There is a new fear wreaking havoc in the lives of people these days. In an era when diseases and illnesses are studied, categorized, and monitored, sometimes it can be fascinating to see how quickly those lists are developing and changing. Our propensity to define the slightest twitch causes us to create new categorical diagnoses. Therefore, it’s not surprising to hear of new classifications, but sometimes a new phenomenon can be presented that is startling.
One of the more recent designations of a new fear finds itself being unexpected and thus causing some people to laugh in bewilderment while others are anxious at its legitimacy. What kind of fear can cause such a reaction? The fear of missing out. This fear is characterized by anxiety and uneasiness that a person has at the idea that others may be having a better time when he or she isn’t present. It has become the greatest fear to overtake the younger generations.
I can remember thoughts and emotions that came from this notion as a teenager in high school. The teenage years are often uncertain and awkward anyway. However, add to the false divisions that are created by the concept of popularity and its bound to create a sense of fear that the lives of others are better than our own. No doubt social media has done nothing to diminish this attitude, but in fact, intensifies these irrational thoughts and the emotions associated with them.
Legitimate or not, the fear of missing out has introduced a new level of problems within our culture. Recent studies prove technology to be addictive. However, the use of social media combined with the fear of missing out now binds people to technology. Worried more about what others are doing than finding contentment in current situations, people are more apt to spend precious minutes on their phones in order to see what others are doing and comparing it to what they are doing. The irony in this is that the fear of missing out causes a person to miss out even more because he or she is passively engaging with the lives of others through social media rather than actively engaging with the people and places in front of them. Not only does it bind a person to technology though, but it also binds a person to the culture. The fear of missing out necessitates preoccupation with what the world is engaged in so that one can hop on board with the latest trends and movements. This concept leads to the fact that the fear of missing out binds people to what is culturally fashionable. The fear of missing out requires that a person join the next fad lest he or she misses out on being part of something extraordinary and special. The introduction of these new problems requires counteractive measures. For the Christian especially, it is important to overcome this latest fear otherwise the Christian too will be overly consumed with the culture around him or her.
Therefore, there are two aspects that must be looked at more deeply when we examine the fear of missing out. The first is for us to see what such behavior indicates. First, it demonstrates a lack of emphasis on God. There is a greater consideration for the world around a person rather than God and so attention and energy is directed towards pleasing it rather than pleasing God. Secondly, it indicates a lack of focus on God. Directly related to the lack of emphasis which says that we are not putting God first in every effort of our endeavor, a lack of focus indicates that God is not placed in the paramount position upon our life (i.e. as Lord) otherwise details and decisions would be guided by His desires over our own. Finally, it indicates a lack of trust in God. If there was a greater trust in God, there would be no fear of missing out. The very concept that drives the fear of missing out is one that is induced by those around us, not the one who is above us.
Unfortunately, the fear of missing out orients a person towards the culture in which he or she lives and away from God. The results of this orientation are staggering when we consider. This is because the fear of missing out does the following:
- It detracts from the worship of God: The worship of the Lord is replaced with the worship of the culture.
- It detracts from the glory of God: Anytime worship is taken from the Lord it detracts from his glory as well.
- It detracts from the kingdom of God: More focused about the kingdom that currently exists, believers are distracted from the Lord’s kingdom.
On the surface, these consequences may seem minimal, but the truth is they are quite serious. It replaces the Lord with something that a person sees greater than him and the result is idolatry.
Practically speaking then, there exists a great necessity for Christians to set aside what exists outside of us in the world around, and instead look to the Lord. This means that we find a greater contentment in our position, circumstances, and personhood that come from the finished work of Christ and the continuing work of the Holy Spirit.
John Piper, in both Desiring God and God is the Gospel, posits the greatest joy of the Christian is found in the glory of God. Therefore, he urges Christians that in order to be truly joyful they must be truly glorifying to Him. The profundity of the link between our joy and the Lord’s glory is incredible and demonstrates the Lord’s great concern over us. It shows that the Lord desires worship of him both for who he is AND because he sees that it will bring us the greatest joy in our life. Thus, it is an act of love. Therefore, the Christian must replace the fear of missing out with the fear of the Lord.
Photo “Loneliness” courtesy of user Yasser Alghofily and Flickr.