July 3, 2019
I just spent an extended time away from most social media, television, and other digital information/entertainment services. Initially, it was a bit of a challenge to not be up-to-date on all my friends and television shows and even all the news I typically consume. Along the way I discovered I was experiencing something called FOMO or the Fear of Missing Out.
I’ll admit it was a bit unsettling to realize other people knew what was happening on the television show “This is Us” or missing out on what I heard was an amazing game in the March Madness NCAA basketball tournament. I knew I was missing out on lots of pictures and status updates across all social media platforms.
But as time went on I discovered a new kind of peace and freedom from not being so connected. Then I heard of something called JOMO: the Joy of Missing Out, defined as “feeling content with staying in and disconnecting as a form of self-care.”
This is exactly what I had been feeling. I had long evenings at home with no television or social media scrolling. It was almost euphoric to sit quietly and read and pray and then go to bed early. During this hiatus from the digital and entertainment world I regularly got more than seven hours of sleep and had plenty of time to pray and make healthy choices in my life. The cumulative effect was a happier, more focused, and more-connected-to-Jesus version of Jeff.
Looking a little deeper at the spiritual side of this exercise, I discovered that through these weeks of “missing out” I actually encountered the Fruits of the Spirit in specific ways. As a refresher, the fruits of the spirit are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
I experienced love in so many ways: a renewed love of reading; purposeful time with my wife, family, and friends; and a deepening of my love for Jesus through the added time for prayer. Joy, happiness that is deeper and rooted in God, came to me because by disconnecting from electronic devices I was able to more deeply connect with God. Peace seemed to flow through my days because I was not so busy in mind and body. Just slowing down and engaging less, and with fewer portals, opened the flow of peace.
Patience, kindness, and generosity shined through in my attitude towards people around me. I was less flustered in traffic, more attentive to people at the cash register as I checked out, nicer to the people I passed as I walked through stores and parking lots, and I was freer with my time when people needed to talk or grab a coffee. It really is amazing how a fresher soul impacted my interactions with people in my life.
I grew in faithfulness through my increased sacramental and prayer life. But also in being more true to myself — and this is where the gentleness chimed in. I was not as hard on myself during this time. I guess I was more forgiving and, essentially, more kind to myself. I think not having all my mental energies tied up with mindless entertainment freed up energy to take better care of myself.
All of these practices were fueled by my increased self-control. Striving to control my external world really helped order my inner world.
Stepping away from my usual social media and entertainment practices and enjoying the freedom to miss out on things helped me realize a couple of things. First, I really did not miss all that TV and scrolling. Second, I discovered what I had actually been lacking all along: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
The fear of missing out actually had me missing out on a deeper connection with myself, my relationships, and the Triune God. Here’s to missing out a little more and connecting a little more
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Jeff Hedglen is the director of campus ministry at University of Texas at Arlington.
I just spent an extended time away from most social media, television, and other digital information/entertainment services.