FOMO – “Fear of Missing Out” is a serious problem for me and a real addiction for many. Years ago, our German exchange student, Olli, had a near panic attack one Friday night when he had no party or opportunity to entertain him. We thought it was kind of funny, but Olli wasn’t laughing. He was absolutely convinced that his social life was in a ditch and might never recover!
Sadly, feeling overlooked or left out doesn’t end when we’re teenagers. A pastor friend of mine was lamenting that on the first Easter Sunday after his retirement he and his wife visited a church where no one knew them. After years of being much appreciated and needed as the preacher on stage, he and his wife struggled with feeling unneeded, unnoticed and unappreciated. It was a sad and sobering experience.
Mother Teresa once said that the greatest need of the poor is simply to be noticed. By that definition we all feel like we’re “poor” at times. This is why so many go to such great lengths to be noticed.
- We obsess over the next entertainment opportunity.
- We obsess over our appearance or popularity.
- We obsess over our “likes” on social media.
Andy Olsen says that “‘Fear of missing out’ is at the root of our over-extended lives.” The more I ponder my own frenetic tendencies, even in my seventh decade, my need for speed is beyond sobering! While I love to read, reflect and contemplate, I can only do that in short chunks before I reach for the technological drug that is always at my side. (Just as I wrote that I was jolted and distracted when my phone went off!)
Which reminds me, a friend reported a study on the insidious distraction of cell phones. He shared how students were tested in three groups.
- Group one was allowed to have their cell phones on their desk.
- Group two was only allowed to have their cell phones with them but out of sight.
- Group three was required to leave their cell phones out of the room.
Guess what? The closer the distraction of a cell phone, even if silent, the worse the test scores! In these days of ever-present social media, a phone is a symbol of a perpetual party invitation beckoning for our attention. So, a few questions to ponder:
- Is your phone on the table when you eat with family or friends?
- Is your phone visible to you and others when you’re in a meeting?
- Is your phone by your bedside when you sleep, or . . . well, you get the point!
Come to think of it, FOMO is nothing new; in fact, in one sense it’s not even a bad thing— but rather a good thing. We all ought to fear missing out on God’s best. That usually means setting time aside without distraction to hear what the Spirit is saying.
“But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made . . . ‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you’re worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’” (Luke 10:40-42 NIV)
“Listen as Wisdom calls out! Hear as understanding raises her voice.” (Proverbs 8:1 NLT)
As you set aside some undistracted time for the Lord this week, what might the Spirit be saying to you?
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Alan Ahlgrim
Director of Soul Care and Covenant Groups