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Media addiction is killing us in 7 ways

The media is a neutral thing, neither good nor bad – it’s just raw technology. The problem is that because it is so often used in negative ways, one needs filters or one will begin to wither spiritually under its influence. To cultivate the contemplative life, you must selectively screen the …
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

The media is a neutral thing, neither good nor bad – it’s
just raw technology. The problem is that
because it is so often used in negative ways, one needs filters or one will begin
to wither spiritually under its influence.
To cultivate the contemplative life, you must selectively screen the

For many of you, this may feel like a tired subject,
especially if you’re a parent who has watched the corrosion that comes when your
kids plug their minds into the alternate reality the media creates. If you question the result of its impact,
just check out Barna’s
(citing the 30,000 acts of violence the average 23 year old will have
witnessed, or the thousands of hours of pornography) or his new book, Revolutionary

The media addiction most of us struggle with is particularly insidious because it has wormed its way into our lifestyle, perhaps without us even being awake to the fact. If you feel like you’re spinning your wheels in your relationship with God, this may well be the issue that is blocking you. I know it’s an issue for me. I love to watch movies, surf the net, and do emails. All of these media-related activities in and of themselves may be innocuous, but cumulatively, they take their toll (“as a man thinks, so is he”). And chances are, they lead you too close to the slippery slope of allowing violence, sex, and degrading lifestyles to corrupt your thought-life.

I felt led to catalog some of
the ways it can undermine your spiritual health:

1. News. We wake up and get a dose of what is called
the “News”. It should be called what it

Bad News. Yesterday

morning, for example, I read nine more soldiers were killed in Iraq. What a thing to munch on while I’m swallowing
my corn flakes. News like that colors
the way we think, it drains hope. We go
to work depressed and we don’t even know why.
Yes, stay informed, but why not focus on broad trends instead of the
drumbeat of death and depressing factoids that CNN serves up on the half hour.

2. Noise. We grow accustomed to a back drop of
noise. Our TVs, radios, and iPods are
always on. We can’t hear ourselves
think. The thoughts cruising thru our heads are not our own – they are rogue intruders bullying aside God-generated thoughts.

3. Moral decay. Our morality is under steady assault by an
entertainment industry pushing sex, violence, and profanity. We all know this, but are so awash in it,
we’ve become inured to zombies biting people’s arms off – it’s become like
elevator music.

4. A.D.D. The amazing number of media options available
to us turns us into a nation of A.D.D. channel-flippers who can’t focus on
anything for very long.

5. Mind-numbing. We are diverted from the life-giving, creative
activities like a long conversation or playing make-believe (both as children
and as adults). We trade the interactive
right-brain activities for passive, mind-numbing, left-brain activities.

6. Poor people
Our children are spending
more time in “virtual relationships” online than in real ones. We’re watching a generation growing up with
poor people skills. When we interact
with people in real life, we perceive them three ways: body, soul, and
spirit. Over the web, we just exchange
information, and the data we do exchange is often reduced to dull
sound-bite-sized packets that convey little. Myspace is impoverishing our children, rendering them ever more

7. Bad decision-making. The “un-delete” button on our computers is
protecting kids from the consequences of their actions. By protecting a generation from the effects
of its folly, we are filling the world with fools. This subtly feeds a relativistic perspective
that calls into question absolute truth.

I’ll say it again: to cultivate a contemplative life or to
have any hope of cultivating it in your children, you must develop strategies to
combat the media’s pervasive influence.
As parents, you are doubling the difficulty of your task of raising
radical Jesus-followers if you have cable TV.
I’m not saying you can’t do it; I’m just saying that it’s hard to stay
pure and “avoid every kind of evil,” as the Bible says, when you’ve got a daily tide
of murder and sex pouring into your living room.

And unrestricted internet access is even more
insidious. I am not being Chicken Little
when I say, “Parents, I can almost guarantee it will result in your boys
developing a pornography addiction.”
They simply are not equipped to practice self-restraint. And even if they are the few who manage to
steer clear of porn-sites, Myspace-type sites will introduce them to a culture
without restraint where the lowest common denominator of sexual attraction is

lingua franca of the realm.

The Bible is clear about such matters in this incisively prohibitive passage:

People are going to be
self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane,
contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending,
slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless,
bloated windbags, addicted to lust and allergic to God. They’ll make a
show of religion, but behind the scenes, they’re animals. Stay clear
of these people.
2 Timothy 3:1-5 (I might add for the modern Jesus-follower: stay clear of them even if they are “virtual people” on-line or on TV).

I don’t think I’m being prudish or reactionary here. If you aspire to being any kind of
Jesus-follower, particularly a radical one, you will either have an aggressive
strategy for dealing with the media, or the tide flowing in will eventually wash
you out to sea.

Comments (11)

  • Not all “media” (like it was a singularly run institution) is all bad. For example, I pray that this blog (part of the media) gets a record number of hits today. People need to ponder the wisdom that the Spirit has inpired you to share today on this topic.

    Wouldn’t it be great if we could “google”: “What does God want me to read, see, and hear in the media today” and be guided accordingly? As it is, I agree with the crux of your comments that we are called to be discerning and to teach discernment to our children.

  • I am not a parent but I am 23. I know and relaize the effect media has on my life. One of the ways I combat it, is trying to live more simply… I use to have a cell phone until I was spending over my budget and way to much time checking it for messages… I got rid of it… I am not saying its an answer but we need to be aware of how we are affected and how to combat it… thanks for the blog!

  • I’m reminded of something one of my professors in college would always say, “It’ll be a sad day when the only thing in the news is ‘good news’” As it is the job of the “news” be it television, magazines, newspapers or whatever outlet, to report and tell the stories that are not common everyday occurances. While it seems everyday we do get reports of people being killed at war, or political uprises in various countries, they can still be viewed as “abnormal” events as they are not happening all the time. It may appear to be that way because that is all that is put in our face but that’s what draws attention and gets people’s attention because of our fascination with the abnormal. Good news is boring because that kind of stuff happens too often even though it may seem the bad is dominant.

    As things continue to shift towards that way though, it becomes ever more important for us to remember why we are doing what we’re doing (not just the media team but all of us) so that the “good” things that go on in the world do not become the majority of the news. It sounds strange to say that but it’s to the point of where 50 people following the Lord around the world for a year becomes such a common occurance that it’s not news anymore, then I’m alright with that. It truly would be a sad day when the only thing in the news is “good news.”

  • This article inspired me just now, so I am led to comment. This article came up second in a search for “add addiction to media” as I was curious to see what people were writing. Also I was curious to see if anyone actually treated it as a bona fide addiction complete with 12 step gruops, etc.

    I have more than a passive interest in this as TV has a more powerful influence on me than most. People can be conditioned to have symptoms of what modern medicine has labeled “ADD”. I think it’s unfortunate that a way of being is labeled as a disorder and treated like any common illness for no other apparent reason than it’s statistical rarety and the social problems it creates starting in the classroom. I don’t bring that up to digress into a discussion about ADD, but just to say that as someone who struggles with the ‘symptoms’ of this ‘disorder’, I don’t think it’s any coincidence that I am more suseptable to the influences of TV than most.

    I’m probably more susceptible to all media as well, but TV is particularly noticible because it is 100% passive.

    Anyways, you open your article talking about the nutrality of the technology of media. Generally, this is probably mostly true, and in the interest of writing a useful article, it’s a good starting point. I just thought you might be interested in a different point of view.

    I have been reading a book “Four Arguments of the Elimination of Television” which was written by Gerry Mander (yes, that is his given name) and published in 1978. Though some details are dated, Gerry argues that the technology itself is suited primarily for selling and even for controlling the masses. He argues that technology is not neutral. For instance, is the technology behind a gun neutral?

    On the surface, this may seem like a radical piece of literature, but what I have found in reading it is that the book is about much more than televison and reads more like a commentary on American culture, government, and economic trends as well as the global economy at large. It just happens to focus on television and it’s role in it all.

    I’d highly recommend this book. It’s very inexpensive, and it doesn’t read as dryly as the title might lead you to believe. Actually I think you might find it riviting. It can usually be had used for less than $5 on amazon. Even if you don’t read it, it’s good reference to have for your writing for the bibilgraphy:


  • I am so glad I came across this sharing. Though I have not done very much with it, I am a writer and (used to) enjoy drama a lot. I was a jaded 18hr a day theatre movie junkie before the Lord Jesus by his maercy pulled me out. I had my face pasted onto the (then) black and white tv screen of the 1980s and ’90s. As soon as I got saved, I totally turned away from the tube, and the Sunday paper.

    I am a child of God who happens to be an African Kenyan. And I thank you, sister Beth, for your wonderful sharing.I have read others’ comments and commend them for their responses. I would like to suggest that what Sis. Beth was sharing was about the simplicity we have – or should exhibit- in Jesus. One of the things we followers of Christ are called to is less the use of comparative argumentation, and, instead, remain simple, innocent and true. The media first takes away our spiritual virginity and rapes our inner man. More and more ‘Christian’ are talking and living the way of the world, from a mind that has been re-carnalized by media. In my country (Kenya) the whole tv-owning population is mesmerized by the most inane, stupid and rank immorally sexual movies from Nigeria. Kenyans, over the last three or so years, has joined in tv-movie production. Now, Kenya, as not many know (including Kenyans themselves) is a clone of the USA – copies and eats and adopts everything American – from the false gospel of TBN through local Family TV owned and run by people who are not born again, to the money-chasing, fake gospel artistes (they no longer call themselves Christians, except in signing off), to televised hamburgers at ever-increasing fake-fsat-foods franchise centers, to ‘Christians’ doing belly-and-pelvic thrusting dances in sex dens called night clubs, because all this constitutes the now over 90% media entertainment. The internet-enabled and smart phones have invaded the country to the point where kids are now staring at the small screen under blankets for pornography.

    The Kenyan is, by dint of this ‘addiction’ (evil) becoming a literal zombie as the media pushes in ever-escalating decibels the manipulatively created fear by politicians who now wallow in competition for media celebrity, as well as the more dangerous scheming of violence, hatred, despair, confusion and inward terror. Since the media reports in exaggerated, and biased ways, Kenyans look out for the WORST, then copy it.

    Yes, there is more to the media than an intellectual response. It is death, and it already is causing the pain of depressive suicide and familicide at levels not imaginable in 2000.

    Sis, keep telling it. The media is not what we glibly think it is. There si no defence for it, and Christ Jesus would never have used it, I know, if he had come for the first time this year.

    There is only one News: Christ, Daily. If anyone is getting upset by that, he is none of his.

    God bless you!


  • Media addiction, is a major issue and needs considerable attention and the faster action we take against it the better will the future be.

  • I am concerned about someone who is “media addicted”, and I often forget we are not to judge others …”let him (or her) that is without sin …..”
    But it is so sad that it means so little use of the gifts of God as as with all addictions , wastes precious timw which could be used using God’s gifts(talents) to us. God Bless, Caroline

  • I AM NOT ADDICTED TO PORNOGRAPHY. I CAN STOP WHENEVER I WANT…… just not this weekend. I do love it though… espacially gay porn, with black guys mmmm. Fuck Tim

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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