Recently, I had an experience where my eyes were opened firsthand to the influence that media has on children. A child doesn’t understand the damage that the images and sounds in the media can imprint upon him, or even how it could be wiring his brain differently. Playing with a parent’s phone, or flipping the radio stations, could quickly lead the child down a dark road. As adults, we are likewise bombarded every day by sights, sounds, and the messages conveyed by these – the difference is our awareness of the evils that media can present. However, awareness does not grant us immunity. The problem is, usually it isn’t until it is too late that we realize the damage done. Even worse, we may be so accustomed to the role that media plays in our lives that our souls are deadened to the negative affects heaved upon us.
It could be said that electronics have become idols in many homes. Have you ever noticed how many people give the television the place of honor in the home? It is often in the center of the room. Before leaving the house, most of us double check to make sure we have our phones or other communication devices of choice. These things take priority in our lives, while we might think it’s no big deal to miss a day of morning or evening prayer. I can pray tomorrow, might be your reasoning. Think about what would happen if you lost your phone, tablet, computer….Would you be able to manage a day without it? Our relationship with God should be much more important than any electronic device. Do you gaze more at the glowing screen than at the face of Christ in the Eucharist? What about the children you’ve been given charge of, or the friend that needs your attention – are you able to give them your full attention without glancing at your phone to read your latest incoming text? Posting status updates, opinionated tweets, and carefully crafted Instagrams can be a pathway to narcissism.
Media presents a choice to us: life or death, spiritually speaking. This comes in different forms. The amount of time you spend watching TV or surfing the web is one way in which this choice is evident. We do not realize how much time we spend each day on media. Another obvious way of choosing death through the use of media is to seek out sinful things, such as pornography or websites that defame another person. On the other hand, you could use media to read theological articles or research ways to help earthquake survivors in Nepal. There are many apps that are useful for prayer and the Bible is even online! These are good things. Ultimately, though, we must be careful that we are not living too much in a virtual world and that our relationships with Jesus Christ and the people in our lives are being nurtured. We can’t let news, music, or our favorite TV show crowd out the most important things.
Though the media can pose many temptations, thankfully there are also many wonderful uses. The Laudate app contains a wealth of resources, including the Liturgy of the Hours, prayers in Latin and English, and a daily interactive Rosary. Bible Gateway is a website where you can search the Bible and even choose which translation you would like to use. The Catechism is also online, as well as Papal letters and encyclicals.
As with anything, media use is something to take to prayer and even a trusted spiritual advisor, if necessary. There are a few heavenly friends who may be of great help in this area. St. Clare is the patroness of television. Blessed James Alberione, founder of the Society of St. Paul, would also be a great one, or Venerable Mother Thecla Merlo, its co-founder. Now the Daughters of St. Paul promote positive media in many forms and create edifying books, CDs, and more to bring God’s love to the people. St. Clare, pray for us! Blessed James Alberione and Venerable Mother Thecla Merlo, pray for us!