Now the research people are warning about several new anxiety disorders derived from our dependence on technology. Shut my mouth wide open, but one of them is "FOMO", the fear of missing out. According to an article at PsychCentral.com, FOMO is the reason we'll interrupt a kiss to check the latest Twitter feed, put someone on hold to catch the call coming in, text while driving, and own apps for just about every conceivable connection. It's one of the neuroses of a connected world. We want in.
Of course, personal insecurity is the root of this thing. Underneath FOMO is a need for status and the life connections that are believed to bring it. Social media and it's devices are the objects of a new co-dependency that promises worth, value, and meaning in a complicated grid of personal relationships. To have large friend or follower bases offers vast posibilities of personal linkage. The people themselves are rarely thought to be the pay-load of FOMA addiction. No, the pacifiers in this neurosis are the gadgets that enable them, and the data streams that are possible through them. Maxing our conections and making the most of the time are the ultimate reward of this new personal phobia.
As a minister for thirty five years this kind of disorder seems anti-thetical to the historical church. Much of my time in church life has been trying to overcome an opposite fear. I'm not sure what to call it but it may be more kosmo-phobia, fear of the world, or being too close to the world system. Colleague Reggie McNeal often spoke of the shrink-wrapped church, the Christian bubble that protected the church from outside influences. It was the old water in the boat cliche---the boat belongs in the water, but not the water in the boat. So, for decades local churches were disconnected from their communities because they actually didn't want to know what was going on out there.
So, suddenly, in the twenty-first century, that disconnect has been broadened to the point that an entire generational cohort lives in a basically secular culture, without strong spiritual roots. Here is a goup that desparately wants to be included trying to find meaning in a church that is fearful of them and openly critical of their modern ways. They are essentially eager to learn, ready to know the inside stuff, but are skeptical of inauthenticity. But, there's a clash of cultures when their FOMO doesn't fit the churches allergic reation to them. It's a mission dilemma that we must figure out if we are to have a generation to whom his mission can eventually be entrusted.
FOMO touches us in other ways too. I know pastors and church staff that attend every seminar or conference because they want to press the flesh and be on the inside of things, perhaps sweeten their resume a bit. Gossips and rumor mongers in church hallways are FOMO people, as are many politicians, people users, and socal gadflies. It's evident in social media in the whistle blowers who will post dramatic stuff before it is verified. How many of us have seen a church split over struggles between one group or another, FOMO in action. Being an ego or self-esteem disorder, FOMO is, in the final analysis, about me, myself, and I. The techie toys attract some attention, move the conversaton our way. But, FOMO is an esteem builder, a way for me to be among the select who have the inside scoop.
Missing, regardless of the stature, rank, or position of the person deaing with it, are the genuine components of personal worth. Somewhere in the scramble to matter our values list has been co-opted by the trends of the moment. It's been jobs, wealth, beauty, education, position, cars, clothing, fame, and a long list of artificials. Now, it's connections. What is more, the basic connection, our personal communion with the God who created and sustains us, is on the side-bar as old stuff.
Jesus said it clearly. He said it to simple first century followers so they would not miss out. "I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). It applies to the young believer, the deacon chairman, the pastor of the largest church, the denominational leader, the politician, and to everybody else.
And, it is the promise of never missing out.