0 Posted by - June 23, 2016 - Bamidbar, Parsha

THE PREDICTABLY IRRATIONAL F.O.M.O.

Parashat Shlach

The spies were great men. How did they make such a grave mistake?

The Targum Zohar 3; 158 says that all of the spies were men of stature and high position. But they decided upon this evil plan of speaking negatively about the Land. Why? Because they said to themselves, “If the Jews enter the Land, we will lose the positions that we had in the desert, and Moshe will appoint new people to fill our posts.” And because of their evil plot, they died, and all those who accepted their report perished.

How could it be that such great men would plan to go against the Divine Plan of bringing the Jewish People into the Land of Israel? How could this irrational thought enter their minds? Didn’t they realize that the plan of going against G-d’s plan and against Moshe was much riskier than losing out on their positions?

The answer is a lesson about FOMO, one of the most powerful drives of Man.

What is the drive behind digital addiction, email checking, social networks? What is the drive for men to look, sometimes, where they are not supposed to? What is hiding in the shadows of every jealous thought? What is the secret force behind all marketing? Why do people check out what is going on in their email account more than they check out how their children are managing and feeling? Why do some students have a hard time focusing on their studies, feeling the need to check out what is going on outside the study hall?

F.O.M.O. Fear of missing out. Fear can motivate you to do things faster than your mind can think. Fear is an emotion with a pathway in the brain that is connected to your reflex to take action, like the “fight or flight” response to danger. G-d wired the human brain in such a way that if you see a snake in your bedroom, you run before you think. The fear of missing out, also, is an emotion, and before you have a chance to decide, to hash out if this fleeting option is for your best or not, your body has already responded to the stimuli.

This is why people opt for something that is not the best choice for them, just because they are afraid they may miss something, even if the something is less significant than the loss they would suffer by choosing this option. This irrationally is predictable. We buy something that is 50 percent off, even if we do not NEED the item, because we feel that if we don’t take it, we are losing out 50 percent of the price; but in reality, we are losing 100% of the money paid, if we do not need the item to begin with. It is scientifically proven that people have this irrational tendency, to choose a less valuable option, just because they may miss out by not responding to it. If you want people to buy your product fast, you need to throw in a FOMO factor. This is the trigger for digital addiction, obsessive email checking, and social network addiction. Being “Phoneless” has become a fear for most millennials, as if without their cell, a part of their psyche is N/A (non-available). Why? Because that fear of missing out can drive you crazy. Once we know that we are not missing out on anything, calmness sets in. Until then, we have this nagging inner voice that says, “You just don’t know what you are missing”. Until we define for ourselves, clearly, what is involved, our actions take over, ignoring the advice of our minds. The spies might have been dealing with this same FOMO symptom, fear of losing their positions, and they were ignoring the great loss they would suffer because of the option they were choosing.

How does one nip FOMO in the bud?

I believe that the threats that we are not aware of are a greater threat than the threats we are aware of. Awareness is an important key to the solution. Recognizing the heavy price you are paying because of your FOMO. Awareness of the price and awareness of the fact that it is just an emotion, not a reflection of reality. Realizing that is just a fear. As mentioned, the reason why FOMO takes over is because it does not get processed. The impulse is faster than the thought. The solution is to decelerate our impulsiveness, realizing how emotion has taken over, and how much hurt it can cause.

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