April 2012 will go down in history as the month our family lived without media. Some might wonder if the members of the family will even survive. But I’m hopeful that we won’t just survive; I trust we will be refreshed, revived, and redirected for many months to come. But it’s still an unusual concept in our modern culture.
When I started telling friends and family that we were planning this 30-day media fast, the questions started flying.
“What is a media fast?”
“Is this for the whole family, or just the kids?”
“Won’t your kids revolt and make your life miserable for a whole month?”
Although this isn’t the first time we have gone without television (over the past 16+ years, 6 of those years were TV-free), this is the first time we have done a total media fast; no TV, no Internet, no gaming. And our kids are old enough now to have had some history in all those media areas. It is going to be difficult. And that’s precisely why my wife and I knew we needed to take a break.
Media influence seems subtle, until you unplug for a while. Then you realize just how much you had been drowning in it. And how much it steers us off course from God’s best for us. From sports to movies to cartoons and HGTV, the overriding message of media is that you and I deserve to be entertained and pleased. And media then promises to deliver that entitlement.
This message of entitlement can be very dangerous for someone trying to recover from sexually addictive patterns. After all, the paradigm of lust is exactly the same: give me what I want, when I want it, and anything that stands in my way of getting it will pay. So when this person enters recovery and begins to set up boundaries and discover the benefits of saying no to temptation and yes to godliness, there’s this big, yet unseen, monster fighting that process much of the way: media.
Before you assume that I have taken a sledge hammer to my television and started a website Media-is-evil-and-must-be-destroyed-for-the-devil-it-is.com, I have nothing against technology or even the mediums by which it is delivered. The primary issue for me is content and quantity. Is media a tool or is it an idol?
Tools are useful instruments that improve the effectiveness of a mission. Their use is dictated by the mission and specific tasks. Idols, on the other hand, are ungodly ideas and influences that determine one’s mission and dictate how one is to live. Tools are good. Idols are evil. When it comes to media, these lines have often been blurred. A media fast can help bring back clarity.
I can’t make you go on a media fast. And I wouldn’t be upset with anyone if they didn’t. I simply want to offer a suggestion to anyone who might be feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the screens surrounding them. Take a break. Hit the off button. Rediscover fresh air, a rolling meadow, a bubbling brook, a slow sunset. See what might happen in your relationships and to your attention span if you just unplugged from the insane pace of media for a season. You might find out that life goes on outside the screens. In fact, you might find that’s where real life has been all along…
(P.S. God’s voice often comes in clearer, too, when the noise in life is turned down…or off.)