Three Questions to Ask Yourself About Media
Harvard-affiliated psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair observed, “Children have to know that life is fine off the screen. It’s interesting and good to be curious about other people, to learn how to listen. It teaches them social and emotional intelligence, which is critical for success in life.”
It is easy to let the Technology Age envelop us. A sweeping glance at day-to-day life will exhibit screens every direction you turn. TV, Internet, smartphones, iPods … the list is endless.
Are the advances in technology truly amazing? The number of lives that are rescued due to medical information available at a swipe and the amount of time that is saved by looking at a GPS instead of circling neighborhoods for hours reveal feats unmatched by any previous accomplishments of mankind.
However, as Pope Francis has remarked numerous times, with this great power of technology comes a grave obligation to uphold traditional values that have fallen by the wayside in today’s culture.
We should examine our own usage of technology and ask ourselves several crucial questions about what we daily absorb.
Is It True?
This may be the most important question we ask ourselves about the influx of information we are receiving through our various devices. Our senses are being slammed with information before we have time to evaluate the veracity, which can be dangerous.
In Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis reminds us, “In the prevailing culture, priority is given to the outward, the immediate, the visible, the quick, the superficial and the provisional. What is real gives way to appearances.” Whether we desire it or not, our minds are likely to be influenced by what we constantly fill them with, and this may happen without our realization.
Unfortunately, many of the lies presented to us on the Internet, in movies and on “reality” TV shows are laced with truths, making them difficult to identify. Television commercials play on our emotions; social-media ads reflect what our search engine’s history has recorded; the glorification of the body and the “me” mentality secretly permeate our thoughts and may influence our actions through the screen before we know what is happening.
Pope Francis again gives evidence to this danger in Evangelii Gaudium, saying, “We are living in an information-driven society, which bombards us indiscriminately with data — all treated as being of equal importance — and which leads to remarkable superficiality in the area of moral discernment. In response, we need to provide an education which teaches critical thinking and encourages the development of mature moral values.”
This is why taking a step back and critically examining whether the presented lifestyles or the enticing images we admittedly find ourselves admiring, desiring and seeking after are even founded in reality. If not, they should be shunned, for they do not correspond to God, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Is It Good?
Again, we find ourselves pondering another conundrum.
Is the technology we constantly utilize good?
Much of the information available online is good, many movies are uplifting, and communication in its various forms can be invaluable.
So where is the peril?
Matthew Warner, on his blog TheRadicalLife.org, mentions that the most dangerous things in life are actually those which are good, in and of themselves. However, they can be a danger when they are not properly directed. He says these good things can divert us “if the good distracts you from why you’re here. When all those good things become the end goal in themselves, rather than simply a means to our ultimate end, they become bad. They become only busyness.”
Pope Francis’ recent visit to Sarajevo encompassed this theme of technological responsibility, when he told the youth there, “I understand that times have changed, and we live in the era of images. However, we should do the same today as we did in the time of books: choose that which serves for good.”
He himself has given up watching television and has resumed reading as an alternative.
That the Holy Father is specifically addressing this issue shows that it is a growing concern for all of us in modern society.
This brings us to the final question to consider.
Is It Purposeful?
Last but not least, we should be asking ourselves about what matters the most: “Is this helping me on my path towards eternal life?”
To determine this when we are online, we should stop ourselves before we click — and examine our intentions. If we are searching for useful information or reading articles to better our understanding of God’s creation and other good topics, then our inquisitiveness is justified. If we are trying to satisfy curiosity, or boredom is getting the better of us, maybe it would be better for us to limit our Internet intake.
The same can be said of constant phone use. Are we sending texts to stay connected? Or to distract ourselves from the daily duties we are being called to fulfill?
Internet and phone usage can become a huge waste of time quickly, if not held in check. Blogger Warner has a good perspective on how the lack of time in our lives is due to the fact that our priorities may not be in proper order: “It is actually my lack of prayer that causes my lack of time. This seems contradictory, of course. More time praying would mean less time for other things. But the point is that if we are praying enough, we begin to clearly see God’s plan for us today. And it just so happens that he’s provided plenty of time for it. It’s all the other stuff we try to cram in instead that we don’t have time for. You don’t have time for both your plan and God’s. You must choose what you want more.”
In a more affirmative light, technology can be beneficial for ourselves and for others in a way previously unknown to mankind.
Using technology to spread the Gospel and to deepen our own understanding of the faith is truly living out the New Evangelization in one of the best possible ways in modern society.
Brandon Vogt, at WordonFire.org, calls the new media a huge advantage to the spiritual life, because they provide us with “tools (which) are tremendous vehicles for evangelization, allowing us to invite millions of people who would never enter a church to encounter Christ, but it’s also because they allow unprecedented ways to study the Scriptures and Church teachings.”
So, is media use holding you back or allowing you to grow in holiness?
Liz Beller writes from
Front Royal, Virginia.