A friend of mine invited three other mutual friends over to celebrate her birthday. I know them all, I live five minutes from where they were hanging out, and I wasn’t invited.
The worst part: watching it four times, each Insta story, one after the other.
Is it still FOMO if you know people are hanging out without you? Or just MO?
We all know the feeling of FOMO (fear of missing out). Even if it’s not about something specific you weren’t invited to, it’s thinking that everyone else’s life is better, relationships more fulfilling, or weekend plans more fun.
It’s the feeling that if you aren’t at everything, you’re nothing. You need to do it all to matter at all.
As a recent study explains,
“The sharing of photos and videos on social media means that young people are experiencing a practically endless stream of others’ experiences that can potentially fuel feelings that they are missing out on life.”
There’s nothing like lying under the covers in a dark room with your phone watching everyone else’s highlight reel to make you feel sad. Social media shows us mountains in the distance. We see the beauty but not the close up mountain climbing experience of tripped-over roots or tired bodies.
It’s impossible to know what someone’s daily existence is really like from the pictures we see because we can’t see what’s on the other side of the picture. Nor the true thoughts or feelings of the person posting it. But knowing that doesn’t always change the way my heart feels about it.
I need the gospel to meet me in my aimless scrolling.
When I feel lonely or like I’m missing out, Jesus invites me to remember that he is my friend.
And I know when I say that, it sounds like this cheesy ʼ80s Christian pop video. But it’s important that I take it for what it is really: a friend who left the glory of heaven to come to earth. Who came near, rather than stay far from my sin. Emmanuel, God with me.
A friend who loves me so much that he would die on a cross so that I could be in right relationship with God.
Jesus is a friend whose welcome is consistent, regardless of how I feel. Or how well I’ve spent my time that day. Or if I can put on a good front.
He knows me deeply and loves me as I am.
I am all too quick to undervalue the reality of this relationship and the opportunity to spend time with my friend. His invitation is to come to him to know who I am, how I measure up, and what my life is for.
Along with the sadness of FOMO, scrolling can also bring feelings of shame for not spending time “well.”
Social media use is a grey area. We can draw helpful principles from Scripture to guide our usage, such as being wise with our time and finding our greatest joy in the steadfast love of God (Psalm 90). But what it practically looks like in each person’s life is going to be different.
But in the midst of the struggle to live wisely, our friend Jesus does not see us in our mistakes and shake his head, sighing in frustration. He’s not a “mean girl” shouting, “You can’t sit with us!” when we break rules.
Read more: Loved even when unlovable
As Dane Ortland in Gentle and Lowly says,
“The sins of those who belong to God open the floodgates of his compassion for us. The dam breaks. It is not our loveliness that wins his love. It is our unloveliness.”
In the Fight Hustle, End Hurry podcast, John Mark Comer and Jeff Bethke talk about how our relationship with our phone can be so intimate. It’s often the last thing we look at before going to bed and the first thing we look at in the morning. These “transition moments” of our day are a dangerous time to use social media, because we are often unguarded.
Read more: Physical distancing from my phone
“We become like what we meditate on, what we give our mind and attention to,” says John Mark Comer.
He goes on to talk about his practice of beginning each day picturing himself in all of his sin sitting in the presence of the love, joy, compassion, and peace of Jesus. There is transformative power in seeing himself as he is, yet also seeing Jesus still coming near.
If you aren’t so contemplatively minded, you could start each day with a psalm or a liturgical prayer. Or try a reflection and prayer guide.
The point is that you would know and be known by Jesus before being known or knowing anyone else. That you might become like him as you behold him.
Social media tends to make me feel sad when I am looking for it to tell me I am loved or enough. With likes or the opportunity to show off our own highlight reel, it promises satisfaction it cannot fulfill.
I fear missing out when I lose sight of the greatest glory I already have.
I am free to love friends and enjoy life when I do not need those things to fill holes only God can.
That freedom allowed me to talk to my friend to share that I felt left out. Being reconciled can free us from repeating the situation over and over in our heads or berating ourselves with untruth.
It can help strengthen those relationships. My friend now knows better how to care for me and I understand her better too.
It’s vulnerable and uncomfortable, but it’s worth facing up to our fears.