It's not about your FOMO.
Every few days it seems I read another blog post about how we are all addicted to our smart phones. Acronyms like "FOMO" (fear of missing out) have been created to try to pinpoint our addiction and shame us into putting technology away for a bit.
But this morning I was watching a video a friend posted and realized something. Well, maybe I should just let you watch it first... a public service announcement created to combat texting and driving in New Zealand.
So yeah. It's funny. But what I love most about this video is that it moves the focus away from shame to the bigger goal.
When I'm creating a post for this blog, there's an option in the photo settings that allows me to orient a single focus point. (Thanks for showing me how to do this, BTW, Carey Pace.) I took a screen shot of that process below. See the little circle? I can click on that and move it around so that when my posts come up in thumbnail, there is an emphasis on the area of a photo that I consider most important.
When it comes to internet addiction (or any addiction I've struggled with, really) this has tended to be an important concept for me.
Instead of just saying "__________ is bad, I should shame myself into stopping that," I tend to see more life change when I ask, "What do I want my true focus to be instead?"
"FOMO" is a funny concept, but I don't think the fear of missing out is my main problem with social media. I think it's more that sometimes I lose my bearings, my identity, and my purpose in the noise of life. I get tired of all the stress and fear in our culture, and my insecurities start to make me overthink stuff. When all that chaos happens, it's easy to just kind of wander around trying to find myself online.
Another option, though, is to realize that I'm out of focus and take the little white circle of my heart and hover it over true center.
I don't mean to oversimplify here, but most art has a central idea that guides it. Robert Henri's The Art Spirit urges painters to continually return to the flash of inspiration that launched a painting. A similar concept is taught by Dorothy Sayers in her Mind of the Maker. An artist applies energy to an idea. Creators dip into inspiration like paint. So it is with faith, except the idea is a Person instead of just an image.
Have you ever noticed that when secular people talk about Christianity, they tend to reduce faith to a choice between (1) trying to be a good person or (2) giving in to being a bad person? But I don't think this is the big choice the New Testament gives us.
There are several places in the Bible that show us choices that boil down more to (1) trying to do good in our own strength, or (2) leaning into the resources and love of the Spirit.
As I see it, faith is more about wanting autonomy from God vs. communion with God than it is about deciding to be bad or good.
Romans 8: 5-6 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
See the split? It's not sin vs. non-sin. It's living in the flesh vs. living in the Spirit.
This is why attempts to just give up the internet (or any other addiction) rarely produce any sort of lasting change. When I get restless, needy, rebellious, destructive, distracted, it usually comes down to a focal point problem in my heart.
There are several ways I've found to move that slider over to center. (I think different personality types tend to engage with God and His resources differently. If you've never read the book Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas, it's probably worth your time.)
But the simple realization that our focus is off can also be helpful sometimes. Seeing that we haven't seen ourselves clearly can be like a splash of cold water waking us up to the truth. It's like that moment in a fairy tale when a prince is found living like a beggar, because he has forgotten that he is the son of a king.
At least in my life, simply resisting one distraction will only throw me into another one, if I don't make time to bury my love in true center. My willpower just runs out. I can't live just saying no to what is bad, with a gigantic vacuum constantly roaring inside me... I have to drink down what is life-giving and full of joy, energy, creativity, honesty, and strength instead.
This allows so many things to fall into a healthy groove: curiosity, longing, even restlessness. Those essential parts of my personality don't go away, they just stop yanking me around, trying to push me off cliffs. They become healthy drives instead of destructive drives. And this begins with replacement, not just resistance.
Addiction (at last for me) is not just about the fear of missing out, see? It's about missing out because I was looking for myself in all the wrong places. I've misunderstood what I really am and what the world really is. I've been driving distracted.
So when the chaos comes, when that urge to fly out into all directions hits -- whether you are making a piece of art, or making a piece of life -- I think it's possible to come back to center to find the core.
Sometimes that return is simple. Sometimes it can take a bit of a search (ask an artist about this process). However, I'm trying to keep these posts shorter, so I'm going to save that expansion for another day...