The First FOMO and the Courage To Miss Out

Brring! Brring! Kabir’s hand instinctively stretched out seeking for his cell phone. He finds it and with one flick shuts off the alarm. Argh!! Why should the morning come so soon? His body screams, “sleep some more”. But he knows it is time to get up. He picks up the phone and . . .

We all know what Kabir does next! He checks out his social media page to see what happened while he slept. Kabir is not alone in this habit of starting the day with a scroll down the social media pages. It’s the new morning ritual, but why do we do it? We may have our own reasons to justify this habit but what is undeniable in this is that we want to see what’s new – new posts, views, likes and so on. We don’t want to miss anything. This desire to not miss out is described as FOMO – Fear of Missing Out.

The term, FOMO is new but not the fear. In fact, we see it displayed by Eve in the garden of Eden. But first, let’s get the context right. God creates the world and makes humans in His image. He blesses them and calls them to be the care-takers of this created world. Then in Genesis 2:16 and 17 we find a command –

And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

God is lucid in His statement. In simple words He meant, ‘you must not do this, if you do it the consequences won’t be good’. Yet, in the very next chapter we find both Adam and Eve breaking this command. Let’s see what happened!

We are introduced to the serpent, and it is characterized as being “more crafty than any of the wild animals” (Genesis 3:1). This crafty serpent talks to Eve and begins with a seemingly innocent enquiry, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

Can you spot the exaggeration?

If we compare this statement with what God commanded, we can clearly see the lie. The serpent’s intention here was to get Eve talking about God’s command so that it can be questioned. The serpent was able to sow doubts into Eve’s mind. Notice how Eve also exaggerates God’s command when she said, “but God did say, ‘We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, ‘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.’’ (Genesis 3:2, 3) The serpent wanted her to think of God’s command as being oppressive and he succeeded.

Next, he starts to plant the seed of doubt by appealing to the Fear of Missing Out. He begins with a statement, “You will not certainly die” (Genesis 3:4) and follows it up by enticing Eve with possibilities, “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5) Did you notice the attractive offer – you can be like God!

Hope is a powerful thing, and the serpent dubiously abuses the power of hope through the possibility of being like God, knowing good and evil. Eve now faces the moment of decision; how will she respond? One can already see doubt spreading the lie in the next verse.

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

The chain of thought above brings out the problem, she is now battling with the Fear of Missing Out. She sees and perceives the fruit to be good and desirable. She could be thinking, “What would happen if I say no? What would I miss out on? Let me see what happens!”

We all know what happens next – tragedy!

FOMO is described as a sense of fear or anxiety. In 2013, a group of British psychologists defined it as a “pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent.” In one sense, we can see the first humans having a similar experience in relation to God.

The fear of missing out is ironic in the sense that it blinds us from cherishing what we already have. We don’t need to go and seek every experience to be fulfilled.

FOMO is often born out of a sense of insecurity. The serpent created that insecurity in Eve, and later on in Adam and they wanted to decide what is good and bad – not God. They want to be their own gods. In their attempt to do so they lost that close union with God and took themselves down the spiral of sin.

What God had revealed to Adam and Eve was sufficient for them, but alas they didn’t feel so.

As their descendants, we carry on the same behavioural legacy of seeking fulfilment somewhere else. We are never pleased with what God has given and are always on the hunt for more. Hence, the FOMO keeps feeding itself.

In this context, one can learn a lot by paying attention to the practice of fasting. It is an act of saying, “No, I don’t need that now.” Fasting displays the opposite human impulse to FOMO, in my words, Courage To Miss Out (CTMO). It’s not just about fasting, the decision of Daniel and his friends to say ‘no‘ to the royal food displays the same CTMO. Thus, it’s very much possible to overcome FOMO, and all that’s required is the right perspective.

We need to remember that God will never let us miss out on anything that’s important for us. He knows best and we don’t need to know everything. This calls for faith but then again that’s the basis for any and every relationship with God. May God help us to have the Courage to Miss Out.

1. Przybylski AK, Murayama K, DeHaan CR, Gladwell V. Motivational, emotional, and behavioural correlates of fear of missing out. Comput Human Behav. 2013;29:1841–1848.

Shashank S. Rawat a UESI staff based in Santiniketan, West Bengal along with his wife Asa and son Caleb.

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