Does the media we surround ourselves with matter?
This question is one that's long plagued me if I'm being fully transparent. No matter what the media be, music, movies, jokes, or even social media, I have struggled to find the balance between what’s appropriate and what I should steer clear of. Maybe this is easier for you to follow than I, but I imagine many of you have a similar struggle with the media being handed to us in today’s culture.
First, I think it’s important we distinguish whether the media we surround ourselves with every day is truly something worth discerning. You may of heard of a common saying,
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
Whether we’ve seen this phrase in action, personally, or at a distance, I think we all can agree that it holds some truth. Maybe it’s because we surround ourselves with like minded people naturally, but maybe it’s more complex. Personally, I see the interests, practices, and habits of my friends bleed into my own life. If I see them being passionate about work, it makes me want to match their level of passion. Likewise, if I see them slacking off and “having fun,” it makes me want to ditch the hard work and follow suit. This temptation doesn’t mean that I, or any of us for that matter, are weak. It is truly human nature to morph into whatever you spend the most time with, and if this is true then the media we surround ourselves with must matter.
For the sake of this reflection, I will focus on music and movies - if you’d like more of a discussion on social media, make sure to check out our past podcast Scrolling Through Life. The fine line I mentioned earlier is one that I haven’t perfected, but I believe it is still worth considering with both of these media in mind. Growing up, I would often get scolded by my parents for the explicit music that they would find me listening to. I remember them finding me working out to various songs discussing all sorts of vices and say, “If you keep listening to this stuff, soon you’ll begin to normalize these evils in your head.” Being an angsty teen I shrugged them off for not understanding today’s culture. That was until their prediction came true through my sinful actions. Now I’m not saying music causes me to sin, but it did normalize actions that I knew were inherently wrong. The same is true of our relationship with movies. Many scenes are portrayed in movies that normalize actions that as Christians we cannot stand by. It can be anything from sex, drugs, or even they way the characters treat their fellow humans. We listen and watch these things, taking in every ounce of them, and expect ourselves to have the strength to not be formed into these figments of our imagination of what a “normal” person is.
So where is the balance? If you’ve been told to consider your media surroundings before, you have probably reached the frustration that I often face: does this mean I have to change all the content I consume right now? Now I want to scream this answer from the rooftops: NO! It is true, not all of our media has to be immediately cut off from our lives. Today I want to focus more on keeping our media consumption in check. A good question I like to ask myself after a priest once asked it to me in confession is, “Is this actively leading me closer or further from heaven?” Unfortunately, this question does yield quite a bit of sacrifice when it comes to the media we are consuming. But fear not, you can still consume a lot of the same things! However, we must listen closely to the little voice of the Holy Spirit telling us when or when not to partake in the media. The greatest way we can combat the media that is affecting us is by replacing it with a more meaningful media. What I mean by this is maybe we substitute a podcast instead of that one artist who sings about debauchery, or maybe we read more scripture instead of binging that new Netflix show. The second media is robbing us of our freedom to do the things that will actively lead us to God, is the second we must push on the brakes.
There is a temptation for us to think that everything we do is subjective and doesn’t have a greater effect on us, but this mindset is a dangerous trick. If you need artist or movie substitutes, there are many resources online for you to discover these. Like I previously said, there is no one size fits all solution. We must start by being cognizant of what we are feeding our minds and what the effects on our minds and action could be. When the effects are negative, it is a call to action to change our consumption into something that leads us closer to Christ. As Blessed Pier Giorgio once said, “ The higher we go, the better we shall hear the voice of Christ.” Likewise with our consumption of media, the more we conform to putting in content that is facilitating our growth, the better we shall be transformed into the men and women Christ desires us to be.