The Four Assumptions of FOMO

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You come back to town after being out on vacation. You check Facebook. You see a group picture of friends taken at a social event. You see that a person you kind of like got into a relationship. You read about the fun that someone had on another vacation.

All of these things lead to a particular feeling –

FOMO – The Fear Of Missing Out 

This FOMO is a feeling that has infiltrated my mind on a daily basis. Part of the feeling derives from the fact that I live in a city that has all sorts of things I want to be involved with. But much of the feeling derives from four assumptions that often times are not true:

If I miss an event, others won’t like me as much

There is an element of this assumption that is true – if you spend less time with a group of people, you may have less opportunity to become close with that group. However, this assumption is also led by lies – that people are always thinking about you (rather than focusing on the event) and those thoughts are always negative (instead of their thoughts about you not being affected by you missing one event).

The assumption leaves out room for understanding, celebration, and patience. Understanding from others about the circumstances surrounding your absence. Celebration of the fact that people had fun at the event you missed. And patience to wait for another opportunity to enjoy time with that group of people.

Acceptance from others is the most important thing for me to pursue

This assumption is closely tied with the last one. When acceptance from people or a particular person becomes the focus in social events, then you are going to worry about losing that acceptance when missing out on an event. Those worries could carry over to the rest of life, consuming your daily thoughts to the point that it becomes a primary life focus.

But there are more important things to pursue than acceptance. Things that are important to almost everyone – building relationships with family, making a difference in the world, or building a career/vocation. And there are things that are of most importance to Christians – glorifying God, growing in character, and building God’s kingdom. When these things are in the forefront, acceptance is no longer something you have to chase after in order to feel fulfilled.

The event that I missed would be better than the one I went to

This assumption plagued me last summer. I went on a trip to London, and for the first few days I had continuous thoughts about missing a cruise that happened the same week. I held the constant assumption that the cruise would be better, no matter how much I enjoyed the London trip.

When you are choosing between two events, you can never actually know which event would be “better” unless you fully experience both, which is impossible to do. But it is very possible to idealize the event that you missed and always assume that it would be better. This assumption causes stress as you focus on what you may be missing, instead of what you are actually experiencing.

Photos from the past are realities in the present

Looking at photos of past events can trigger worries – things like “Did I miss out on something important?”, or “Would I have connected more with this specific person if I was there?” These present worries derive from knowledge about an event that happened hours or even days ago.

But this knowledge is limited – it’s usually based on a few pictures of people smiling and apparently having fun. And the knowledge isn’t about something happening right now. So does this knowledge about a past event need to affect the way you think in the present? This is a question I continue to wrestle with.

The FOMO that is led by these four assumption will continue to be a problem for many, including myself. But digging into these assumptions has helped me to understand where my fears come from. I may continue to get FOMO through Facebook, but I hope to better recognize when these assumptions are producing that fear.


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