This Is Your Brain on FOMO

This is Your Brain on FOMO

It happened again this morning. I was noodling around on Instagram as the coffee sputtered into the pot and my eyes adjusted to daylight. And there it was, in saturated color, something one of our adult kids had planned that we weren’t invited to.

This would not, should not, be a big deal if not for a condition we call FOMO—fear of missing out—that I suspect is written in the DNA of most extroverts. Those people who can fall asleep on the couch in a roomful of chatting people at a party? I’m not one of those. I might miss something. The other extroverts in our family and I joke about FOMO all the time. But today I realized its power over me, and it kind of made me mad.

I shut off Instagram and was immediately aware of a bad taste in my mouth, a little spark of hurt feelings. I hate hurt feelings.

Luckily, my Bible reading for the day, which I’d preempted with Instagram, took me to the Psalms. I love the Psalms more than I hate hurt feelings.

David had hurt feelings all the time. Granted, he was far more justified in his than I ever am in mine…people wanting to kill him and all. But feelings are feelings, even the petty ones, and I love how David explored his in the most vulnerable, visceral way possible in order to do a thorough smack down on them.

I decided my FOMO had, just maybe, become an idol—something I worship and allow to influence me when it has no right to whatsoever. So here’s my vulnerable, visceral exploration of my FOMO, ramping up to the smack down.

Turns out FOMO is a measly foe, so this required only two main points:

1. Any belief with the words “missing out” in it is a downright lie.

It’s the very same lie Satan sold to Eve, the originator of all FOMO. He convinced her she was missing out:

“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.” (Genesis 3:6, NIV).

This sounds like a woman making a case against God. She swallows Satan’s lie that God had cheated her out of something good. Today’s FOMO twinge led me to think I’d been left out, and anyone with FOMO knows what feeling left out can do to the way you relate to your family or your closest friends. Before you know it, you’ve said something manipulative or just plain weird that, upon reflection, you always wish you could unsay. You embarrass yourself. “Missing out” implies we are victims, and the mother version of a self-proclaimed victim is—I’m sure you’d agree—the absolute worst.

2. FOMO denies the beauty and the purpose of the desert.

David spent a lot of time as an exile, or worse, as a fugitive in the desert and, worse again, in desert caves. Today I was impressed by how many Psalms were written in a desert place, and how often this very place of loneliness (the bane of every FOMO sufferer’s existence) pushed him to press into the Eternal God.

“I’ve worked up such hunger and thirst for God, traveling across dry and weary deserts. So here I am in the place of worship, eyes open, drinking in your strength and glory. In your generous love I am really living at last!” (Psalm 63:1-3, MSG).

I think I could have easily dismissed today’s little FOMO blip, it being silly and unwarranted. I know better. I really don’t expect our kids or our friends to include us in every fun thing they do. I know their lives are whole and separate from ours, which is the endgame of good parenting, right? But I’m kind of glad the FOMO stuck around long enough for me to see it for what it can become if left unchecked: a nod at the altar of something far less than God himself.

A desire for inclusion with others above intimacy with Him.

And I’m thankful for a little desert place today, right here in my living room. A place to humbly admit my neediness, however ridiculous:

“Reassure my soul and say, ‘I will deliver you'” (Psalm 35:3).

Stoicism doesn’t cure my FOMO, it just covers it up under a veneer of self-sufficiency. Only the real presence of my Savior can leave me liberated and glad.

Every fiber of my being will shout, “LORD, who can compare with you?” (Psalm 35:10, NLT).

You’ll also like Namastay Calm and Carry On—Accepting God’s Love for Me, One Woman’s Journey, Why Rebekah Lyons Wrote “You Are Free”Can God Use Messy People? (Video)Spiritual Spanx, and Battling the Mind Monster: A Letter to My Mom

Scroll to Top