FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out. That feeling that we are missing out on something fundamentally important, and this fear can cripple us. Research has linked FOMO with fatigue, stress, sleep problems, and psychosomatic symptoms1 2. With social media where we can view the life of our peers/ influencers, FOMO has become more prevalent and insidious.
We can see FOMO in action in Exodus (ya, it’s not just something happening to us now, it’s likely in our human nature!). After the parting and crossing of the Red Sea, the Israelites became increasingly unappreciative and complained. First they complained about the lack of drinking water and God turned the bitter water sweet (Exodus 15). Then they complained about the lack of food, and God gave them quail and manna (bread). There were rules to be followed for the gathering of the manna:
When there is no need for FOMO
- Everyone was to gather one omer per day, in the morning
- No one was to leave the manna for the next day, as fresh manna would come the next morning (from heaven!)
- On Saturday, everyone was to gather double portions for Saturday & Sunday, as no manna would come on Sunday
- Sunday was designated Sabbath, a day of rest. No gathering or baking of bread.
Despite God promising that there would be enough for everyone, everyday, FOMO was real – some people gathered more, and strangely, it still ended up being an omer no matter how much they gathered.
17The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. 18 And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed.Exodus 16:17-18 (NIV)
Then those who tried to keep leftovers, the manna ended up stinking and had worms (Exodus 16:20). On Saturday, they were to gather double portion and that portion for Sunday did not spoil 😀 Some people still tried to gather on Sunday (FOMO again?) and there were none to be found, except God found out and got angry. Yet, he didn’t punish the people – as always, he knew human nature.
Replacing that FOMO
- Recognizing FOMO in our lives
While it seemed comical, with bread stinking and people acting out FOMO, I would not point a finger at the Israelites. There’s a lot of FOMO in my life, and even more so this year when I am on extended unpaid leave. In the first few months, I find myself thinking and doing lots of things related to FOMO in the money department:
- Am I missing out by not buying a meme stock?
- Am I going to lose money from cryptocurrencies? (I’ve only now in 2021 started looking at what crypto is)
- I have to snap up the flash deals at midnight – $0.10 deal, not to be missed!
- Should I buy property with such low interest rate?
Sometimes, this FOMO became all-consuming.
To combat FOMO, first recognize it. Not all FOMO plays out as apparently as gathering manna or fighting over toilet paper during covid. Sometimes the lines are blurred. For instance, are we upgrading our car/house/gadgets because it is a good investment and our family needs it? Or is it FOMO?
I’m still figuring this out, but I think when it is FOMO, the fear gnaws at me.
Trusting God to provide
I love reading Exodus because there is so much on display on how God desired our relationship with him to be. Just from Exodus 16, it reminds the FOMO in me that:
- We can cry out to God about our worries – lack of drinking water and food are legitimate concerns! But there is no need to be complaintive.
- We can trust God, daily. Don’t hoard, it will rot.
- We can try to grab as much as we want, but it will come to nothing.
- We can rest, everything is taken care of.
Sometimes we question if God will really provide. After all, we don’t see miracles like money falling from the sky. But we may be that agents of miracles. We can, after reading this devotional, be reminded that while we are FOMO-ing, there are people with real and urgent needs. We can take actions. Our actions are that manna. And for the recipients of this ‘manna’, God and his miracles are real.
And for us, we may realize that the fear in FOMO has been replaced with joy ❤
Letting Go of FOMO
Exodus 16 Journaling Prompt
Have you been fearful that you are missing out on something?
How is social media affecting your mood?
God, you know my fears, better than I do! Many times I cannot differentiate if I should be doing something because it is truly good for me, or simply because I fear I will miss out if I don’t. Help me be discerning.
Books on Stilling Fears
Patrick McGinnis was the one who coined the term FOMO, which was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013.
I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.
1 Hobson, Nick PhD. “The Science of FOMO and What We’re Really Missing Out On” Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/ritual-and-the-brain/201804/the-science-fomo-and-what-we-re-really-missing-out. Accessed 24 Jan 2021.
2 Psychosomatic symptoms refer to real physical problems, usually brought on by stress, such as stomach pain, headaches, fatigue, back/chest pain and difficulty breathing.