a christian perspective on the world today

Fighting FOMO

A huge source of anxiety in the digital age is the fear of missing out, or, as it’s known on social media, FOMO. Whether we’ve just heard of a productivity hack that promises a tenfold increase in efficiency at work, an awesome food truck that every hipster in town is raving about or the amazing holiday photos everyone else seems to be plastering onto Instagram, it often feels like we’re getting left behind.

Unfortunately, the most common way most of us deal with FOMO is to create more of it for others. Desperate to prove we aren’t missing out, we document our trendiest meals, celebrate our priciest purchases with just the right photo filter and “humblebrag” about our achievements, working in #blessed if we’re part of a faith community. We are meticulous about curating the perfect social media profile where we airbrush the reality out of life and, instead, make it look like our days are endless highlight reels.

Marketers use FOMO relentlessly to keep us buying their stuff. It’s great for business. Social pressure keeps us consuming. And to keep on purchasing we run faster on the hamster wheel at work to make more so we can spend more money on more conspicuous consumption. FOMO is exhausting. And unless you deliberately decide to rebel and fight back, it never ends.

Enter JOMO

Fortunately there’s a growing counter­movement known as JOMO, which stands for the “joy of missing out”. The BBC Worklife webpage describess JOMO as “relief from the breathless and guilt-laden need to be perennially switched on and constantly productive”, calling it a “reaction to ‘hustle culture’ and other widely accepted models of ‘success’.”

JOMO fans literally take joy in stepping off the hamster wheel. They are okay with shutting down a social media stream that is turning them green with envy or stressing them out. They don’t feel bad about saying “no” to needless overconsumption or refusing to overcrowd their calendars with “unmissable” events. The JOMO crowd is trading fear of missing out for the joy of a simpler life.

There’s wisdom in consciously stepping back to redesign your life around real priorities. This doesn’t necessarily mean chilling in a hammock all day sipping a drink with an umbrella in it (as amazing as that sounds!). It should, however, involve taking a deep breath and thinking more carefully about life.

In Romans 12:1, the apostle Paul describes this kind of intentional living a little differently: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

Seen from a Christian perspective, JOMO means letting go of the crush of expectations from the world around us and truly prioritising this “true and proper worship” where we completely give our lifestyles and behaviours as a “living sacrifice” to God. Giving yourself as a sacrifice is an all-in proposition. It means handing yourself over—warts and all—to God and asking for the wisdom to lead a wiser life, in harmony with His will.

Fizkes—Getty Images

Prioritise self-care

1 Corinthians 6:19,20 expresses a similar thought from a different angle: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies.”

A real friendship with God means taking care of the bodies and minds He’s given us. This kind of guidance is a great FOMO antidote. It means that Netflix-bingeing your whole weekend away is a bad idea, even if an entire season of the show nobody can stop talking about has just been released. It means that being a workaholic and skimping on sleep to the point where you’d fit right in on the set of The Walking Dead is not just unhealthy, but a clear sign that your priorities are off-balance.

On a different FOMO-related note, 1 Timothy 2:9,10 advises us not to chase high-end fashion statements of “gold or pearls or expensive clothes” but to instead prioritise good deeds. This doesn’t mean alerting Facebook every time you help an old man cross the street, but it does mean that true believers should be known for their cheerful acts of service rather than by their bling.

1 Peter 3:1–4 elaborates on this thought, saying that true beauty is not defined by flashy looks, but is instead the shining out of “your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight”.

Enough about me

“Blessed are those who act justly, who always do what is right,” says Psalm 106:3. Always? This might sound like a tall order and it is certainly not the kind of behaviour we can pull off without God’s help. But the Bible is telling us that God happily blesses us when we do the right thing in the face of FOMO. He rewards those who stand up for the forgotten, even when the rest of the world has long moved on and is busy chasing the next shiny object.

One of the most simple and elegant descriptions of authentic Christian behaviour is found in Micah 6:8. The well-known passage says that what God requires of us is simple: “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

This verse calls us to be champions of justice, whether this means campaigning for the rights of the oppressed or simply doing the right thing when nobody’s watching. It means showing mercy and forgiveness when it’s easier to snap at someone, punish them or press your advantage. Perhaps most importantly, it means simply trusting God in life, realising that so much of it is out of our control. Rather than being consumed by FOMO, walking humbly with God means surrendering to Him, knowing that He will lead and provide.

There’s peace in taking this kind of trusting posture in life. There’s relief. Joy. And you don’t need to post about it. 

Bjorn Karlman is a freelance writer who travels the world as a “digital nomad”, living in two to three countries per year with his wife and toddler.

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