Most of us have heard of it. FOMO, or the fear of missing out, is a phenomenon that’s thriving in our culture. A relentless task master, it drives us to constantly check our social media feed because we want to be in the know. Better yet, we just can’t afford to miss out on what’s happening. It sucks our time as we satisfy our seemingly endless curiosities about the status of others—who’s doing what, with whom, and, of course, where. For many, the start of a new day begins with the habitual reach for the mobile device in order to catch what’s happening, or heaven forbid, what was missed while away. Then as though it were a duty, we continually check our news feed throughout the day. The truth of the matter, however, is that many of us have no clue that we’re addicted to this silent thief and invisible drug.

Intrinsic to FOMO is the reality that we instinctively compare ourselves to others. Because social media for the most part is rooted in self-promotion, posts don’t necessarily convey an accurate or complete picture of people’s lives. Yet we draw rosy conclusions based on what we see.  Social media platforms themselves assist in this comparison game, giving us metrics that seemingly measure just how well we stack up. For instance, if on Facebook or Instagram, you’re likely paying close attention to how many “likes” and comments your post (or previous posts) garnered. When you discover those numbers are way less than someone else’s post, your mind instantaneously begins to conjure up possible reasons why—other people are friendlier, more popular, more interesting, and so on. This is an exercise in futility. Rather than fulfilling our innate need to feel valued and affirmed, such thinking tears us down. We’re left feeling as though we don’t measure up. And this mindset is prime breeding ground for a host of other things including discouragement, depression, and despair. Over all this, comparing ourselves to others steals our joy.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about FOMO within the context of my own life. I need to because I want to engage life fully embracing that moment-by-moment, day-by-day, the choices I make are the fibers and threads that are weaving my life’s tapestry, as well as shaping my eternal future. I want to place proper value on the precious commodity of time because once gone, I can never get it back. Yet there have been too many times when I’ve told myself I’m going to hop on Facebook just to send a birthday greeting only to find that forty minutes later, I’m still scrolling through my news feed. Meanwhile the laundry that should have already been folded remains undone. Like me you might rationalize that chores can wait. But what about the important (even critical) tasks that become displaced by our preoccupation with social media? It’s one thing to put off folding laundry for another half an hour, quite another to not be fully prepared for a meeting at work because you allowed Facebook activity to cut into your prep time.

The danger and end result of FOMO is that it causes us to procrastinate and squander time. Needless to say, this undermines purposeful living. If we are to wisely redeem the time, we must be on guard against this impostor of productivity. We must refuse to let it master us! Otherwise it will rob us of many opportunities to celebrate our uniqueness, accomplish worthwhile tasks and goals, draw close to God, spend time with loved ones, cultivate friendships outside of cyberspace, and so on. Most especially, we must not allow FOMO to undermine what we can and should be doing each day to create significance and make a difference with our lives.

I now set a time limit. What steps can you take today to monitor the time that you spend on social media?

Thanks for reading this post. Have you joined the life-transforming Living Backward movement? To become a part, click here.