It’s happened to all of us. FOMO.
We are nine years old and we know all of our friends are at an after school roller skating party that we are not, and it hurts hurts hurts to have to miss it to go to a family event. Or maybe we are thirty-nine years old and we see all of our friends on a trip, at a party, or attending a conference that we are not and it doesn’t hurt any less. We watch all of the Facebook updates and Instagram posts scrolling vertically by as we clutch our bag of Cheez-its, watching reruns of Friends in our sweats.
FOMO. If you aren’t up with all the Internet acronyms (and I certainly am not) FOMO is the Fear of Missing Out. Sometimes we don’t know why we feel bad, but we just do. We feel like we should be there (even if we cannot) and we feel like we should have been invited to the party (even if it doesn’t make sense).
It’s just hard not to feel bad when we aren’t included.
I’ve had a special relationship with FOMO over my lifetime. I was that nine-year-old girl who was often left off the invitation list to parties and the one who begged my non-working mother to leave me at after school daycare just so I could be included in what all the “cool” kids with working moms were doing. I’ve been experiencing a level of fear of missing out for as long as I can remember.
And as an adult, with the inception of social media and instantaneous knowledge of what everyone else in the entire world is doing right now, it might even be worse.
FOMO is a very real feeling and very hard to get over. And as I continue to battle it in my small ways, I wonder if FOMO is more about me than it is about other people.
It really isn’t about what other people are doing, it is about what I do with that knowledge. It might not even be about social media but in how confident I am in myself, how settled I am in who I am in Jesus and how much grace I have for others. I’m not over FOMO, not even close, but here are a few things I’ve tried to help me get over that anxiety.
- The most obvious and easy trick is to turn off social media, or at least create difficult access to it for yourself. About six weeks ago, long after everyone’s New Years resolutions were either broken or kept, I decided to delete Facebook and Instagram from my phone. It didn’t mean I wouldn’t use it, I just would limit my access so that I wasn’t mindlessly scrolling all the time. I didn’t do it to not keep up with what other people were doing, but that was a secondary effect. I had much less FOMO because I didn’t see as much social media coming through. What I intended to be a month long experiment has turned into something longer and more beneficial than I would have ever thought.
- Focus on what is important.Whenever I’m worried about that conference I’m not at or that party I didn’t get the invitation to, I look at my girls and at the things that I am doing. I look at what is important and why I’m here and not there. The sting is still there sometimes, but it helps tremendously to readjust what I’m setting my focus on.
- Do something productive. Maybe it’s time to take your hobby or whatever you’ve been tinkering with to another level. Maybe its time to simply take up a hobby or some kind of artistic endeavor. I’m serious. When we are busy with creative things that are productive and are in line with our gifts, we have less and less time to worry about what others are doing. It’s funny how that works.
- Do something fun. My father sent me a text the other day. I had shared with him some struggles that I’m having, and he essentially told me that maybe I was taking myself too seriously and maybe one of the things I needed to do was infuse fun into my day. Fancy that! My dad telling his kid to have fun. But he’s right: when we are truly enjoying life and taking unimportant things less seriously, that feeling of being left out? It doesn’t matter anymore. When you are creating your own thing that might seem enviable to someone else if they knew, your fear of missing out tends to recede.
- Think it through. Is this something you would have even attended even if you could? Is it something you would have wanted to attend? Is it something that would have actually worked with your schedule and the schedule of the people you take care of? Most of the time, if we think things through carefully, we run up against the notion that there is a reason you aren’t there and it’s usually very, very practical. Here’s something else: if there is a person who is consistently posting things that make you feel bad about yourself, first ask yourself why? And then, if it seems reasonable, maybe consider if that person should remain in your social media feeds.
- Take time to realize who you are and where He has placed you. God’s given us each distinct, beautiful and amazing personalities. He has created us so perfectly and wonderfully and even in that uniqueness, our foundation is Him. You don’t need to worry about “missing out” because you are exactly who you need to be and you are exactly where you need to be.
Basically, God has been teaching me to live my life the way He wants me to and the way in which I feel the most at home in my own identity and personality. And He will sustain me even when I feel the worst about what I’m missing out on.
He’s good that way.