Over the years I have found that binge watching too much media is one of those secret sins Christians often wish to ignore. Almost no one I know would happily confess, “Why yes, I waste countless hours of my life watching too much TV, and I’m pretty proud of it too!” Instead, we dismiss what we do. We compare ourselves to the neighbor or friend we know who watches some form of media 8 hours a day and say to ourselves, “At least we’re not THAT bad.”
Full disclosure: Janan and I disconnected our cable over a year ago and have not had a TV set up in our home for several months now (In part because we wanted to limit our new baby’s screen time). I did this more for my sake than for hers. Janan is pretty disciplined. I struggle more in this area. I am by nature a binger. Janan will tell you the same thing. I can go hours without eating and it’s no problem. But then when I start I can eat the whole house! This nature of mine explains why I have chosen not to do a lot of the things that I do. It explains in part why Janan and I do not have alcohol around the house. If we did, chances are at some point I would get myself into trouble (But that is a whole different discussion!).
Maybe you are like me and you’ve had your struggles in this area. If so, the last thing I want to do is offer some “holier than thou guilt trip” and talk about all of the ways you could get your priorities in order.
Truth be told, the more I get around people, the more I realize watching too much media is not limited to one group of people. It is not limited to the couch potato who does not get a job and stays home all day. This applies to the aspiring CEO, the energetic Life Coach, and yes, the Pastor. All of these might seem to have their life in order from 7 AM – 5 PM but live a life that is totally undisciplined when they enter into their “off hours” behind the big screen.
With that in mind, here are 5 tips that have helped me in this battle and hopefully they are of help to you as well!
1) Recognize the Addictive Nature of Media.
Watching media is quite literally like a drug. It stimulates our brains. There is a reason video creators on YouTube and Facebook tend to keep clips only 3-10 minutes in length and create channels that automatically flip to the next video. Have you ever caught yourself going from watching a cat video, to a Mythbusters episode, to a mystery movie? You never would have planned that sequence, but that was what popped up in your feed. This brings me to my second point.
2) Plan What You Want to Watch.
I took this advice from my pastor, Troy Keaton. Consistently, I find that the times that I come away from watching something feeling unfulfilled are those unplanned times of binging. Janan and I can sit down and watch a movie together, or I can take in a hockey game and find that enjoyable. But mindlessly surfing is unfulfilling.
3) Choose Recreation, Not Amusement.
This principle came from Janan’s professor in college, Randall McElwain. “Muse” in amusement means “to think,” and “a” means “the opposite of.” Thus, amusement, in the truest sense of the word, means not to think. But recreation is different. It recreates you. It refreshes your spirit and leaves you feeling regenerated. It’s the difference between the nasty blah feeling of “We’ve got to stop watching so much” compared to “Wow, that really challenged me to better do what God has called me to do.”
4) Keep Accountable.
Find someone who can check up on you every week and ask you the tough questions. I do this. Everyone should do this. And not just for media.
5) Fill Up With God First.
You are most susceptible to filling up on spiritual junk when your spirit is empty. It’s tough to sit down for an evening of binge watching when you have spent meaningful time with God. For some reason, eating a bag of potato chips is less appealing after a rigorous workout and nourishing supper. The same applies to media. The more we have filled up with God, the less amount of time we will want to spend binge-watching on Netflix.
Do you struggle with watching too much media? You’re not alone! But what are you going to do this year to make a change?
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