Photo Courtesy of Hartwig HKD, Creative Commons

The Fear

Hi. My name is Sheila and I have FOMO.

Mine is pretty severe and fairly advanced. As part of my rehabilitation and recovery, I need to admit my problem, own it and move forward.

So, here goes it.

My name is Sheila, I’m 32 years old and I have gradually developed a bad case of Fear Of Missing Out. It began so slowly that I barely noticed it. It has lead to overstaying at social occasions, cramming my diary with activities and people, constantly checking my phone, saying ‘yes’ when I should say ‘no’ and generally spreading myself too thinly.

And it has tired me out.

During January, I staged a one-woman intervention on myself. I feared it could turn violent but thankfully it didn’t. I had to kick my habit so I went cold turkey from my enabler.

Facebook.

Oh, Facebook. You little source of entertainment, insights, voyeurism and insecurity. How I love and hate you in equal measure!

My FOMO was fed by the statuses, photos, scans and wall posts that I couldn’t resist. I could not stop looking. I became conscious of where I wasn’t. Of who I wasn’t with. Of what I didn’t have. Of what I lacked.

[Now, just as a disclaimer, I would like to state that I don’t think Facebook is evil. It is great. How I used it wasn’t.]

What I began to notice is that something which should lead to greater connection was actually leading to observation.

Watching people have a life, is not a life.

So, I’ve had a Facebook fast. Boy, did I need it. I needed to reflect on how I connect with people, how I appreciate my life, where I invest my time, what I value and aspire to and what I show to the virtual world.

And somehow I learnt something over this time. I’ve developed FOMOOMLRN (Fear Of Missing Out On My Life Right Now). Catchy, eh?

I’ve wasted so much time and so many opportunities to enjoy the beautiful life I’ve got right now. Somehow, I’ve bought into this idea that if I go to everything, be everywhere, follow everyone then I won’t ever miss out. That if I have 2.4 children, a nice house, a good job then I will have it all. I can fit in.

But what do I gain from that?

Recently, I had a crazy Monday where I went to my lecture, then to lunch with a friend, then to meet our wonderful college chaplain and finally to see Lizzie.

I was late for everything. I hadn’t given enough time for anyone. They were all gracious and understanding but I wasn’t giving them the best of me. They deserved better. My relationships deserve investment with time and energy. They deserve depth. But I was rushing through my life, attempting to fill it up.

Ann Voskamp states, “Life is so urgent it necessitates living slow. It’s only amateurs…who think slow and urgent are contradictory, opposite poles.”

So, I’m trying to live in the moment and not fill each moment.And in order to appreciate this life, I’m not buying the rubbish I’m being sold.

I still have hopes and dreams of a family but I don’t believe I’m missing out on anything. Having children won’t complete me. I’m already whole. If we constantly tell ourselves, and each other, that you will know greater depths of love and fulfillment when you get married and have children then we are doing a disservice to the gift of life we’ve been given. Not everyone will experience that but everyone counts and their life can be fulfilling. Let’s stop selling a false ideal. Life is too multifaceted to be restricted. Let’s broaden our outlook instead of narrowing it.

I am making a promise to live wholeheartedly in this moment and invest fully in the life I’ve been given. With or without children. I will still be me. And I hope my Facebook life will reflect that. I hope I can align my virtual and real life so that I don’t just share the extraordinary, the highlight reel. I want to share the sorrows too because they are beautiful. I want the depth and breadth of life to be evident when I reflect on where I have been and want I have done with my life.

And I’ve got to be alert to the danger of FOMO and its results. The bitterness, dissatisfaction, comparison, jealousy, anger and loneliness. FOMO doesn’t bring joy.

‘Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.’
Psalm 116:7