As a student abroad, I keep up with friends and family by emailing and video chatting. I haven’t, however, for the last month, been able to actively participate in their lives. I haven’t had the chance go to social events with them, I haven’t met the new people they are telling me about, and I haven’t been able to share in the experiences they are telling stories about. For the early part of my college career, the fear of missing those things kept me from wanting to study abroad. Now that I am living in Austria, experiencing incredible new things, as well as intensely missing my friends and family, I am simultaneously shocked and also not at all surprised that I let FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) keep me from doing this sooner.
Psychologists, in recent years, have started to pay serious attention to FOMO. It has been “defined as a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent” (1), or “a compulsive concern that one might miss an opportunity for social interactions” (2). Articles have been written in the New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle that “highlight how a mix of social media and a fear of missing out may be linked to general unhappiness”(1).
As research investigates FOMO in the modern world and it’s connections to social media, however, increased social media usage seems to be a symptom of FOMO, rather than the commonly assumed other way around (1).
This is no surprise; to fear missing out is human. As human beings, we desire to know and be known by others. We desire to connect with others, and to experience joy, beauty, and wonder. As human beings we have all experienced rejection and disappointment, and we often fear we will experience these things again, and in the process miss out on something we desire. FOMO is not just the result of social media; it is a part of being human.
The thing about FOMO, as it has come to be known in recent years, is that the fear we have started to harbor (potentially fostered by increased social media and internet usage) is a fear of missing out on what we see in the lives of others. We see it as a fear of missing out on the things they are experiencing, the people they are hanging out with, and state of life they are in.
What if the problem with FOMO is not that we experience it, but that we experience it with respect to the lives of others? What would happen if we all lived with a healthy sense of fear of missing out on our own lives? A fear of missing the encounters, events, and experiences God has placed in our own paths each day, and an understanding that providence has ordained them all, from the mundane to the sensational?
I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. –John 10:10
To live abundantly is not to squeeze as much excitement or enjoyment as possible out of each moment, but to appreciate each moment by paying attention completely and totally to whatever it may hold. When half of our heart is where our feet are, and the other half is texting, scrolling, or even daydreaming, we aren’t experiencing any of the things we are doing to the full. Quantitatively, we may be getting more out of the moment, but qualitatively we are cheating those around us, those we are texting, or whose profile we are viewing, whose article we are reading, and most importantly, ourselves. When we let ourselves be fully present, the ups and downs of a social interaction become a beautiful, natural rhythm. We can experience the anticipation of an awkward moment like the quiet moments in a song before something grand happens. And then we can also fully relish the excitement that follows when it actually gets there. If we distract ourselves during the quiet, not only do we miss out on the thrill of anticipation, but on the exhilaration as well.
Let me take a moment to clarify; this doesn’t mean we should never text our friends, use social media, think about the future, or daydream. What it does mean is that we should be conscientious of doing so at times when we can give the friend, the Facebook album, the thought or the daydream our full attention, when we aren’t distracted by work or the people around us. We should also choose a time when we aren’t using these things to distract ourselves from something else. We should simply be as intentional about these things as about being present to people we are with.
For most of us, the thought of living every moment intentionally scares us. It means when we are uncomfortable, we let ourselves feel the full extent of that discomfort. It means we can’t scroll through our day and choose to only tune into the moments that catch our attention. It means being fully present where we are, even if we wish we were somewhere else. It means paying full attention to the person in front of us, even when we wish to be with someone else.
To fear missing out on each moment in our own lives means to fear missing out on awkward, boring, painful, mundane, and uncomfortable moments. But, as it turns out in practice, this fear is not so much a fear as it is a trust that God has ordained each of those moments to teach us and stretch us. This fear is based on the understanding that behaviors become habits, and it is only by practicing full presence in these less than stellar moments that we can be sure we will be fully present in the wonderful moments. Most importantly, this fear acknowledges that it is in the midst of these imperfections that we will find moments of unexpected joy, indescribable beauty, and awe-inspiring wonder. This fear believes it is better to experience all the difficult moments, however frequent they may be, than to miss an experience of the true, the good, and the beautiful, which God has hidden amongst them.
 Przybylski, Andrew K, Murayama, Kou, Deltaan, Cody R, Gladwell, Valerie. “Motivational, emotional, and behavioral correlates of fear of missing out.” Computers in Human Behavior 29.4 (2013):1841-1848. Web.
 Dossey, Larry. “FOMO, Digital Dementia, and our Dangerous Experiment.” The Journal of Science and Healing 10.2 (2014): 69-73. Web.