Does your phone give God glory? Is it a crutch you use to “check out” of life, or is it a tool helping you to “check in” with people and resources that help you grow closer to God?
What’s Your Media Intake Like?
This question about keeping priorities straight has been on my mind a lot lately. Reflecting on it has helped me to make better choices on what I spend time consuming throughout the day, and I don’t just mean social media.
A while back (you know, before 2020 happened), I made an effort to follow the news. Learning what is going on in the world is a good thing. However, with COVID-19, protests, and an election, I’ve gotten sucked into the daily news, grasping for as many specific details of world and national events as I can.
Unfortunately, it isn’t too often that this news provides me with the answers I am looking for. Instead, I am left with even more questions. I noticed that reading the news instills in me more fear than hope, so I need to be careful in how I consume it.
The happy medium I’ve found for right now is informing myself from sites that I know are well-renowned and respected. For example, for health concerns I’ll call my doctor or research a topic on a health website I trust. For current events I listen to a daily podcast (more on that later) and also look for what the Catholic voice is saying in our local Catholic newspaper. I also visit a website every Friday to see a summary of some of the biggest events that took place throughout the week. This helps me to stay informed, but not be bogged down with minute-by-minute updates.
Binging on Netflix is rarely a good thing, but there’s nothing wrong with having a favorite TV show or two. Before getting married I hardly ever turned the TV on, but now one of my favorite ways to spend an evening with my husband is by building a charcuterie board, pouring glasses of wine, and watching an episode of one of our favorites series.
I often ask myself if watching TV is a healthy way for us to spend time together, especially when our latest favorite is the series by BBC, The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes. So when my husband and I do watch a show, I ask myself the question “Is this habit unhealthy and in need of reordering, or is this something that is benefitting our marriage?”
What I have found is that our TV watching hasn’t become unhealthy. We don’t watch TV every night, when we do we are generally watching for less than an hour, it’s not the only way we spend time with each other, and it actually generates good conversations between us.
As a writer, I have a special love for reading articles. I have a list of sites that I aim to read daily. One is for my spiritual life (thank you, Blessed is She), another for married life, and one more for mama life. This is where I really try to stay.
While I have some personal blogs I enjoy checking in on, I know that when I pull their page up I have to be guarded. While they are beautiful, the photos are often posed, edited, and/or everything looks picture perfect. For me, it is so. easy. to. compare. In this area, I need a healthy dose of self-knowledge, and I try to stick to what I know will help me grow in my belovedness as a daughter of God, a holy, loving wife, and a joyful mama.
For my husband and I, watching movies is a rare occurrence. We find that when we try to squeeze a movie into our night, it tends to limit the time spent on other things we value. When we do watch a movie, we put a lot of thought into it. There is an understanding between us that we will not choose to watch anything that we know will make it hard to say no to temptation.
Usually our favorite movie nights are documentaries, comedies, and movies based on real events.
If I look honestly at my music choices, I cannot say that I only choose the most virtuous lyrics to listen to. There’s definitely some catchy songs, whether they be pop or country, that I love to crank the volume up for, despite the crassness or angsty lyrics. What keeps me in check is my one-year old daughter. Right now I know that she can’t understand the words, but as she grows, I don’t want her mind to be infused with negative messages.
But you don’t need to wait until you have a child to clean up the music you listen to. As I’ve started cutting out negative lyrics, I’m realizing how much power the words we listen to are, even if we tell ourselves otherwise.
Each year I create a playlist for the year, and my “2020” playlist has songs including clean, fun pop songs, love ballads, and praise and worship. Now this playlist includes soul-friendly go-to’s that divert my daughter’s carseat tears into smiles, which is a win win for everyone.
I listen to podcasts daily, so this is one which was really important for me to filter so I actually have time to listen to them. My podcast priorities are similar to that of the list of the daily websites I check in with. One podcast on recent national and international news, another is a discussion of socioeconomic issues, and a couple of podcasts I listen to help me deepen my relationship with the Lord.
While each of these podcasts is personally enriching on several levels, I do have to check myself in terms of when I tune in to them. The podcasts I listen to won’t be fruitful if I am putting the show host as my first priority, rather than the person in front of me.
For example, sometimes I try to listen while cleaning the house, but I need to be mindful of pausing the episode when my husband walks into the room so that I can be present to him. What I’ve found is that the best time for me to invest my time in learning from the show hosts is by putting headphones in when my daughter and I go for our daily walks. She is happy watching nature, and I have a solid half hour to really focus on the topic.
Here’s a list of some favorite Catholic podcasts!
The Who, What, Where, and When
Who are you listening to and reading, and do you feel uplifted after doing so, or do you feel deflated?
What are you watching on your screens? Is it something that rejuvenates you or does it feel like you’re getting pulled into a black hole?
Where are you when you’re listening to a podcast or scrolling through the news? Is it an appropriate time set aside, or does it become a wall between you and whoever is around you?
When are you focused on these things, does your prayer come first, or does scrolling through the news become your instinct when your morning alarm goes off?
Take the time to evaluate the who, what, where, and when of what you are intaking. What is God asking you to prioritize?
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