In all likelihood, you’re at school or work right now – which means that you’re missing out on what friends are posting on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter or the like.
What’s your reaction? Anxiety or ambivalence? Crankiness or contentment? Troubled or thankful? If you fall on the side of anxiety in any way, I would suspect that FOMO, or “fear of missing out,” has gained a foothold in your life.
In this age of social media, we all encounter FOMO at one point or another – and to different degrees. Why? The posts never stop. Ever.
Tony Reinke, a senior writer for Desiring God, describes this tension.
“Fed by the minutiae of our social media feeds, our insecurities grow and hatch and thrive within the hidden recesses of our hearts.”
What are these insecurities? A few of note are readily apparent, though there are many others. Body shape, for instance. Height and weight. Designer clothes and designer shoes. The year, make, and model of automobiles. Vacation pictures. Or simply not doing what everyone else seems to be doing, even if it’s an activity that seems trivial and mundane – dare I say boring. We’d prefer not to miss out.
FOMO, which actually is in the Oxford Dictionary, is a phrase masquerading as a term I first became acquainted with in a college economics class: opportunity cost. According to Investopedia, opportunity cost
“refers to a benefit that a person could have received, but gave up, to take another course of action. Stated differently, an opportunity cost represents an alternative given up when a decision is made.”
An opportunity cost is a tradeoff.
Consider the tradeoffs we make for work. A few weeks ago, a colleague dropped by the store to say hello. Smoothie in hand, she had just completed an eight-mile run in some stellar weather. I missed out. She was running and I was working.
But I had intentionally traded a run for store hours so the lights will stay on in the house, food will fill the pantry, and the car will stay insured. In short, opportunity cost.
Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter continuously highlight opportunity costs, though our tendency is to see them through the FOMO lens. We like what others are doing with the click of a mouse, but frown on our current state of affairs. They are out on grand adventures; we are washing the dishes, scrubbing the toilet, mowing the lawn, or searching for a lost sock that the dryer swallowed somehow.
Do Not Worry
At its core, FOMO is covetousness. Consider Exodus 20:17: “You shall not covet.” This commandment is straight from God to man. Do not covet. Do not envy others, what they have or what they are doing. Instead, seek contentment, the antithesis of a coveting spirit.
“But godliness with contentment is great gain; for we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” (I Timothy 6: 6-7)
To paraphrase a quote from the pastor of my first church, “A hearse is never followed by a U-Haul truck.”
You can’t take it with you.
Along with sidestepping covetousness, Jesus admonishes us not to worry in the book of Matthew.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body; what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” (Matthew 6:25)
Maybe he’s asking us to downplay the stuff of this life and seek the kingdom of God first, knowing in that so doing our needs will be provided for by a loving Father (Philippians 4:19). Do not worry about what others are currently posting on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or Twitter. Rest in this moment, the right now.
FOMO, as the phrase indicates, is rooted in fear. Fear of missing out. The Scriptures, however, reveal many truths that should bolster our strength and resolve to resist the urge to covet and thus sin against God.
First, recognize that every good and perfect gift is from above (James 1:17). Take stock of all that you do have, and use this bounty as a platform for giving thanks with a grateful heart to a great God. He is the giver of good gifts.
Second, remember that earth is but a pause in the path towards eternity. As Tony Reinke puts it,
“In Christ, the sting of missing out is eternally gone. In him is the promise of no loss eternally. All that has been lost will be found in him. All that we have missed will be summed up in him.”
Finally, start serving others in the church and in the community. Looking to their needs (Philippians 2:4) is a surefire way to disrupt the focus on the self and pattern a life after the Savior who stooped down to wash dirty feet.
Becoming more like Jesus? I would not want to miss out on that.
No, not for the world.