Monday, June 16, 2014

FOMO Kills YOLO Every Time

My wife and I just returned from our bi-annual trip to the Caribbean. It didn’t start out as an every two year deal, but beginning in 2004, we have averaged one vacation trip to an all-inclusive Caribbean resort every two years. It is a typically restful time of fun in the sun, sitting on the beach, and the occasional jet ski accident (but that is another story). As a pastor who is very (read overly) connected, it is a wonderful time to disconnect from all things electronic.

On our very first trip I got in the habit of placing my cell phone, watch, and wallet in the hotel room safe and not removing them until the day of our departure. It is a strategy that has worked wonderfully well. Going a week with no email, no text messages, no voice mail, and no social media is a great way to detox from the constant stream of information that comes our way. Or, more accurately, our need to constantly react to the constant stream of information that comes our way!

For the most part, it seemed most of the other vacationers did the same thing. Cell phones were non existent, there was no wi-fi on the premises, and the handful of computers that resort has charged a pretty peso for a half hour of use. Based on the emptiness of the computer lounge, very few people were willing to pay the price. Instead, they enjoyed each other’s company, the beach, and the pool.

This forced electronic detox was pretty standard even as recently as our trip in 2012. But, a dramatic shift has occurred in the last two years. This year I was stunned to see nearly half of the people at the resort walking around with cell phones, iPads, or other electronic devices. To be fair, some of them were using Kindles (or other e-Readers) rather than carry old fashioned books around. And, I realize that the smart phone has replaced the hand held camera / video camera for most people, particularly because it allows instant ability to “share” pics and videos with your social media circle. And, that is precisely where the problem lies.

I cannot tell you how many people I overheard commenting on their social media feed, but it was a lot. The scenario went like this: a pic or video would be “staged” (i.e. “hey, do that again” or “hey, let’s all take this pic”), the pic / video would be uploaded, and the “uploader” would realize that some previous pic / video had been commented on and they felt obliged to share that comment with the person sharing their trip (i.e. “hey, look what so-and-so said about that pic at dinner last night”).

It seems to me that one of the reasons for taking such trips is our preoccupation with YOLO (You Only Live Once). Life is short; you only get one shot the reasoning goes, so let’s make sure we have a blast. While I don’t subscribe to the same rationale as those who pursue such adventures due to a narcissistic desire, I have been privileged to experience some pretty cool aspects of God’s creation and the cultures it has spawned. I have climbed the steps of Monte Alban in central Mexico, eaten a home cooked meal in the home of a Moldovan villager, swam with sharks and sting rays off the coast of the Dominican Republic, watched the waves roll in at Baler Bay in the Philippines, ridden a motorcycle from coast to coast across the United States, stood on the edge of the Grand Canyon, observed the gold covered walls of the Cathedral de Santo Domingo, and had the privilege of being present at the birth of both of my children. The uniqueness and “power” of those experiences would have been diminished if my focus had been on cataloging and “sharing” those experiences with a nameless, faceless electronic world that simply consumes such experiences vicariously and indiscriminately.

I am convinced that the effort to make sure we ring every ounce of “experience” out of an experience is derailed the moment we succumb to FOMO…the Fear of Missing Out. It is FOMO that forces many to constantly check in with their social media page, their email or their text messages. It is the bizarre notion that, if someone “says” something that they do not instantly reply to, they have somehow missed out. The irony is that they “miss out” by being preoccupied with not missing out. The way I see it, FOMO kills YOLO every time.

So, rather than trying to capture and share a moment, just experience it. Relish it. Soak it in. Enjoy it for all that God intends it to be in your life. And, yes, I do believe God has a purpose in powerful experiences. That purpose is to point us to something greater: Him. When we diminish the power of these experiences by trying to capture and share them, it is like darkening the mirror that would reveal something of who God is for us. When we do that, we truly do miss out.

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