• Matthew Thornton


Matthew discusses #fomo and how it cultivates non-committal culture in our day and age. He compares it with the call of Jesus and argues that we cannot find contentment in our lives and relationships unless we commit to others.

If you are a human in the 21st century, then you’ve heard of the term: ‘fomo’.

Surprisingly, the term wasn’t coined in the 21st century. Oxford Languages claim it was mentioned as early as the 1800s. Regardless, no one can argue that the advent of social media has proliferated its use.

A ‘reliable’ source – the Urban Dictionary – defines FOMO as a “state of mental or emotional strain caused by the fear of missing out”.

We’ve all experienced it. You’re bored at home and so you fill your time scrolling through your Instagram only to find your friends out on a Jetski. It is that kick of disillusionment when you see someone having a seemingly better time than you are.

Sometimes, FOMO may only manifest itself in the form of disappointment. However, all too often it results in this strange sense of angst; even the Urban Dictionary categorises it as a “form of social anxiety”.

It may seem foolish to those born in previous generations, but it truly convinces the ‘sufferer’ that they are making poor decisions. Whether that be choosing the wrong events to go to, or choosing the wrong friends to hang out with, FOMO communicates to the victim that they aren’t maximizing their happiness.


I believe that social media, and the FOMO it induces, is one of the leading causes of this non-committal day and age we find ourselves in.

Blaine Smith (The Yes Anxiety) summarises it well when he says: “There is a constant feeling in our culture that we might be missing out on something better, therefore, we rarely commit to a decision that we can’t back out of in case something better comes along”.

This phenomenon can make it particularly difficult for Christians. I don’t know if you’ve read the Bible, but God calls us to many commitments: commitment to a partner in marriage (Matthew chapter 19, verse 6), commitment to loving our fellow neighbours (Luke chapter 6 verse 35), and, of course, commitment to following Him (Matthew chapter 16, verse 24).

The idea of a life free of commitments and ‘obligations’ can seem very appealing to Christians looking out; FOMO inducing for sure. But, as the Bible says, I think the great things come from commitment.

Good things take time

I have come to realise that contentment follows commitment. Not the other way around.

The world tries to tell us that we should find what makes us feel content and commit to that. That is why we are told it is important to keep our options open. You might commit to something and then something better comes along right after.

Sure, committing to things that make you happy and bring you joy is a good idea. But contentment, that is a place you arrive at over a time of sustained effort. You see, when you are committed to something, you see it for what it is and you fight to keep it. When you aren’t committed to something, you see it for what it is not and that is often when we can give up.

The good stuff takes time and effort.

Sacrifice before satisfaction

One of the most damaging manifestations of non-committal culture is in our relationships. It seems as if it is a norm to give up on relationships, or not even commit in the first place, when they don’t meet “Instagram standard”. This is something I’ve seen play out in romantic relationships, in the context of the church, and in friendships.

While I was thinking of an analogy to convey the importance of commitment, the strangest one came to mind. Over the New Year my girlfriend contracted gastroenteritis – otherwise known as a stomach bug. I won’t go in detail but if you’ve ever experienced it or witnessed it, you’ll know it gets ugly.

I have come to realise that contentment follows commitment. Not the other way around.

Yet, amazingly, once you’ve contracted and recovered from it, you’re immune to that specific bug. I’ve always found that aspect of the human immune system amazing. How experiencing an illness once can give your body the strength to be able to resist it in the future.

You see, committing to people can be hard (stay with me). Although we try to emulate Jesus, even in the best relationships we often fall short. We gossip about one another, we exclude each other, we hurt each other.

Having the commitment to love each other despite others’ shortcomings means that things can get really ugly at times. But, when we persist through those times, when we allow our love to be greater than our annoyance, disappointment or hurt, our relationships are so much stronger as a result.

When those same grievances come up again in the future, we are equipped to face them and overcome them.

Now that is a strength and a unity that you just don’t get by having one foot in and one foot out. If anything, the real FOMO exists in a life without God. I know I would hate to miss out on the full life Jesus came to offer. (John chapter 10, verse 10)

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter chapter 4, verse 8).

Matthew Thornton is studying at the University of Auckland, Matthew finds that writing is one of the prime ways he connects with and grows closer to God. He loves seeing the way in which God has wired everyone uniquely and finds immense fulfilment in seeing others discover who God is to them. He would love to hear from you: matthewcthornton13@gmail.com // Photo: Caleb Van Essen

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