A couple of weeks ago I was at the Donegal Sports Star awards—yes me, at my age! Our open water swimming group had been nominated for the team award. There we were all dressed up, sitting expectantly. Then all the names for the best team were read out—each team had had impressive achievements over the space of the year. And there was a serious dose of FOMO going on!
But FOMO—fear of missing out—is more than missing out on an award. It’s that nagging fear you are missing out on something that would be better than what you are currently doing. The constant stream of social media means you see the vast array of options. Some of them are what your friends are doing and you are missing out. And others are what you could be doing, but hadn’t thought of.
One way to tackle it is from the perspective of DAGEYEW (pronounced Day-gu)—I’ve invented the acronym, but it stands for Disappointed At Getting Everything You Ever Wanted. It’s the opposite of the reality of FOMO. Many celebrities, sports stars and successful individuals speak of it. Actor and comedian Jim Carrey said, “I think everybody should get rich and famous, and do everything they ever dreamed of—so they can see it's not the answer.” Rugby star, Jonny Wilkinson on winning the World Cup, “I had already begun to feel the elation slipping away from me during the lap of honour around the field. I couldn't believe that all the effort was losing its worth so soon… I’d just achieved my greatest ambition and it felt a bit empty.”
It reminds me of the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible, where Solomon has both the time, money and opportunity to seek happiness in everything—work, play, sex, pleasure, fame, wisdom—and his conclusion was that the pursuit of happiness in these was “a chasing after the wind.”
The very things we fear will ruin our lives if we miss out on them, turn out not to be the answer after all. So FOMO isn’t worth it, really.
It would be easy to mock FOMO, but what if it is a legitimate fear? What if there is something really worth fearing missing out on? I suspect that there is something rooted deep inside us that knows there is something big that we were individually made for, and we are right to fear missing out on it. That same writer in the Bible tells us that God has “set eternity in our hearts”. We are wired for something much bigger than this tiny, often messed up life. Your FOMO is legitimate. There is something you could miss out on forever. Too often our FOMO is aimed too low.
And that brings us to the voice of the one who knew what it was we would miss out on. His fear was not that he would miss out, but rather that we would. Jesus knew the glories of knowing God, and the glories of what this life was designed to be—perfect and endless. And so he came to provide a way so that we might never miss out. He said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
Don’t aim your FOMO too low, or you will indeed miss out. Aim at Jesus Christ, and you will find “an inheritance which can never perish, spoil or fade, kept for you” (1 Peter 1:4)—and whatever you miss out on in this life will seem as nothing compared to the prospect that awaits.
(As it happened, we didn’t get the team award after all—and so we sat a bit surprised, and perhaps slightly deflated. Yet just before the final award of the evening, there was an announcemenrt of a special achievement award—to the Gartan Open Water Swimmers. We hadn’t missed out after all... I'm sure there's a lesson in there somewhere...)