The other day when Facebook and Instagram crashed, I found myself quite irritated that the services weren’t updating. I didn’t know that the outage was global though. I fiddled with the settings on my phone assuming my Wi-Fi or cell service were problematic as I tried to refresh the social media sites several times. I was frustrated because I thought the problem was mine. Finally, I looked on the internet to see if the outages were widespread and was relieved to know that they were. It wasn’t an issue on my end after all. I felt relieved to know that if I couldn’t get FB and IG to work, then other people and organizations couldn’t either. I realized I’d had a fear of missing out (FOMO) on what was going on in the world, but I wasn’t missing anything. We were all experiencing the same thing – no one could post, no one could share, no one could update.
I don’t relish the fact that I had FOMO based on a few hours without social media. Perhaps I need to assess the time and effort I dedicate to social media sites. But more telling to me was that my first reaction was to assume the problem was mine alone. And that thought persisted for hours before I even considered that others, that the world, in fact, faced the same predicament. I worried that the rest of the world was going on without me, and honestly, I felt left out.
Isn’t that often the way we approach life? We think others are having fun without us; that our friends are gathering without inviting us; that we are missing out on the good things in life that others have in abundance. And sometimes our first thoughts are that there is something wrong with us. That missing out is our fault. If I were prettier, skinnier, more popular, less annoying, more engaging, less introverted, had more money, a better job or fancier education, then I wouldn’t be left out. I would be included – if only I could…fill in the blank.
And yet, if we stop for a second and really think about it, others may experience similar emotions. My FOMO may result from rejection in the past, so I worry I’ll be tossed aside again. My friend’s FOMO may be rooted in feelings of inadequacy they learned as a child. And if others exclude us on purpose, they are probably acting out of their own fears or insecurities. We fear missing out on different things for different reasons, but we probably all have FOMO about something, and we’ve all blamed ourselves. Instead of realizing that we may not actually be missing out in the first place and that it may not be because of anything we did or who we are, we continue to live in isolation and dread.
God designed us to live in community together, and FOMO is real because we want to be in relationship with others. But God doesn’t want us to berate ourselves or focus on our perceived inadequacies when we feel the twinge of FOMO creeping in. We are God’s beloved children, and he wants us to believe that we are worthy and valuable. If we can more readily accept that we are important in the eyes of God, we can then engage with others without dwelling in the fear of not being enough.
The next time we experience FOMO, let’s remember that we belong to God, and that he loves us beyond measure. Then, we can assess what’s happening in the situation and how we feel without picking ourselves apart and causing unnecessary damage to our hearts and minds.