“Distracted from distraction by distraction.”
—T. S. Eliot
Media throughout the ages has always had a pull on our attention, and I’m not one who would say that’s always a bad thing. Experiences normally categorized as entertainment can be refreshing and moving. Entertainment can help build empathy, knowledge, and connection and can even have a profoundly positive impact on our lives.
But the media we’re experiencing today given its increasing availability, the number of screens we’re surrounded by, and the increasingly addictive nature of social media needs a massive amount of intentionality, self-awareness, and self-discipline if we are to be healthy and whole humans while we consume it.
We need to look no further than our own lives to see the negative effects of social media.
For your own edification, how many minutes or hours do you wish you spent on social media a day, or a week? Take a quick look at your app usage. How many minutes or hours do you actually spend on media platforms?
Where is media adding value to your life currently? And in what ways is media having a negative impact on you?
How is media affecting your stress and anxiety levels? How is media breeding comparison? Is media keeping you from the real world, like time with your spouse, with your children, or with your community?
Is your media consumption affecting your ability to get to sleep when you’d prefer?
The goal in crafting intentionality truly is knowing yourself, your tendencies, your desires, and your goals and simply putting media in its proper place.
To share my personal experience, a few years ago I made the decision to delete my social media accounts and mostly disengage from social media companies. Knowing myself, I just wasn’t able to craft a healthy relationship with these addictive platforms with any access or experience with them.
I didn’t like the pull to pick up my phone whenever I had a quiet moment. I didn’t like the comparison I felt scrolling through the feeds of people I wanted to emulate. I didn’t like the question of whether or not I should be taking photos or videos of my experiences instead of being fully present in the moment.
My wife, however, genuinely cultivates meaningful relationships through social media. She loves staying connected with her friends and family and loves sharing the hilarious things our kids do, and it mostly adds positive meaning and interaction to her life.
With other media, I seek to limit my news consumption in the morning and limit television and movies in the evening and weekends so they don’t interfere with my time alone with God or my rhythms before sleep.
Setting alarms can be incredibly helpful if you want to give only a certain portion of your time and attention to media. Sometimes, an audible reminder that your time is up can help you make the decision to exit what can be an addictive experience.
The point is, all of us are wired differently. In aggregate, modern media seems to be creating a fair amount of harm, but your decisions don’t need to be made based on the aggregate.
I believe it’s helpful to have caution when it comes to media, to use media for your purposes rather than be used for its purposes.
But as you venture into creating intentionality for your media consumption, I want to encourage you to do so out of passion and desire rather than fear or doubt.
Take an honest look at your media consumption habits. Think about the positive and negative effects. Think and pray about what you want out of life, and what you feel most called to.
With courage, choose to create an intentionality that will most help you take hold of the good and leave behind the bad of media consumption.
Here are a few helpful tips for becoming more intentional with your media consumption:
Set an alarm.
Media platforms are too addictive to engage in them without a plan for disengaging. Setting an alarm can serve as an audible reminder to spend only as long as we intend consuming media.
Curate your own experience.
Instead of allowing media platforms to curate your experience with more and more suggested content, only engage with those people and those shows that are sincerely meaningful for you. If you notice a media platform consistently pulling you into meaningless content, or even inciting anger or outrage in your mind and heart, make changes with what content you see on those platforms.
Leave your phone far from your bed or outside of your room.
It can be too tempting to begin your day with media and end your day with media, and those rhythms make it really difficult to start and end your day meaningfully. Get a true alarm clock and choose to leave your phone away from your bed.