Week Four – Fasting Media
by Lindsay Stevenson
As we journey through Lent together and focus intentionally on these different topics and fasts, we look inward at our individual hearts and ways of thinking that need renewal. While we do this internal work however, we are also mindful that this all matters because we are part of the expansive Kingdom of God and that this internal work contributes to who we are collectively as people of God.
Our use of media, in all its forms, can seem like simply a personal choice but the technological advances and access to media is one of the most transformative things that has shaped society as a whole. All of us rely on various forms of media to do our jobs, connect with friends, and stay informed. These are all good and needed things that make our days easier and more engaging. The temptation of our media use though is excess. Like all good things, we have a tendency to want more of it.
When I’m not intentional or aware of how much media I’m consuming I often find myself feeling anxious or unfocused. There have been times that in a 30 minute period I’ve read a news article, responded to texts, deleted emails, ordered something from Amazon, and scrolled Instagram all while a podcast played in the background. #thestruggleisreal. Our days can quickly be filled with noise and distraction, but I believe our souls and mental well-being suffer if we are not also creating space for quiet, connection, and rest as well. For all the ways we add media to our days, we have to ask “what is it replacing and what are we forfeiting?“.
The world is at our fingertips and it is tempting to fill the void of silence with distraction. Perhaps unintentionally we’ve become uncomfortable with quiet. The constant stream of information and noise distracts us from having to face or work through hard feelings and personal struggles. Many reports have shown that children/teenagers who have grown up in this digital age are showing more signs of anxiety and depression than ever before. Researchers see a correlation in excessive media use to avoid negative feelings as one of the leading reasons for the lack of development of emotional regulation. Perhaps the most socially accepted addiction and numbing mechanism has become our media use and we are suffering because of it.
We are caretakers of our beautiful souls. We were made with complex emotions and internal processes that God uses to speak to us. Paying attention to those thoughts, feelings, questions, and fears opens up space within us to hear from God. We can easily push them aside but we lose a deep sense of connection to our creator in the process. Madeleine L’Engle said, “When I am constantly running there is no time for being. When there is no time for being, there is no time for listening.” When we give our souls room to breathe, we make room to notice the hand of God in our daily lives.
How we use media is in part how we use our time and that matters because it affects how we are present to the people and world around us. When we consciously practice the art of paying attention, we notice the beauty and the pain. We see the flower in bloom or the neighbor who is lonely and these things in turn help us be more present to God and the needs of his kingdom.
As we fast this week, we can use this time to ask God what he wants to teach us and to point us towards noticing the beauty and needs around us and within us without distraction. Let us be people of purpose when it comes to how we consume media. Let’s pay attention to how much and what we are turning our attention to daily. Here are five questions to help guide our thoughts this week:
- Am I using media as a distraction from certain feelings or emotions?
- How much time am I actually spending online/watching T.V./gaming?
- Am I nurturing relationships in person as much as I am connecting with people online?
- How does my use of social media make me feel? Discontent, relaxed, anxious, happy?
- Are the articles/ news reports I watch/read helping me be informed or are they also causing more harm than good in my emotions and response to others?
This week try replacing the time you would have spent on the media that you are fasting from with a practice that connects you more to God or your community. Here are some ideas:
- Go on a walk without headphones as a way of paying attention to creation and your community.
- Write a note to a friend.
- Meet someone new for coffee.
- End your day by writing 3 things you are thankful for that day.
- Read a book.
- Start your day with a few minutes of silence instead of scrolling your phone.
- Journal a prayer.
- Play a board game as a family.
Prayer: Dear God, remind us of your desire for relationship with us. Help us to be people who are present and fully awake to your kingdom. Thank you for the many ways you speak into our lives and may we learn to pay attention. We bring our desires for approval, longings, fears, and questions into your loving presence. Amen.
Lindsay is a former elementary and preschool teacher who now leads the Children’s Ministry program at Ekklesia. She is married to Luke and has two children, Nathan and Lydia. She believes strongly in doing simple acts of love right where you are.
Articles & Resources
- Create a Family Media Plan — www.healthychildren.org
- Digital Media: Anxiety & Depression in Children — journal article Pediatrics
- Sacred Rhythms – Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation — by Ruth Haley Barton
- Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World — by Cal Newport
- Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants — by Dennis Okholm