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What’s FOMO?  How is it impacting you and every young person you know?

Have you heard of FOMO?

Do you know what it stands for?

It’s the Fear Of Missing Out, and it seems to be driving the use (and over-use) of technology today.  Or so says a recent analysis by Wes Avram as published in Yale University’s Reflections.

FOMO. The idea’s nothing new, of course. It has been a hallmark of youth all along: wanting to know what’s happening, keeping one’s options open, scanning the terrain for what you want. We’ve always measured youth by energy and experimentation. By contrast, we’ve always measured maturity by the ability to move beyond grazing distraction in order to make promises, then to mark those promises with commitments, with persevering and building something that lasts. In that sense, the FOMO of youth is as predictable as the stability of age.

Except . . . something feels different about this moment, and not just because FOMO has been promoted to acronym status. I think that something has to do with acceleration and mediation. FOMO is now supported technologically, mediated electronically, and monetized for profit in ways we’ve never seen.

I think they’re on to something.  I also think that anything motivated by fear is problematic—to put it mildly.

Maybe it’s time for you to talk with a young person you know along the following lines.  Note that the conversation below is designed as a mixture of sharing (marked by italic font) and asking questions.

 

1. Do you think FOMO might be driving some of your friends’ use of technology and social media?  If so, how?  A tried and true technique of small group leadership with teenagers is to start by asking them about their friends.
2. What do you think the difference is between a person using social media because of FOMO and using it as a way to build relationships? 
3. Share yourself how FOMO is motivating your own use of social media and your cell phone.  If possible, share how you feel about that. 
4. How, if at all, do you think FOMO might be influencing some of your own use of your cell phone and social media? 
5. What do you think is good and helpful about how you’re engaging in texting, Facebook, Instagram, etc.?
6. What, if anything, might be problematic about how you’re using technology?
7. Share ways that you’d like to use technology differently.
8. Do you have any thoughts about how you’d like to use technology differently?

As you’ll notice, the conversation above is designed as a bit of a tennis match in which you share your own use of technology before hitting the ball over the net and asking the young person to do the same.  That’s because self-disclosure is a powerful tool in all conversations, including conversations with those younger than us.

Your kid might not have anything they’d like to do differently with their use of technology (except perhaps INCREASE their time spent!).  But as you share with them your own journey with technology, they might start asking themselves some deeper questions.  (One note to hopefully encourage you:  Depending on your relationship with this young person, they might never share with you the questions they’re asking, but nonetheless, it’s happening internally.)

While FOMO itself isn’t good, it can be used as a good door opener for some needed conversations with young people.

How else have you tried to talk with young people about their use of social media and technology?  What have you found helpful?  What has bombed?


Kara Powell

Kara Powell, PhD, is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) and a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women to Watch”, Kara serves as an Advisor to Youth Specialties and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences.  Kara is the author or co-author of a number of books including Sticky Faith, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Deep Justice Journeys, Essential Leadership, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum.

...read more by Kara Powell

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