Have you ever experienced FOMO? FOMO is an acronym that stands for “Fear Of Missing Out.” It’s a phrase that was coined in 2004 in the Harvard Business School magazine. FOMO manifests itself in all sorts of ways in people’s lives.
I think about Christmastime and kids’ toys; people get FOMO and go bonkers trying to get certain in-demand toys for their kids. Decades ago, it was national news: crazy stories of people going to elaborate lengths to get Cabbage Patch Kids, Tickle Me Elmo, Teddy Ruxpin, paying ridiculous sums of money to make sure their kids had these supposed latest and greatest toys.
In 1999, someone actually got FOMO so bad that they spent $100,000 on a Furby. If you don’t already know what Furby is, you might be better off not knowing. But in any case, it was an American electronic robot made by Tiger Electronics that is described on Wikipedia as resembling a hamster or owllike creature. It speaks a unique Furby language called Furbish.
I think that’s pretty much all you need to know to realize that $100K is a rip-off, but just to solidify the point, they originally retailed in the US for $35. I mean, I like robots, but that is just crazy. And to boot, they are just darn creepy. It’s like buying a toy that will ensure that your child will need therapy in the future.
But that is what FOMO does to people. They fear that they are missing out, and they do irrational things.
Another place where you see FOMO is in the stock market. People will get hyped about one sector of the market, and they will pay outrageous amounts of money for stocks in companies that don’t have a comparable evaluation. This is how people tend to lose a lot of money quickly. They see a stock suddenly skyrocket, and they get FOMO: people are making money, and they are missing out! So instead of stepping back and doing their due diligence, they buy in at a huge position. Shortly after, the stock plummets, and they lose a bunch of money.
A lot of businesses seem to thrive on FOMO. They create a hype that you “need” this product or you won’t be good enough. If you don’t get a ThighMaster, you won’t ever be in shape like Suzanne Somers. If you don’t get a Flowbee, you’ll never be able to cut your own hair. (Do you really want to, anyway?).
Do you need any of this stuff? No.
If we are honest, we buy a lot of junk in our lifetime. Sometimes, it’s for entertainment, but a lot of times, they are just fads as a result of FOMO.
The main result of FOMO is anxiety. Social media has become the prime culprit of creating this unneeded fear in our lives. How many times have you seen someone’s vacation pictures and felt bad about your own life? Or maybe someone gets a promotion or finishes a degree, writes a book, runs a marathon, gets engaged—whatever the accomplishment, you just feel like you aren’t keeping up.
This isn’t anything new. In 1913, the comic strip Keeping Up with the Joneses depicted the social climbing McGinis family and how they were trying to keep up with their neighbors, the aforementioned Joneses. People related so much to that comic strip even in 1913 that it ran for nearly 30 years.
Today, we’ve just traded the Joneses for the Kardashians. And I have a feeling that, like it or not, the Kardashians are going to be around longer than 30 years.
The point is that none of this is new. FOMO has been around for as long as humans have walked the earth. And that is because the root of FOMO is envy, and envy is derived from greed.
Envy is a really ugly part of humanity. It arises from insecurity and anxiety that we aren’t enough, or fear that we’ll miss out on something. Envy can get complex, but one place in the Bible where we read about simple envy is in the story of Cain and Abel.
A general synopsis of that story in Genesis 4 is that Abel joyfully brings the best offering he can before the Lord. God thinks highly of this offering. His brother, Cain, begrudgingly brings a less-than-best offering, which God kind of looks at for what it is, a half-hearted gift.
Think about this for a minute: why wouldn’t Cain give God his best to begin with? It’s mainly because he is thinking about the world from a perspective of scarcity instead a perspective of abundance. He isn’t looking at all of the wonderful things he has; he’s only concerning himself with what he doesn’t have. It is also worthy of note that a scarcity mindset occurs when we have a fear that we will lose something. In this case, Cain is worried about what he is losing by giving a gift to God.
Abel has a completely different perspective. He understands that God has provided him with everything, and he loves God and wants God to have his very best. From his perspective, everything he has is a gift from God, and so it is from a perspective of gratitude that he wants to show God his appreciation. God sees this intention by Abel, and it’s endearing to God.
Cain witnesses this. He sees this interaction between God and Abel, and what happens is that Cain’s facial expression changes and he gets visibly angry. God sees this and immediately addresses it, saying, “Why has your expression changed? If you do well, you’ll be accepted, and if you don’t do well, it means that sin is lurking at the door. Its desire is for you, and you can’t let that have a hold over you. Instead, you need to master it.”
This is really interesting because what God is basically saying here is Cain’s inability to please God is because he’s letting greed get in the way. And instead of Cain acknowledging the greed in his heart which caused the gift to be poor in the first place, he chooses to project his failure and insecurities onto Abel, who didn’t have anything to do with the situation; what needed to happen was for Cain to address the intentions of his own heart. Cain needed to come to terms with his greed and overcome it.
But what does he do? He ignores what God advises, and instead, projects all his guilt and shame onto his brother. He becomes consumed by envy, and he ultimately murders Abel.
In 1 John 3:13, the Apostle John says that—similar to this story of Cain and Abel—Christians who love God and strive to be righteous should “not be astonished” that the world will hate them also, because when we abide in God, those who see us doing so will yearn for such a relationship as well. But instead of looking inside their own heart to see what is separating them from God, they may just project their fears onto you.
This is because when we stand before people who are righteous, it convicts us of our own wrongdoing. And in that moment, we have a couple of options: we can deal with the impurity of our heart and try to reconcile with God, or we can double down on our bad behavior and/or project our misdeeds on other people.
But projecting our own fears and inadequacies onto others is literally suicidal behavior, because it is behavior that leads to our own death.
John talks about this in 1 John 3:15, where he references Jesus’s teachings from the sermon on the mount by saying, “All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them.”
Like Cain, we have to be careful not to let greed or envy or FOMO create anxiety in us that causes us to dislike or mistreat other people. Instead, we need to examine our own hearts and understand why we are feeling the way we are. Usually, when we get FOMO or experience greed or envy, it typically arises from a lack of gratitude for what God has provided.
Feelings of inadequacy can come about for any number of reasons, but their origin almost always indicates that there is something separating us from God. Think about this for a minute: why should you or I feel jealous when something good happens to someone else? Shouldn’t we rejoice in the joys and successes of others? If we aren’t doing so, it’s often because that we fear that we are somehow not living into our potential. What God essentially tells Cain is, just concern yourself with getting yourself right with me, and you will have all you could ever ask for and more.
Kind of like how you can identify a tree by its fruits, you can also tell who a person is by their conduct. What proves that a person belongs to God is their righteousness, and to be righteous is to love people.
If you are experiencing anxiety because you fear you are missing out on something, the answer isn’t more stuff, or more money, or more vacations, or more power… The answer to your anxiety is simply more God.
Reality Changing Observations:
1. What or who is the greatest source of FOMO in your life?
2. When you get FOMO, what does that indicate to you about your relationship with God?
3. In what ways might you strengthen your relationship with God in order to help manage FOMO?