Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tuesday Musing - FOMO

This past weekend I learned of yet another debilitating disorder women tend to suffer from.  The symptoms include anxiety and discontentment sometimes coupled with envy, covetousness, and loneliness.  Children tend to suffer from it as well and it can, in certain kids, even lead to significant behavioral problems.......

Apparently, my friend’s husband either coined this term or heard it somewhere and deemed it an appropriate description of his wife and her friends.  He was right about me. (And a few others I know of :) )

FOMO is an acronym and stands for Fear Of Missing Out.  You know what it’s like. Right?

Why are we so concerned with what goes on when we are not present?!?!

Of course, there are things in our lives that we understandably don’t want to miss out on like watching our kids grow up; their first steps, first words, other significant milestones and all the rest of their journey of discovery of the world around them.  We don’t want to miss those seldom but obvious opportunities to improve our careers, our financial situation or our health.  But I am inclined to think that we (at least, I) suffer from Fomo more often than is consistent with those sorts of experiences. I have daily Fomo.

I fear missing out on a class at the gym that happens to be really good that day.
I fear missing out on a good movie or TV episode that everyone will soon be talking about.
I fear missing a chance to speak.
I fear missing out on a connectedness with my husband.
I fear missing out on a really fun time with my kids. 
I fear missing out on the bonding experiences of friends
I fear missing out on sleep.

Sometimes it seems this fear is insatiable.  I fear missing out on so many different things that the conflict of desires is positively unavoidable and compromises constantly have to be made. Even in times when I have made a prudent decision not to participate in something despite my fear, I still have some small sense of anxiety over what is happening without me or what didn’t happen at all. 

I am also quite familiar with another phenomenon that I believe to be an underlying cause of this well known FOMO.  FOE, or, Fear of Emptiness, seems to come into play here.  All of what we desire to experience in our fear of missing out is really a desire to bring purpose and fulfillment to our lives.  Would you agree that in our present day and culture we are practically addicted to fulfillment? At least some of us?  We fear the empty space inside of us. 

A long time ago I read a fascinating and enlightening article on this topic.  It is titled Entering the Emptiness, by Gerald May.  After joking about and pondering over our FOMO with some friends last weekend, I decided to read it again.  The introduction says this of the authors work:

“May revels that in our tendency to fill up any open space in our days we are ‘addicted to fulfillment’. It is his belief, however, that the emptiness we experience when we embrace spaciousness or quiet is actually our never-completely-satisfied ‘yearning for love’.  This yearning draws us to God.”

The article goes on to reflect on spaciousness of form, time and of soul, the three primary ways we experience it in our lives.  He talks of uncluttered rooms, pauses in our activities and “the inner emptiness, the room inside our hearts, the unfulfilled quality of our consciousness.”
He argues that our aversion to all forms of spaciousness but particularly that of the soul is “because of what appears to us within it”.  Inside the emptiness, the speciousness, we see things for how they really are; we are confronted with the Truth, which can sometimes be uncomfortable for us.  Our efforts to fill our days, minds and lives are efforts to distract us from what really IS beneath all else inside of us.  When I avoid spaciousness in my life it’s because I don’t like the reality of my discontentment often manifested by my fear of what I am lacking or what is am missing out on. Since a young girl I have felt the plague of the yearning for my true home and the ultimate satisfaction that is only to be had on the other side of eternity.  May speaks of the ‘Myth of Fulfillment’ and how it can adversely effect our participation in true love, which, as stated earlier, we seem to be constantly yearning for. “ …We make several great mistakes if we think life should or even can be resolved to a point of complete serenity and fulfillment.  To believe this is to commit ourselves to fantasy that does not exist and that, if it were true, would kill our love and end in stagnation”.  I am comforted by the purpose these ideas bring to my feelings of discontentment.  Though never fully remedied, this ‘unfulfilled quality of my consciousness’ drives me into love.  Though at times I would rather, as May writes, “ have the anesthetized serenity of dullness than the liberating dis-ease of truth”, it is this often unwanted quality of my character that propels me to continue to seek God, His love, and the truly meaningful things of life. 

So my fear of missing out does highlight what, in some light, may seem a negative aspect of my humanness (or womanhood!) but actually speaks of something of real value and is essential for proper growth and maturity.  It is, however, my responsibility to curb my anxiety over all that I miss out on in life and embrace whatever emptiness it leaves.  When I do, I will experience freedom and growth that can not be known when my spaces are cluttered and overly full.  May writes “Spaciousness is always a beginning, a possibility, a potential, a capacity for birth. Space exists not in order to be fulfilled but to create.  In space, to the extent we can bear the truth of the way things are, we find the ever-beginning presence of love.  Take the time, then; make the space.  Seek it wherever you can find it, do it however you can.  The manner does not matter, and the experiences you have there is of secondary importance.  Seek the Truth, not what is comfortable. Seek the real, not the easy.”

Do you have FOMO?
Do you fear emptiness?
Are you (even a little) afraid of the empty spaces inside yourself?
Do you know why or care to share? 
Can you think of a time in your life when you embraced emptiness and, as a result, 'birthed' something of great value?

Until next time........

P.S. If you want to read this article from the book Simpler Living, Compassionate Life, I found it online here:
View the html version as it is much easier to read


Richie and Bethany said...

I think I suffer from a few other problems: 1. introvertedness, which makes me actually want to miss out of many things, 2. middle-child syndrome, where missing out on things is part of my martyr complex and actually gets me more attention, and 3. lack of a brain, which makes me not even think about half of these complicated matters. :-)

Shiloh and Samantha Sorbello said...

Unlike Bethany, I don't have many problems... the only ones I can think of are pride and a lack of self-awareness. j/k...

I like this article. At B-stud this week, I shared how my mini-obsession with knowing everything about everyone (a form of FOMO that is fed by things like blogs and facebook) often keeps me from following Jesus and loving my family and close friends like I should.

(This is Shiloh, by the way. Sam really truly doesn't have many problems.) :)

mrsrosendale said...

I suffer from FOMO pretty badly. And SSTS (Saying Stupid Things Syndrome). I'm also part of MAB (Mothers Against Beads). And apparently ATA (Addicted to Acronyms).

nicole viola said...

Thanks, erica, this was encouraging! I do have FOMO at times and I love the idea of embracing those "empty spaces" to let God work and to turn my eyes back to Him.

Jenn Detweiler said...

Darn it!! I wrote a comment and then it wouldn't post. I think this site wants me to miss out!! It's FORCED FOMO!! Actually, I think i suffer most greatly from FOLO -- Fear of being Left Out. I'm find missing something, as long as I was invited in the first place. I just don't want to be not wanted.

For me, it all comes down to my relationship with Christ. When I am God-focused, my FOMO isn't an issue. I know that I belong to Him, and because of that, I will never miss out (or be left out) of anything worth being involved in.

But on the more frequest occassions when I let the world and my insecurities take over, watch out. The FOMO train is barelling down the tracks and headed for Pity Party Station.

Turner Family said...

I am just like Bethany.

Your post made me think of my time in London. The 3 months I spent there were the loneliest 3 months of my life and yet a huge turning point in my relationship with God. He took me away from my close friends and family in CA and became my friend for the first time. I was nervous to leave my 'Christian bubble' and go over there without a close friend but at the same time I REALLY needed to get away and let God do a work in me without any distractions. Many days I would ditch the Tube and make the 5 mile trek home from school just to hang out with God. I would picture him walking and talking with me as a friend would do. I embraced the empty feeling that would frequently creep in and turn it over to God. He was faithful to fill that void and provide so much wisdom and peace throughout that time that I know I wouldn't have experienced back in SLO.