.”
I didn’t think it was a real thing until recently. We had a big event for our church and many of the staff and fellow pastors went to this event. I needed to stay back to help with Sunday morning services, understandably so, church still needed to happen. I was fine with this and thankful for any opportunity but something happened; I started to see pictures of what the other team members were experiencing and doing. FOMO hit me! I felt like I was missing out. Do you ever feel like that? For others it can cause depression, discontentment, envy, and anxiety.
This happens to many people. It is seeing their group of friends doing something that you were unable to do or not invited to do. It happens as you see another family pose for their perfect picture and you long to have that life. It happens when you start contrasting and comparing your life to others. How do we assess this and how do we combat it?
One option could be to get rid of your phone or delete all your social media apps but that is not solving the bigger issue, the heart. FOMO can happen even without a phone or technology. It reveals that envy is rearing its ugly head.
FOMO happens when you focus on creation and not the creator
It happens subtly. You see what others are doing based on their posts and you feel like you are missing out on something. What exactly? You may not even know, but all you know is that you missing! They look like they are having fun and you’re not.
What happens is, you start focusing your attention not on Creator God who is in charge but instead on to His creation. This is exactly what happened in the garden of Edan (Genesis 3). Author Tony Reinke explains in his book 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You writes,
“FOMO is an ancient phobia with a history that reaches back far before we started using opposable thumbs to text one another gossip. We can say that FOMO is the primeval human fear, the first fear stoked in our hearts when a slithering Serpent spoke softly of a one-time opportunity that proved too good to miss.”
Adam and Eve took their eyes off the goodness of God, who created all things and put them on to His creation. They believed the lie from the Serpent and desired something that was “too good to be true.” When we start having this FOMO phobia we are doing the same exact thing. We are longing for, desiring whatever the “next” thing may be. Contentment starts with having the right view of God who is in control of all things.
FOMO happens when you have a distorted reality
There is a danger of looking at the different posts from others when you think there life looks so good, they have it all together. You ask, “Why can’t may life be like there’s”? IF only I… The list can go on. You can have the fear of missing out in life as you think the life of others is so much better.
This is not reality. Pictures can be set-up. Fake smiles can be turned on. When you look at your reality and long for the other, you have mistaken God’s sovereignty. This is what happened in the wilderness with the children of Israel they kept distorting their predictament with the reality of God’s presence (See Exodus 14 and 16; Numbers 11; 14; and 20). They were weary of being in the wilderness and instead of crying out to God for his continued help and guidance, they complained. They said, “We had it better in Egypt.” They lost sight of the promise of their freedom to the comfortableness of their slavery. FOMO distorts reality.
FOMO happens when you confuse happiness with joy
FOMO confuses the Christian with the difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is based on circumstances. You can be happy when you leave for work in the morning and become disgruntled before you even get there just because you were cut-off on your way. Or, the opposite can occur. You can be mad as you leave for work but quickly become happy as a co-woker paid you a compliment. Happiness is fickle and dependent on circumstances. Joy is solid and consistent. It is not based upon circumstances but on Jesus.
Pastor Steven Lawson writes,
“True joy, however, is not dependent upon our earthly circumstances. Instead, it rests upon our unchanging relationship with the Lord, who is our ever-present source of joy.”
This joy, no one can rob you from. This joy no one can replace. This joy no one can reproduce. It comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ. That is why Paul could say, after being beaten, imprisoned, and awaiting his execution, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice (Philippians 4:4) You do not have fear or be anxious of missing out because you have Christ. You can have a peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).
FOMO happens when you replace joy with fickle happiness. You long for that instead of the deep, unending joy that is found in Jesus.
How to combat it?
As you assess what FOMO is, that it is more than just fearing that you are missing out on something but that it is revealing a heart that is not trusting God we need to combat it. Here are some simple steps to combat FOMO.
- Realize that this is a sin and a heart issue. Confess it before the Lord and stand in His free grace. As you pray, ask the Lord not only to reveal these areas in your life but also the strength to face them.
- Take note of comparing yourself with other people is wrong and unhealthy. When you go on social media are finding yourself thankful in the Lord or complaining that you are missing out?
- Take a social media fast- nothing wrong with just taking some time off. It has been proven to be beneficial for you with your health. Life around you will still happen and you will be ok.
- Talk with a good, godly friend about your struggles and seek their help and accountability.
There is freedom and joy that comes from a heart change. Let me encourage you to run to our Savior, Jesus Christ and that you may be satisfied in Him alone!