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Would you take a break from TV and social media?

Lately I've been noticing a trend: in the midst of increasingly-present smartphones, tablets, TV's, and gaming devices, I've been spotting more and more people taking breaks from media, and I keep seeing more and more social media sign-offs on Fridays (ex. "See you on Monday!") from people doing "screen free" weekends.

Curious, I did some snooping to see why people were signing off/turning off. Here are two reasons I heard:

Two reasons people are taking a media break

Reason 1: I needed to see if I could go without it.

Among people taking a step back from media, there was an underlying concern that maybe media was controlling them and not the other way around. For example, here's what they said:

  • "I’m too invested [in TV] and so it was time to cut the cord (pun intended) for a bit."
  • "For me, it had become a habit (or worse, an addiction?) that interrupted my life, and I really needed to break the habit."
  • "It is a good feeling to prove to yourself that you can go without something and that it doesn’t have to control you."

Reason 2: It wasn't making me feel good.

In addition to wanting to take back ownership of their habits, they also talked about the emotional and mental impact of media, saying:

  • "I found myself mindlessly scrolling."
  • "I felt drained after scrolling through my feed. Like I had not only wasted my time, but also I might feel jealous… or down on myself… or striving to figure out what I could post about myself… or overthink a caption. It was drumming up a lot of ugly stuff."

Is media changing us?

I don't write this to make us feel guilty about our TV-viewing or texting. The reality is that some of the changes from media and technology enhances our lives (hello--how did couples every manage grocery shopping before texting?). But based on the mini-media fasts mentioned earlier, some of it is making us uncomfortable.

Two Questions To Ask Ourselves About Media Time

To help us figure out how we're feeling, let's pause and consider our media habits by asking two questions inspired by the quotes and comments above:

  1. Do I feel like my media time is a habit I'm shaping, or one that's shaping me?
  2. How is media making me feel? Generally free, inspired, and connected, or discouraged, drained, and discontent?

Ultimately, here's the outcome Jesus wants for us regarding media:

First, he wants to be shaping us. His goal is to make us more like him, meaning we think his thoughts and feel his feelings. When other things, including media, compete for influence over us, his goal becomes harder to accomplish.

Secondly, Jesus doesn't want us burdened by guilt and shame. If media is causing those feelings, he wants to help us find ways to experience freedom instead.

For some of us, media time is intentional and fulfilling, imparting a sense of purpose, and/or recharging our battery in a vitalizing way. For others, media time is taking more than it's giving back. In these cases, ideas like screen-free weekends, short-term TV fasts, and social media breaks might be a liberating fit.

So what do you think? Could you use a media break, or do you feel like you've got a good media mix in your life right now? 

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  • Andrew McDowell

    This reminds me of a guest sermon I gave at my church a while ago in which I talked about how we need to put our relationships with God and with the people in our lives (I mean literally in our lives) before both our digital presence and physical possessions, both of which I feel for a lot of people take precedence instead.

    I have taken breaks before, and I’ve cut back. It’s still a work in progress, but I feel I’m on the right path now.

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