Media is filling our headspace….but is it fulfilling our spiritual hunger?
Lessons Learned From a Plastic Ocean
Filled or Fulfilled?
Beautiful marine animals such as whales, turtles, and dolphins as well as sea birds are dying every day from ingesting man-made plastic that has made its way into our oceans. Plastics mistaken as a food source are estimated to cause the deaths of more than a million seabirds every year, as well as more than 100,000 marine mammals (1).
In March 2019 a young whale was found washed up dead on the beach in the Philippines. Questioning the cause of death in such a young mammal, Scientists performed a necropsy, only to discover the whale had died of dehydration and starvation in an Ocean with everything the whale needed to survive and thrive all around it! How is this possible? A close examination of the whale’s stomach reveals that its belly was, in fact, full – not of food, but of man-made, indigestible plastic! Scientists performing the examination were shocked to remove 40kg of plastic bags from the whale’s stomach – rice sacks, grocery bags, banana plantation bags, and general use plastic bags! (2)
Because it was so full of things it should never have ingested, the whale could not swallow digestible foods that its body desperately needed to survive. So in an ocean full of wholesome food, the whale literally died of malnourishment.
It kind of reminds me of what is taking place in our world today with regard to our Spirituality. The nourishing food source is freely available. In fact, it has never been easier to access God’s word – many of us have several Bibles in our homes. Spiritual content such as Bible Studies and uplifting Christian programming are freely available on the internet and via you-tube – enough for a spiritual feast! Opportunities for Christian growth and fellowship with others through church and Bible study are available most places around the world.
However, instead of partaking of the food source that will help us grow spiritually strong, many of us are filling ourselves with the plastic bags floating in the ocean – things that consume our headspace and take our time, but can never really satisfy the spiritual longing and hunger deep within our souls.
Could choice of media be contributing? Current research reveals that Australians are spending more time on their screens than ever before (3,4,5), –adding up to around 5.6 hours a day, including 2.5 hours watching TV and movies, 1.5 hours a day on social media as well as additional hours spent doing online shopping or just surfing the internet! (3). One study revealed that, tragically, Australians spend 8 times as many hours per week looking at screens as time spent with loved ones (4). This takes its toll on our mood, our mental health, our physical health, and especially our spiritual health!
What about our children? Are they also consumed by media?
Studies show that toddlers and primary age children are spending 3-4 hours a day looking at screens, and our teenagers as many as 6 hours a day on social media, gaming, watching tv and movies, and video chat! (3). Interestingly, research is showing that the more hours kids spend on screens, the less happy and fulfilled they are (5,6), with both teens and young children showing signs of moodiness, stress, anxiety, anger, and depression, and having ‘warped views on reality’ after spending too long on screens (8,9). MD Victoria Dunckley discusses this in her excellent article, “Screentime is Making Kids Moody, Crazy and Lazy” (9).
In a 300 million dollar ground-breaking study performed by the National Institute of Health, MRI scans are used to examine changes in brain structure among children who use screen devices such as smartphones and i-pads regularly. The first results aired on 60 minutes in December 2018 showing that kids who spent more than two hours per day on screens scored lower on language and thinking tests, and kids who spent more than seven hours a day on electronic devices showed physical changes with premature thinning of the brain cortex (10).
There are smart parents in Silicon Valley – the home of all things Tech in USA – who are restricting, or outright banning technology with their kids because they know first hand the addictive nature of technology and the highly damaging impact it can have on the emotional well-being of children (13). And these are not spiritual people – they are the ones who DEVELOP the technology such as apps, i-phones and social media platforms that the rest of us consume!
Australian experts share their concerns. Michelle Simmons – Australia’s most decorated technologist does not allow her children, aged 11, 14 and 15 to have smartphones or social media (8). She says “When children are young, they can get access to things they aren’t mature enough to know how to deal with. Limiting access, from that perspective, is about helping them to appreciate their childhood as much as they can.” Although the director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology, Simmons adheres to a broader philosophy that “kids should be tech aware and tech proficient, just not all-consumed by it.” She encourages kids to create things and seek to make a difference in the world rather than be media consumers (8).
If you think you can consume media without it affecting you, it may be helpful to understand the Science of brain neuroplasticity. Scientists have proven that your brain is being shaped, modeled and changed by your experiences every day (12). Everything you have ever watched, thought, tasted, or experienced creates a neural pathway that impacts you, and influences your subconscious mind. Your subconscious mind simply absorbs information that it receives from your conscious mind, without the ability of reason or judgment (11).
When you sit and listen to someone tell lies, watch them commit a sexually immoral act, perform a murder, or do something that grates on your conscience without turning away or reacting, reason and judgment is bypassed, and your subconscious mind reacts in a way that it is as if YOU did the immoral act, performed the murder, or told the lie (11). You become desensitized to evil, in the same way someone living in a flight path becomes desensitized to the sound, to the point where they no longer hear it. Things that once made you cringe no longer do. Your value system begins to change, and sin doesn’t seem so bad anymore.
God’s Word rings true in a world that is fully immersed in media and entertainment. “Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, and revive me in your way” (Psalm 119:37).
Philippians 4:8 gives us wisdom and discernment on this important topic. “Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
If your Christianity is powerless, if your first love has grown cold, and you no longer feel motivated to spend time with Jesus, perhaps it is the diet you are feeding yourself on. Trashy media is not conducive to positive Christian growth.
Not only is media and technology taking up time that should be spent on things that are uplifting and worthwhile, from a Christian perspective, do the things we are filling our minds with draw us closer to Jesus and prepare us for His soon return? Or, like the whale, are we full of things that fill us, but don’t fulfil us, leading to spiritual death?
Will you join me in having a technology cleanse and house-clean? Make a decision today to make an appointment with God and keep it! Start replacing time spent watching entertainment television and scrolling through social media with nourishing time spent reading God’s word, engaging in prayer and fellowshipping with others. I guarantee that your happiness will sky-rocket, your relationships will improve, and you will experience a sense of joy and peace that will transform you. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be TRANSFORMED by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2). Give God’s nourishing, transforming power space to work inside your heart today!