Fear of Missing Out? On New Year's Eve?
So the ice maker in my freezer has fear of missing out (FOMO). I'm serious as an ice storm in East Texas here. We've been having trouble with the ice maker consistently producing ice (first world probs, I know) so we purchased some good old-fashioned ice trays. Now why I find empty ice trays in the freezer is another problem and the topic of another op-ed article but back to my story.
The ice maker has been holding out on us for several days now, so I've been filling those little trays and emptying their wonderful cubes into the empty ice bin in the freezer. Great, right? Ice is available, the water and other drinks are better tasting, and everyone's happy. Yes? No. At least not the ice maker, apparently.
This morning after dumping four trays of ice into the bin last night, I noticed some cubes in the bin that are clearly not tray ice. And they are on top of the tray cubes. After closer examination, I discovered that these new cubes were the same type that our ice maker produces. But I had not done any repairs to the machine (I'm forbidden from doing mechanical repairs by my wife. Ask me sometime about my “experience” with replacing a light switch). So what had happened? And this question became even more interesting as I thought back to previous experiences in the past few weeks that were similar.
What I think happened is that my ice maker decided to stop working but on its own terms. I still don't know why but there it is. When some new ice from a different source appeared in its bin, it appears it was "jealous" and suddenly started working again, dropping its ice on top of the new ice. My ice maker was showing fear of missing out! Am I kidding? Yes. But the point is this: While ice makers can't really be jealous, fear of missing out is real. And it really matters when it comes to how it affects people.
There have been some excellent articles written about FOMO.
While it sounds like something new (coined in 2013), really it's just a new take on the very old problem of jealousy which is as old as humanity. Rather than write about the topic through strictly psychological perspective as the other articles have done, I'd like to investigate FOMO from a spiritual perspective.
One of the Ten Commandments given by God to Moses to govern the lives of the people of Israel is: “Do not covet.” Dictionary.com lists “covet” as a verb meaning “to desire wrongfully, inordinately, or without due regard for the rights of others: example: to covet another's property.”
The Bible first describes covetousness in the account of Lucifer, once God's head angel, who wanted to have what God had and has: Power and dominion. We read about Lucifer’s wrong desire in the book of Isaiah, ““How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.” (Isaiah 14:12-13 NIV)
Lucifer was not content with being second only to God but wrongly wanted more. He was cast out as a result of his thoughts, emotions, and actions. After Lucifer was cast down from heaven, we see him approach God's glorious new creation, man, and use the spirit of wrong desire to tempt and ultimately bring about the fall of humanity. God had informed the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, that as they were given dominion over the earth and specifically the Garden of Eden, they were allowed to eat from the fruit of all trees except for that which was produced by the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God clearly said they could have it all but that one tree. And we get no indication that was a problem for them until Lucifer (now called Satan or “deceiver”) approached the woman with a question.
One day, he (Satan) said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ” “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” (Genesis 3:1-7 NIV)
Notice what happened here: God had a made a boundary around a type of knowledge that He wanted Adam and Eve to be innocent from. But Satan took this boundary intended by God to give man freedom and protection (but also to test his obedience to and love for God) and he used it to tempt man to covet or desire wrongly just as Satan himself had done when looking at God's power and dominion. And man fell for it, and we were cursed to this very day for Adam and Eve’s actions. (For a full presentation of how we can be free of this curse, please read further about the Good News here). If you are already a follower of Jesus Christ and yet still struggle with FOMO or other temptations, Neil Andersen (Freedom In Christ Ministries) has written several wonderful books, including The Bondage Breaker, that provide solutions from a biblical perspective.
Why is this important for us today? Is the Bible and its history really an archaic, outdated set of stories that has no bearing on our lives? I'll let the following observations answer that question.
What are print, television, radio, and internet advertising spots usually about? That's right. Informing you that what you currently have (clothes, car, phone, house, sometimes even spouse, etc.) is no longer good enough and you need something newer and better to be relevant or important. By engaging our natural (though wrong) desire for more, advertisers hope we will go out or get online and buy their products. But it's just business, you say. Yeah, and that's the cliché line used by the mob when they take out a rival.
Good business is offering a service that someone legitimately needs to solve a real problem. Advertising in that sense does not tap into covetousness but simply into offering solutions. However, when we are tempted to feel “less than” someone else and then offered a “solution” through upgrading our stuff or experiences, we are engaging in coveting. And when you take a good look at our economy and our consumer, business, and government debt problems, you are seeing the ultimate result of covetousness: bondage.
If you or someone you know struggling with debt, please look into the solutions offered at
Bondage occurs outside the financial arena as well. Just take some time to visit any of the various social media platforms and you'll very quickly see evidence of FOMO and covetousness all around you. Now, to be clear, I'm not against Facebook, Twitter, or other social media platforms in general. Technology is not in and of itself either good or evil. How it is used determines how it is rated on the morality scale. I use Facebook to keep up with geographically distant family and friends, share family celebrations, and even ask for help when life throws us curve balls.
But where there is a problem is when people purposefully create profiles that make them look better than they really are and others see these profiles, compare their lives to their friends “perfect lives,” and begin coveting what their friends appear to have. Of course, coveting can happen even when our friends share their good and bad stories but the observers fall into the comparison trap. My point is that “coveting” has been around from the beginning and has only changed in terms of the level of technology of the things we covet and in the areas of social engagement we desire but do not have.
So, as you engage in New Year's Eve activities this evening (whatever they might be), work hard to be present with those with whom you are celebrating. Resist the urge to get on your smart phone to see what "else" might be happening away from where you are. Tomorrow, when it's the New Year, be content with the experiences you had the night before and if you decide to check social media for what your other friends or family were up to, approach your surfing with the idea that you'll be happy for them, not jealous of them. If you are alone this New Year's Eve, take some time to do something meaningful such as setting goals for the New Year or positively evaluate the activities and events you experienced in the past year for which you are grateful. It has been said that comparison is the thief of joy. So, focus on what and/or who is around you and let those other things take care of themselves. Love yourself and love others for "perfect love casts out all fear" (1 John 4:18).