According to those people who stay up late at night and wonder about these things, our culture is suffering an epidemic of anxiety caused by FOMO, or, the Fear of Missing Out. According to this theory, we have become so connected and intertwined with the world around us through our digital gadgets and social media that we no longer can be separated from our devices – even to sleep – fearing we’ll miss someone’s tweet, or blog, or video from a random star, musician, politician or social media personality.
We’re afraid someone will walk up to us and ask, “Did you see that?” and we won’t have seen it and we’ll miss out. That, of course will make us look bad, like we’re not with it or not cool or not engaged in what’s happening in our world. And looking bad will make us feel bad. Because we don’t want to feel bad, we never turn our phones off. Some of us even sleep with our phones in case something happens while we’re asleep.
As you can imagine, FOMO is causing all kinds of problems. Namely, there’s stuff happening all of the time. Not only do we not have the band width to capture all of this data, we don’t have the “brain width” to process the incoming information fast enough to make sense of it all. We simply aren’t created to download thousands of bits of data every second. We’re going to miss something.
Second, too many spend too much time watching other people live their lives and we never live our own. We worry about the dating relationships of the stars, but neglect our own marriages and dating relationships. We watch the cute video of the child prodigy dancing, reciting poetry, playing drums or guitar and we neglect our own children. We forward cat videos to friends, but we rarely talk to our friends to find out how their doing.
Sadly, our fear of missing out causes us to miss out on those things that really matter, that make life worth living in the first place.
In the last years of her life, my mom suffered from Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. My mom always had a sense of humor and the freedom of the illness gave her permission to say whatever she wanted to say. She came up with some doozies.
But in the fog of the illness, she would find some gems of life focusing truth. Once, when I was telling her why she was having to live in an assisted living facility, I told her that her memory was failing. She couldn’t remember things that made it possible for living on her own. She would turn on the stove and forget she was cooking. She’d get out of the car and leave it running. She would start driving and not only forget where she was going. She would forget where she was to begin with.
Her response? “There’s nothing wrong with my memory. I’m fine. There’s just a lot of things I don’t want to remember any more. Have you ever thought there may be things I just want to forget?”
I’ve self-diagnosed myself with a new social anxiety. I’m calling it the Fear of Not Wanting to Know in the First Place.
According to our culture, I should know all of the Kardashian children and whoever their dating in this episode. I don’t and I’m fine with that.
I don’t know the latest in men’s fashion. I’m good with a good pair of jeans and a comfortable pair of shoes. I’m too old to wear uncomfortable shoes. Are my shoes out of style? I don’t know. I’m good with that.
I don’t know what Trump tweeted today. I’m good with that.
I don’t know what those people who hate Trump tweeted today. I’m good with that.
Urban legend says Einstein didn’t know his own phone number. He said it was written down and he didn’t have to remember it.
I’m with Einstein. There are a lot of things that one, I don’t have to remember and two, I don’t want to remember.
Here’s what I’m learning on my journey: the space in my brain is very expensive real estate and I don’t want to junk it up with a bunch of cultural nonsense. I what to protect my mind for pictures of my granddaughters when they’re going to sleep.
I want to remember way my wife’s eyes sparkle when I hold her face in my hands.
I want to remember the way my friends make me laugh until my side hurts. I want to remember how excited and scared I am when one of my friends says, “Hey, you remember the time…” and I have no idea which story they’re going to tell.
I want to remember how my church sounds when they sing an old hymn that all of them knows. More than that, each of them has lived this hymn and are filling the room with their own stories.
I want to remember the time when I was so scared, and Christ came to me. I’m going to be scared again. I’ll need to remember that one over and over again.
I want to remember how proud I was of my sons when I saw then hold their own children and realized these guys are really good dads.
Paul writes to the Philippians, “Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things”.
So, I’m with Paul, too. There are only so many things you can think about during the day. Only so many moments you can engage in…
The rest you’ll just have to miss out on…be OK with that.