Sunday, January 18, 2009

Media Fast Post-Mortem

Television has proved that people will look at anything rather than each other.

Ann Landers

Last week, the congregation of HealingPointe Community Church collectively decided to go on a media fast. What's a media fast, you ask? Well, it's a fast much like you'd expect someone to fast from food, except we were fasting from secular media. The particulars of it were left up to each of us as individuals.

As for the Swank family, we did the following:

  • No DVDs at all (we don't have cable or over-the-air television to begin with)
  • No video games at all
  • No internet, except for work, e-mail, blogging, and 15 minutes a day on social networking sites to keep up with friends
  • No secular music
First off, if you're not a member of my church, let me stress that yes, I largely did all of this all week - nine full days, actually, because I started early - and I am still very much alive. I wasn't perfect about this, mind you. I could have told you in the middle of the week that the Cubs wasn't sold, a sign of my weakness. I listened to Johnny Cash's cover of "Hurt" on my PSP one night before I realized I wasn't supposed to. But for the most part, I behaved myself - there were absolutely no movies or video games for me all week.

If you know me, you're probably shocked. How did I survive, you ask? I listened to a lot of Christian music, which was awesome. I'm not going to sit here and tell everyone that you should listen to nothing but Christian music, because that just doesn't work for everyone; that doesn't even work for my wife. But I've discovered that it does work for me. The music is just as good as any other contemporary music, but it comes with the added benefit of bringing me closer to the Lord, and I'll take that. I think I'll still listen to the classical music I'm trying to get myself acclimated to and some of the instrumentals I enjoy (I'm looking at you, Voices of the Lifestream), but that's probably about it for secular music for me.

I prayed a lot more than I normally do, which was awesome. I also got myself wrapped up into some actual, full-on Bible study on a Sunday afternoon that I would have otherwise probably wasted playing video games of some variety. I made time every day for the Daily Audio Bible, which I'd been meaning to do anyway but had been a little lax about so far this year.

I read. I read a lot. I didn't restrict myself from secular books, because honestly I hardly read anything at all at this point, and I really felt like one of the things I was supposed to learn out of this was that I was letting the brain I was gifted with rot, so I just took the opportunity to stimulate it. I read a lot of the Bible; like I said, I actually got into some full-on, scholarly-style study, which I've not done in ages. I pulled out some of my old Battletech novels and I'm warming up on them; when I'm done, I'm going to start on another reading of Lord of the Rings. I've even got a little booklight sitting on my desk now. I used to read all the time, but as responsibilities have built up upon me, that passion has been pushed to the side. I'm glad to have it back.

I worked, even a little more than normal. Without the temptation of my time wasters lying around, I was drawn towards actually getting things done. I got more of my chores done than normal last work and I was extremely productive at work. The word "productive" is this shiny, candy-like button for me now, and it's an appellation that I strive to have applied to myself. I've really been working on it since the new year turned over, but last week I felt like I finally got it.

Did I miss video games? Honestly, no. If anything, I lost my appetite for them. I would still enjoy getting on specifically to play with my friends or with the family here at the house, but I can't see myself spending much time playing alone anymore. Having been - for lack of any better descriptor - out of its clutches for more than a week, I'm kind of shocked to have stepped back and seen just how much time I wasted in front of the PS3. The one thing that might still get time from me as a single-player endeavor from me is the PSP, and that just because I can do it anywhere: on the toilet, in the bathtub, in the car, etc.

Did I miss the internet? Yes and no. Again, much like with video games, I got to step back and get a good look at just how much time I squandered looking at websites that were largely filling me up on useless junk. There were some things that I would have liked to have been checking out here and there, but nothing I couldn't have covered in a 15 to 20 minute roundup every day. The beauty of the internet is that information is available at blazing-fast speeds from just the merest command of your fingers, but the ability for that to suck you in can also be its curse. So, I did miss following up on the Cubs and some industry news, but I do not at all miss wasting hours following an endless stream of links and not coming out better for it on the other end.

What did I miss the most? Do you really want to ask that question? Fine. It was Homestar Runner. Sometimes I just want a good laugh.

I guess you could say that I'm glad it's over, but I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. I'm not going to run back to doing things the old way I did them. I'm not working tonight, so I've got time to myself, but it's not like I'm going to run right back out to the recliner and waste three hours playing PlayStation. I'm going to pray and seek the Lord to start to see what He wants me doing. It's really on my heart to start seeking him first and foremost, much more than I do now, and letting everything else fall into place around that.

The first commandment instructs us that we shall have no other gods before Him. I think that this media fast showed me that I had more than I ever could have imagined. It's time to put things right now.

I mentioned earlier that the whole family was subjected to the media fast, and yes, that does include the kids. How did everyone else fare? Holli got a little tired of our library of Christian music by the end of the week - she prefers a little bit more variety than we have in our library right now. As I write this, we're listening to her playlist that's basically her whole library, but at this point it's about 2-to-1 in favor of Christian music, and she's happy with that kind of balance. It's not like she's ran headlong into secular music or anything. She's also on the bed writing, something she loves to do and hardly ever does anymore (largely because of the other distractions), so I'd say she's doing alright.

As for the kids, they're just fine. They spent the week - wait for it - playing. Shocking, I know. We told them no movies and no games, so they just made their own fun and had an absolute blast. They also spent more time with their parents than usual, because we all huddled in together looking for fun, and they seemed to love that to pieces. We played Monopoly twice during the week, which is twice more than I've played Monopoly in the previous five years put together. They also read a lot and - shock of shocks - loved it. My oldest daughter, who it's normally like pulling teeth to get to read, finished a book and was bellowing about how much fun she had reading. I'd go so far as to say the kids had more fun - real, unmanufactured fun - than they have in a long, long time last week.

I don't expect things to just go back to normal next week. Hopefully, we've all learned something from this and grown from this. Especially for the kids, I hope that this maintains for them. I want them to read, to play with each other, and to play with their mommy and daddy instead of vegging out in front of the TV and ignoring the rest of the family again just because they can.

1 comment:

Beth said...

Cool. Good to read your "media fast" in review. I'll do one of my own probably tomorrow. :)

It was rather eye-opening...