Freedom from the Media Monster

photo credit -- Craig Garner

photo credit -- Craig Garner

We're in the middle of a season in the church called Lent-- a time when people decide to give something up, or change something, or make a commitment until Easter. 

I got coffee yesterday with a friend who was back in town from Texas, and we were talking about what she had decided to give up. She gave up media of all kinds-- all social media, all movies, all TV, all music. At first, I was shocked. How do you keep in touch with people? How can you give up MUSIC? Seriously?! No radio in the car? Why would you do that? Why not just pick one thing? Why give up all of them?!

But as soon as she started talking about what the experience has been like for her, I quickly realized how great of an idea it was. 

Of course, she talked about how hard it was at first. It's no secret our society is addicted to media-- we check our phones every two seconds, we're slaves to the pinging and ringing, we're trained to respond instantaneously to every notification, and we fill every void and every second with noise and distractions. Cutting all of that out is counter-cultural to an extreme.

Yes, she feels disconnected at times. Yes, she feels out of the loop. Yes, she's behind on her current events. She totally missed the debate over "The Dress" and had no idea what everyone was talking about at work the next day.

Over and over again, though, she talked about freedom. What was hard at first, what went against the grain, what felt like swimming upstream against a raging current has now become freeing

My own Lent challenge was to create boundaries with my phone usage-- turn it off at 10 pm and don't look at it before 9 am. My thought was that the last few hours of every night and the first few hours of every day would be spent away from a screen and instead choosing better ways to occupy my time-- reading, writing, relaxing, decompressing, praying, etc.

It, too, was freeingSure, I "missed" things on social media that happened after my phone went dark, but honestly? I didn't miss them at all.

We're a society hyper-obsessed with connectivity, but lacking in authenticity. We stare at screens but don't make eye contact. We have hundreds of followers but we've never felt more alone. 

We've become slaves to the monster that is media. Honestly, my plan to turn my phone off at 10 pm hasn't happened most nights. I've still found myself grabbing my phone to turn my alarm off, and then scrolling through Twitter before I've even fully opened my eyes. I don't like it. I hate that I'm as addicted as I am.

I sat across from my friend for several hours yesterday, and she never once looked at her phone. She was fully present, fully engaged, fully there. I saw someone who wasn't going with the flow of the world around her, but instead choosing to go against the current to have a better, happier, healthier life. I saw freedom in her. I wanted what she had.

So much of my job revolves around being connected and being online and on social media-- but my whole life doesn't have to revolved around that. I have friends that take social media free weekends or disconnect from media on their Sabbaths. I have friends that deactivate their accounts during finals weeks at school. It's possible. It's freeing.

I'm seeing a trend back toward simplicity and intentionality. I'm seeing people start to push back against the hustle and the hurry and the immediate gratification nature of our world. I'm seeing people break away from the social norms and find freedom in different ways of living, and I'm loving it.

Media may be a monster, but we have the power to tame it. Its chains don't have to hold us down or hold us back. We don't have to be captive to its callings-- we can find freedom from it and freedom even in it.