Cutting Through the Noise

For young adults, about a third of the time we’re awake, we’re on our phones. Whether we’re checking e-mails, sending texts, updating social media or talking to people, phones are being used on average five times every hour.

Today's world surrounds us with media. TV shows, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter take up more time during the day than we realize. So how much time should we really spend interacting with all the media around us? What does God say about the time we spend consuming media? 

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.
— Genesis 2:2

God gives us the example of working six days of the week and spending the seventh day in relaxation and rejuvenation, preparing for the week to come. He spent six days in creation and one day in recreation. But in today's world, the average American dedicates almost ten hours a day to screen time. That's almost 40 percent of our day! 

What would happen if we were to only spend 1/7 of our time in recreation? 

Even if we cut back our media consumption to just 1/7 of our week, that still leaves us 24 hours for recreation, which isn't a small amount of time. 

Our goal in this life is ultimately Heaven, not pleasure. But a lot of the times, we choose our media entertainment with pleasure, not eternity, in mind. We choose to consume media instead of facing silence. 

Why are we so afraid of silence? Perhaps it's because, we know that if we sit in the silence long enough, the life that we’re living is going to catch up with us. We’ll find out that the lie that today’s media has sold us isn’t making us happy. We’re not content, even though we’re surrounded by a barrage of media that promises happiness.

Noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples, and impossible desires. We will make the whole universe a noise in the end. We have already made great strides in this direction as regards the Earth. The melodies and silences of Heaven will be shouted down in the end. But I admit we are not yet loud enough, or anything like it. Research is in progress.
— C.S. Lewis, "The Screwtape Letters"

Cutting back our media time would also force us to be more intentional. If we're only consuming 24 hours of media a week, we're much more likely to choose something we enjoy rather than something that’s convenient. If we're only watching one TV show instead of four, we're more likely to pick the wholesome one that leaves a positive change in our lives.

Another side effect of unintentional media consumption is that we can become desensitized. If we’re surrounded by violence and gore at every turn thanks to consuming vast amounts of violent media, it doesn’t bother us as much as it did in the beginning. If we listen to songs that objectify fellow humans and robs them of their dignity, we’re less likely to be shocked when someone around us is objectified.

So what is the secret to intentional, wholesome media consumption? We have to turn down the volume - both the noise level and the quantity of media in our lives.  

The point of this article isn't to encourage you to go smash your cell phone with a hammer after you've finished. Media can be good - but we have to ask ourselves if we are consuming media or if media is consuming us. We have to approach opportunities for recreation with a critical eye and choose entertainment that affects us in a positive way. Every kind of media we consume should make us better, push us closer to Christ and our ultimate goal of Heaven. You don’t have to run away from media, but you should approach it with intentionality.

We've had great encouragement for healthy media usage from the Church. Pope Francis has mentioned this before, and he’s not the first Catholic pope to say that media can be a tool used for the glory of God. In his message on World Communications Day, Pope Francis said: "The world of communications can help us either to expand our knowledge or to lose our bearings.  The desire for digital connectivity can have the effect of isolating us from our neighbors, from those closest to us." 

Today, I challenge you to take a step back and be conscious of how much media you're consuming. Is it near that 1/7 sweet spot? Or are you using media to turn up the volume and escape from silence?

Clear away time out of your schedule and take a break from the constant noise of media. But don’t use that time just to take up a new hobby, or finish your to-do list. Clear time away and invite Christ into the new, quiet time in your schedule. By turning down the volume of our daily life, we'll be able to hear His voice and grow closer to Christ Himself. 

Chloe LangrComment