Staying Awake in a Digital Wonderland
Last year, Netflix users collectively consumed over 1 billion hours of content per week. The average Instagram user spends 53 minutes a day scrolling through photos of friends and, other people. Facebook usage is similar, clocking in at around an hour every day on average. In total, the typical American is spending 3-4 hours per day consuming some kind of media content. Think about yourself for a moment. Where do you fall in that spectrum?
Now, while the amount of time we spend consuming media may be telling, I’m actually more interested in WHY and HOW. If you’re like me, and you really stop to analyze it, perhaps you’ll notice you find yourself drawn to towards mindless vegetable status when you’re feeling overwhelmed with responsibilities, particularly anxious about something, or unsatisfied with a certain area of your life. But in the moment, we don’t usually realize that. In the moment, we say things like, “ugh, I just need to veg tonight” or likely even more common, we don’t say anything at all. We merely turn to our media of choice out of habit, the routes well-worn in our neural pathways.
And when we’re in that state of mind, how do you think most of us engage with that media, whether watching or scrolling? I can tell you that oftentimes for me, it’s not altogether active, alert, and discerning… truly awake. What does the Bible have to say about this?
In 1 Thessalonians chapter 5, the apostle Paul is writing to a group of Christians about what to expect in the future, specifically about when Jesus comes back. He’s talking about how we live in this world, knowing that there is an expiration date on this portion of history. He says this, “We are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober… But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. (1 These 5:5-8)”
So just like Pastor Jonathan preached on back in Mark 14, our charge is to stay awake. Not to stumble through life in a digitally-induced coma. To be sober: clear-headed, thoughtful, alert. We put on the spiritual armor of faith, love, and hope - trusting in Jesus our King as our great hope in this world and channeling His love for us towards those around us.
So, does this mean all of us need to delete our Netflix, Instagram, and Facebook or ESPN accounts? For some of us, perhaps a fast or sustained break would be best for our souls, to allow us to wake up. But for most of us, the charge is to step back, fully awake, and examine our approach to media with a sober mind in the context of what is truly satisfying - namely, the One who holds pleasures forevermore at His right hand. And this reminds us of our need to confess our sins.