Although it’s been around awhile, I just heard an acronym that describes one of my character defects that occasionally rears its ugly head (although a lot less than it used to) and that’s FoMO (Fear of Missing Out). I looked it up and it’s actually a word that was added to the English dictionary a few years ago defined as “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.” Wikipedia’s definition adds: “FoMO is also defined as a fear of regret, which may lead to a compulsive concern that one might miss an opportunity for social interaction, a novel experience, profitable investment or other satisfying events. In other words, FoMO perpetuates the fear of having made the wrong decision on how to spend time, as ‘you can imagine how things could be different’.”
We are human beings seeking love, attention and fulfillment, so it is only natural I suppose that sometimes we feel the lack of getting those emotional desires or needs met…or in a broader sense of FoMO, we feel left out, slighted or rejected. Perhaps we didn’t get the job or promotion we were after, we didn’t win the game or contest, we didn’t get to go somewhere, family or friends disappoint us, we get an unexpected rough break financially or with our health…the list can go on. And when we compare or see others getting the very things we think we deserve, our pain only grows. In short, we start to feel that life’s not fair. I was feeling this way in particular this weekend when I heard others planning to go to the beach and I had commitments that were preventing me from going…and it was supposed to be a sunny, hot weekend looking at the weather forecast. Knowing summer was over and I might not get another chance, I started to feel a FoMO coming on. And then I felt guilty knowing I am so lucky compared to many others in this world…which helped a bit but not entirely.
So how do we deal with those feelings of self-pity that arise when we compare ourselves or our circumstances with others? Let’s look to yesterday’s Gospel reading for an answer. Jesus told a parable of the kingdom being like a landowner who goes out looking for workers; he hires a group at various intervals of the day – early a.m., then at 9, noon and 5 – but ends up paying each the same wage he promised. Of course the workers who showed up early and worked all day complained that they should be paid more. But the landowner replied, “Take what is yours and go…Are you envious because I am generous? Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matt 20: 14-16)
I think Jesus is trying to tell us to be happy and grateful for what we get and have (especially entry to the Kingdom!), and to be happy for our brothers and sisters who get what they do – and to not compare, or begrudge but to let our FoMO go! I believe it helps to share your fear or obsession with someone else who can help you put it in its true perspective, and also to be grateful for all God has given me right here and now. I know that only when I let my fear and obsession go can I be totally available and possibly happy with the present – which is its own gift!