This week’s eNewsletter Feature
was written by Jim Teague
FPCE director of communications.
Do you know what FoMO means?
FoMO is short for Fear of Missing Out and is both an increasingly common slang term and an observable behavioral phenomenon. According to an article published in the World Journal of Clinical Cases, “Fear of missing out (FoMO) is a unique term introduced in 2004 and then extensively used since 2010 to describe a phenomenon observed on social networking sites. It eventually made it to the Oxford dictionary in 2013.
“In 2013 British psychologists elaborated and defined it as ‘pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent’, FoMO is characterized by the desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing.”i
In other words, other people might be having more fun than I am, and I am jealous. In my parents’ generation “trying to keep up with the Joneses” might have been a relatable expression (though not quite the same thing). Humorist Garrison Keillor recently share a slightly different view on such thinking. He defined a “Puritan” as “Someone suspicious that someone somewhere else might be having some fun.”
I am personally well-acquainted with FoMO. As a latch-key kid when I was growing up, I was not allowed to go out to play with my friends until I had my homework finished. But my homework always took me longer to do than my friends were willing to wait. Many times, they went off on their bikes and hung out together — without me. This was, of course, in the days before cell phones (just after the dinosaurs went extinct) and I would have to either miss out entirely or roam the town I lived in trying to find them. I was convinced they were having the time of their lives while I was all alone in my (supposedly) pathetic life.
There were a number of times I would ditch my homework, head off to be with friends, and later have to either a) admit it to my parents (and get grounded), b) lie about it and try to finish the homework later without getting caught (which rarely worked), or, c) rush through my homework and call it done, only to be told by parents and teachers alike that I “failed to perform to fullest potential.” I can’t, for the life of me, remember a single event experienced with my friends that ultimately was worth getting punished or embarrassed for, but I remember the burning anxiety that drove me to do such things.
Today, too, I sometimes find myself getting momentarily anxious when arriving late to a gathering of friends, family, or co-workers. I wonder if they have chosen to head off to some imagined adventure without me, or are just finishing up the best-ever game of Monopoly, of which tales will be told to the generations (tales, of course, that won’t include me).
But walking with Jesus for over 40 years I’ve found comes with many benefits, and one of them is his consistency in reminding me about what really matters. Fleeting moments of amusement or entertainment, increased popularity through hobnobbing with the Bright and the Beautiful, or even being held in increased esteem among my peers (in and outside the church) won’t be what accompanies me on my walk when this life is over.
On Sunday, our service will include Communion, as well as a message from Rev. Amanda Golbek drawn from Philippians 3:4-14. As part of our “Walking the Path: Choices for every disciple of Jesus” teaching series for Lent, this week’s message is titled “Christ-Centered” and draws from the Apostle Paul’s letter to a church he deeply loved and for which he desired only the very best.
From Scripture, I honestly can’t say if Paul ever experienced FoMO. As this week’s text attests, he spent his early adulthood seeking to live a life in which he would not miss out on anything being a privileged Jew would have to offer, even to the point of persecuting those he saw as betraying and threatening that traditional way of life.
Then he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. And everything changed.
“…I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…” (Philippians 3:8)
Paul is quick (in the very same sentence, in fact) to make it clear his own actions and sacrifices have done nothing to earn him God’s favor. No, instead he describes himself in verse 9 as “not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.”
I have written in the past of how my own ego, selfishness, and desire for approval and comfort have consistently tripped me up throughout the years. I take a great deal of comfort in Paul’s admission to the Philippians that he, too, had not yet reached his goal of truly being like Jesus (despite making immeasurable sacrifices and taking exceptional risks for the sake of glorifying the name of Jesus).
This Sunday, we will also have the pleasure of witnessing a group of young people make the decision to be confirmed into the church, and some will also be baptized at the same time. This week, in a traditional supper gathering, they met with some of the Elders and expressed in powerful and often unique ways why they want to be confirmed and what that commitment means to them. It was a truly inspiring night.
During one of the conversations, an FPCE elder was talking about the hardships of the Christian life and compared it to his experience as a high school wrestler — to get down to official class weight, being forced to skip meals and strictly discipline himself each week to be ready for the three rounds of two minutes each where he would face off against his opponent.
Each of the confirmands at that table then shared stories of their own challenges and how they hoped Jesus would be there with them in the future during those trials. They came away encouraged by those who had a few more years of living in faith that Jesus would, indeed, be right there with them throughout it all. No better life to look forward to — or elsewhere for — than that.
My wrestling with FoMO is a match I expect will continue on into the future… but not once my time comes to move from this life into the next. If anything, my faith is bolstered by my anticipation that once we come to live in the new creation God has for us, nobody is missing out!
As we head into the second half of our teaching series and move quickly toward Holy Week and Easter, consider inviting your friends to join us at our services. Many, many folks who might never have considered visiting a church in the past are showing an interest, especially in visiting online (which can seem less risky than visiting in person). Be praying and asking God if there is anyone you could reach out to and invite to any of our upcoming services. We wouldn’t want anyone to “miss out” now, would we?
FPCE director of communications
iGupta M, Sharma A. Fear of missing out: A brief overview of origin, theoretical underpinnings and relationship with mental health. World J Clin Cases. 2021;9(19):4881-4889. doi:10.12998/wjcc.v9.i19.4881