What is FOMO? And do I have it?

by: Sean Scott

I recently read an article called “3 Ways Technology Makes Us Anxious” by Shelby Abbott. In the article she argues that while we are attached to our technology and afraid to go without it, our technology also makes us fearful and anxious.

FOMO

The article is short and it is worth reading the whole thing, though it was her third point that really caught my attention:  “Prolific technology use may leave us with a fear of missing out (FOMO).”   

As we are on our phones and computers all day, we are bombarded with world news, sporting events, local happenings, and our friends’ (“friends”) activities and achievements, and all this exposure makes us fear that we are missing out on a fun event, on a grander life, or on personal success.

Abbot wrote:

“But like other forms of fear or anxiety, FOMO is brought to life by a lack of belief that God is good and that he is enough. If we look to him in all of his strength and love, our anxiety will begin to dissipate because we know he wants what’s best for us – and has secured it at infinite cost to himself.”

The Spec In My Brother's Eye

Initially I scoffed when I read this. I didn’t see in myself the fear of missing out or doubting God’s goodness. And I have a firm grip on my tech-habits.  Right?

I work with teens, so talking about the dangers of technology is taboo, but, I can easily pick out tech-related anxiety, restlessness, and discomfort in these teenagers’ lives. Yet in my own life, introspection and self-examination about technology has lacked rigor.

Intervention

Is technology a problem for me? It was time to find out…

In May, I imposed on myself a month of technology moderation. My rules were: No Twitter, phone, or TV after 9pm. I journaled about this tech-moderation experiment and here are a few of my more telling journal entries:

  • Well, here we go. I’m excited and nervous about what this will bring. Praying for the discipline to keep up.
  • I’ve been going to bed about an hour and a half earlier than I generally would. Unsurprisingly, I feel pretty awesome in the morning. Who knew?!
  • Both on Thursday and Friday I noticed a slight physiological response. Is restless hand syndrome a thing?
  • So, on the weekend, do the rules still count? Can I turn on a game late at night? Surely I can read a few minutes of Twitter…
  • Withdrawal? Yeah.
  • I cheated a little bit. As I got busier, I relaxed my standards on the experiment.  Also, school kicked in quite a bit and I felt like I had no choice but to use technology.
  • I feel a little uncomfortable with myself. Me, myself, and I is not a fun reality. I grabbed my phone to check Twitter for just a second… the NBA playoffs were on and I wanted to know what was happening.
  • It’s May 10th and I feel okay with this. I read and prayed through a longer passage of the Word than I typically do. Also, the guys Bible study helped me refocus. Those guys are awesome.
  • This tech-break is helping me more than I thought.
  • I’m writing right now to prevent me from looking at my phone or turning on a show. It’s clear that I can’t sustainably minimize my technology use or entertain myself without it. This is disappointing.
  • I already have eased myself back into using more technology. I didn’t make it a whole month. School is kicking my tail and life got too busy for this experiment. I feel… guilt? Did I let myself down? Did I let God down?

Technology And Sin

From this experiment I discovered that I don’t respond well to alone time and I learned that old sin appears in new ways. It’s my heart, not the technology, that’s the problem, though.  When I am at church on Sunday, teaching or attending in a Bible study, or at the youth group meeting, I fervently believe that God is enough. Yet in those quiet moments when I’m alone, I feel antsy and uncomfortable and I’d rather be somewhere else. I feel like I need technology to keep me up to date on what everyone is doing or else I will miss out. In those antsy, uncomfortable moments I am living the lie that God isn’t enough for me.

God Is Enough

As a Christian, I must be responsible with how I use technology, and this means that I am not to trust in it for peace or for a sense of belonging. My life, my peace, and my acceptance are in God’s good hands, and I’m praying that I will learn deeply that God really is enough.