A friend of mine recently endured a painful breakup. Within a few days, all 239 of her Facebook friends knew that her relationship status had changed. In fact, I was one of the hundreds of people who received a mini-feed in my inbox telling me that she was now single. Next to the newsflash was a cartoon broken heart. It seemed like harmless fun, but the reality was that she was really hurting.
What’s worse, my friend’s Facebook page plugged her in to a virtual gossip pipeline. Before she was ready, she was inundated with a barrage of questions from other people who received the same mini-feed I did. In this case, her media choices added an extra layer of pain to an already difficult situation.
All of this made me ask a question that Nancy and Dannah address directly in Lies Young Women Believe, do the benefits of our constant media use really outweigh the harm?
In preparation for the book, I traveled across the country to talk to girls just like you. I asked them to agree or disagree with a series of statements. When we came to the topic of media I broached the subject with this statement, “ the media has a negative influence on my relationship with God and others, but its benefits are worth it.” Almost all of the girls I talked to agreed. In fact, 98% percent of the girls we talked to said that the benefits of their media use outweighed the harm. That is a pretty staggering number! But what were they talking about exactly? What kinds of benefits would be worth hurting your relationships with your friends, your family, even God?
Are you tempted to tune me out at this point? Are you worried that I’m going to ask you to smash your TV, sell your computer, burn your CDs and take down your Facebook page? You’re not alone. This is an area where we’ve noticed a great deal of resistance among your generation. You seem pretty comfortable letting us in to your friendships, your faith and your feelings about your beauty…but it seems you’d prefer that we not question your media habits. Maybe that’s because you are among the 98% of young women who realize that your media habits are negatively affecting your relationship with God and with others, but you just aren’t comfortable doing anything about it.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you to unplug from all sources of media. I’m not sure that’s a realistic solution to this problem. But, I do want you to take a critical look at the ways that your media usage affects you and your relationships. In fact, I’d like us to take three important steps toward de-toxifying our media choices. These same steps are outlined on pages 152-153 of the book.
Step 1: Preview your media choices.
Take a hard look at the movies, television shows, magazines, websites and music that you look at (or listen to) most often. Is the content questionable? Is the language mildly or wildly offensive (i.e. would you feel comfortable listening to it with your grandma)? Are there ideas or situations present that might cause your thoughts to dwell where they shouldn’t? Do these sources have the potential to negatively impact you relationship with God or others?
Once you’ve examined the content of your media choices, get a second opinion. Ask your parents or youth pastor to take a look. If you are cringing at the thought of letting your parents see where you go on the web or what you watch when they’re not around, it is a good indication that your choices need revisited. You can also find reviews of movies, television programs, and music on Internet sites such as pluggedinonline.com and preview.gospelcom.net.
Step 2: Make a list of pros and cons
There is no denying that our media choices affect us. But it is worth considering whether or not the benefits of specific media choices are worth the risk. So, make a list of pros and cons. You may need to make separate lists for different media choices, since each one may affect you differently. For example, process through the pros and cons of continuing your subscription to your favorite magazine. Or, write out the pros and cons of spending x number of hours online each day. Pay close attention to the positive and negative impact of media on your spiritual life.
Then I am going to ask that you share your list with us. I am going to place my list of pros and cons for watching television as the first comment under this post. I’ll be completely honest about the benefits and pitfalls of this type of media usage. I hope that you will follow my lead and post your list as well.
Step 3: Pray about your media choices.
Once you’ve spelled out the pros and cons of your media choices, seek guidance from the Lord. Ask him to further reveal any potential harm your media choices may be causing. Pray for Him to guide you to make decisions about your media favorites that honor Him. Ask for the wisdom to make wise choices regarding the way you spend your time.
I am dubbing this “Media May” in my life. Throughout the month I am going to make a concentrated effort to carefully examine my media choices and make sure that they are God-honoring. I am committed to making changes if necessary. I am hoping that you will join me in making sure that the benefits of constant media use truly outweigh the harm. I think this is an important step in our pursuit of Truth. I look forward to reading your lists of pros and cons and watching you encourage each other to stand for truth in this area.