Words of Warriors How to Deal with F.O.M.O. (Fear of Missing Out)
Even if you don’t know the name, you know the feeling. Your roommate bustles around the room as (s)he gets ready for a night out. Your friends all start going to a new club that meets during one of your classes. You’re three-quarters of the way through college and you think you’re missing the “college experience” all your parents’ friends raved about. Everything is happening—but without you. You are experiencing F.O.M.O., or the “fear of missing out.” This type of anxiety occurs when the billion things you aren’t doing dominate your thoughts. The combined academic, social, and personal aspects of college converge into an infinite number of careers you aren’t pursuing, friends you aren’t making, and experiences you aren’t having.
My first comfort to you is this: the problem is much bigger than you think it is. Not only are the people around you doing things without you all the time, the whole world is! Over seven and a half billion people are living their lives, and very few of them have invited you to come along. Why is this a comfort? Because missing out isn’t just anxiety, it’s a universal reality. Everyone is missing out all of the time. What really matters is not what you’re missing out on (which is almost everything), but what you are doing.
Oftentimes, F.O.M.O. is at its worst when you are dissatisfied. The things you are missing out on take precedence when the things you are participating in are insufficient. My second comfort to you is that F.O.M.O. can open up doors for deep, important reflection and change. Why does doing what you’re doing make you feel like you should be doing something else? The answer can both remind you of your purpose and foster intentionality. Oftentimes we don’t make decisions arbitrarily. We listen for God’s voice and weigh our passions, resources, and opportunities to discern the steps we take. When you feel like you’re missing out, remind yourself what you are stepping into instead. Gratitude is essential. Acknowledge that the choices you have made are the result of time, effort, privilege, and ultimately God’s grace. Living in the fear of missing out takes your purpose for granted and limits your abilities to live faithfully where you are.
However, while our decisions may not be arbitrary, they aren’t always well-founded. We make decisions based on parental, social, or cultural expectations. Sometimes we don’t even take steps forward, but content ourselves with being pushed along in the stream of life’s business or being paralyzed by fear. When you find yourself in this space, I encourage you to foster intentionality with the power of prayer. God promises to direct our paths when we acknowledge Him in all our ways (Proverbs 3:6). When you step forward in His power and with His purpose, you can push F.O.M.O. to the wayside, because you know that you are not missing out on His purpose.