Monday, December 16, 2013

Fear of Missing Out

Today a friend introduced me to a new acronym: FOMO—Fear Of Missing Out. I googled it, and much to my surprise, I found it as an entry not only in the Urban Dictionary, but also in Wikipedia.

Let's just go straight to Wikipedia for the goods:
Fear of missing out or FOMO is a form of social anxiety — a compulsive concern that one might miss an opportunity for social interaction, a novel experience, profitable investment or other satisfying event. This is especially associated with modern technologies such as mobile phones and social networking services.

A study by Andrew Przybylski found that the condition was most common in those who had unsatisfied psychological needs such as wanting to be loved and respected. The condition is also associated with social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn, which provide constant opportunity for comparison of one's status.
The timing couldn't have been better. Just last night my husband, daughter, and I were discussing all of the weddings that have taken place so far this year among people we know and yet we have only been invited to one of them. We certainly didn't expect to get an invitation to them all, but only one?

Not an hour later, I got on Facebook and there was posted a photo of a friend and her entire family at their 18th wedding of the year. Yes, 18th. It took me about 2.7 milliseconds to feel that familiar twinge.

I don't know if anybody else ever feels this way (please let me know if you do), but sometimes I think I must have stopped developing emotionally and socially in about third grade, because to a certain extent being left out still hurts. I say "still" because I have a long experience with the phenomenon.

I was never exactly Miss Popularity and I have had to realize that is OK . . . most of the time. Several years ago when I was lamenting being on the non-receiving end of a social invitation my husband very lovingly said, "Honey, you've never been popular before. What makes you think you would start now?" Yeah, well, he had a point.

My husband tries to look on the bright side. After all, he reasons, if you are going to be near the edge of the circle, it is better to be just outside than just inside. It certainly saves you money and time, after all. I guess . . . but still I find it hard sometimes and I suppose The Double-Edged Sword That Is Facebook is partly to blame.

I mean, before Facebook, all sorts of things could happen and you would never know what you were missing. You might catch wind of a wedding or a party but you wouldn't have a clue as to what it was you actually missed.

Enter Facebook. photos come rolling in, giving those outside the circle of invitation an emotionally painful voyeuristic view of the good time they didn't have. And if those photos are indeed coming in as they happen, thanks to iPhones and Instagram, then you are seeing friends and acquaintances having a jolly old time while you sit on your couch with your bowl of cereal and patrol Facebook for the little green dots that indicate there might be somebody online to talk to.

Longing to belong is quite natural, I think. But longing to belong can be terribly destructive, if not to anybody else, at least to yourself. C.S. Lewis talks about the concept of the Inner Ring (a place I have clearly never been) and concludes, "The quest of the Inner Ring will break your heart unless you break it."

Yes, the quest must be broken. Even when I'm brought face to face with what I've missed. And if the truth is that I didn't make the cut, the greater truth is that there are more of us outside that Inner Ring than within it. I'm in good company and I'm not alone after all.


  1. Wow, thank definitely understand my struggles. In fact I'm a lot happier when I just stay off Facebook. Easier said than done. But as you said before...sometimes you have to remember that some things aren't for us. Journaling with God a week ago He talked to me about how popularity can destroy a person. It really isn't the healthiest thing spiritually. Jesus hung out with a lot of the unpopular crowd and He knew the humble. This hurt in my life has reminded me of my need to grow in the ability to be small ie humble. But God has also been reminding me of my identity in Him, which sounds cliche but really when He personally gives me a new way to see myself, it does help immensely.:) Thank you for ALL your posts. They have been very encouraging to me in remembering I am not alone in this struggle. Especially to not compare myself.

  2. Thank you for this post. I deactivated my facebook account in July...trying just to stay off for 2 months but I've stayed off of it much longer than I expected. One of the many reasons I needed to be off of there was my need to know what was going on with hundreds of people. I did not want to be left out...I wanted to be in the know. Fast forward to now, December, and I am feeling pretty at ease with not knowing what is going on with all of my friends all of the time. Yes, from time to time I find out some bit of news and I am surprised but otherwise I have found a mostly inner peace with not knowing everything about everyone. And you are so right-the world of facebook makes it harder because of the photos!