We live in a world that is absolutely saturated with media. It’s a rare moment when we don’t have a screen either in our sight or within our reach, each one connected to all the “content” in the world. A nearly endless list of articles, videos, songs, social media posts, podcasts, pundits, and influencers are begging for your attention, sometimes literally.
This level of media overload is a new thing. We don’t think about it much because it is “normal,” but it marks a drastic change in how people live. Many of us are old enough to remember a time when life wasn’t online; when phones were used to talk to each other, and you had to wait a whole week to “binge” the next episode of your favorite show.
Does that mean we are now better off? Or are we just more distracted? It feels like we are busier, since every moment of down time is filled. We tend to be more anxious and isolated; social media hasn’t made us more social. And having access to all the information in the world hasn’t necessarily made us smarter about what media we consume.
We’re not saying that all media consumption is bad. (Obviously, we hope this article is worth reading.) And the goal isn’t to be legalistic; we each have wide freedom in what we consume. However, although “All things are lawful” for us, “not all things are helpful”—and we should “not be dominated by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12).
Your media use becomes a problem when it negatively impacts what you think about, how you think about it, or how you act. If you constantly fill your eyes (or ears) with things that are worthless (Psalm 101:3), untested, or outright sinful (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22), it will have an effect on who you are and what you do (Matthew 6:22-23).
You become what you love; that’s why we must guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23). God’s Word encourages us to focus on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8). It is possible to find those things in media; the question is whether you are even trying to.
How can you tell whether your media consumption is becoming a problem? Here are questions to help you discern whether or not you have a healthy relationship with media:
Answer honestly, and think about what your answers say about your use of media.
Nobody is perfect; we probably all have ground we can take. So how do we go about making those changes?
Chances are, your current media consumption is driven by habits. You habitually check your phone, scroll through news, an turn on the TV at the same time night. You don’t think about it; you just do it.
We think that you should think about it. Be conscious of what you consume, and why. If you are going to fill your mind with something, do it for a good reason.
Here are some ideas of how you can break bad media habits. They range from “easy; everyone should do this” to “kind of extreme, but in a good way.”
Tossing your TV or trading your smartphone for a “dumb phone” might seem like a big change, but remember that most of these devices devices didn’t even exist in prior generations. What seems “radical” today in terms of limiting media consumption would have been “normal” throughout most of history. So, don’t be afraid to be radical.
Ultimately, the goal is less about curbing consumption and more about focusing your eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). The way to end an unhealthy love affair with media is to fall more in love with Jesus. Follow Him. Spend time in His presence; fill your heart and mind with God’s Word. By doing so, you can avoid becoming “conformed to this world,” and instead “be transformed by the renewal of your mind,” able to discern “what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).
Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37-38), and your media habits will take care of themselves.