How a Media Fast Helped Me Check Back into My Life
I used to not know how to say no to media. What I mean is that I used to get so sucked into whatever show I was watching or whatever social media was at my fingertips that I would end up not really living my life anymore. I didn’t just crave the entertainment; I craved the escape.
Can you relate?
It first started when I was in high school and discovered social media. Tumblr, Pinterest, Facebook, you name it. I loved passing the time online, but eventually, I wasn’t just passing time. I was robbing myself of it. I was losing sleep in order to continue consuming, even waking up before the sun rose just to get in an extra hour.
Things got worse when I went to college. It’s not unusual for college students to be habitual Netflix-watchers, but for me, my binge-watching habits were born out of depression. I was so overwhelmed by everything on my plate and feeling loneliness like I had never felt before. Without even meaning to, I found myself passing entire days on the couch, just watching show after show and scrolling through one app after another. I supposed I wanted to pretend I was somewhere else. I wanted to be somebody else. But with each hour that passed, I only felt emptier and emptier.
When I graduated, I was a newly-pregnant newlywed with no job and nothing but time to kill. Now it was easier to excuse my unhealthy behaviors because at least I wasn’t shirking any responsibilities in order to do them. I somehow fooled myself into believing that I wouldn’t have this problem once our daughter was born. It’s under control, I told myself. Or so I thought.
And then came Tessa. This beautiful baby girl who I absolutely adored with all of my heart. I loved that I got to stay home full time with her. I loved the connection we shared. But motherhood was also really… heavy. Demanding. All-consuming. As much as I wanted to be present for her and be the best mom ever, I also struggled with accepting my new reality. And because filling myself with media was all I had really known, I slipped right back into old habits. Eventually, checking out in front of the TV or scrolling mindlessly through Instagram was all I felt like I had the capacity and energy for. I didn’t cook. I didn’t clean. I didn’t run errands. I sat my butt down in front of the TV, holding my baby when she needed me… and ignoring her when she didn’t.
For me, my journey toward finding freedom from media addiction began in January 2018. Starting January 1st, our church did a 21 day fast, and while some people fasted from food or spending money or even things like anger and negativity, I decided to do a fast from TV. I knew I needed to break away from this unhealthy habit of using other people’s fictional lives as a means of escape from my real one.
So I did it. I fasted from Netflix for 21 days. And even when the fast was over, I found that I was in no rush to run back into it. I went from watching six or more hours of TV every day to watching an hour of TV for myself just once a month. Not because I suddenly perceived TV as “bad” or that I thought I needed to get rid of it altogether, but because I just didn’t want it. Even the way I used my phone and how much time I spent mindlessly scrolling through social media changed when I realized how much better my life could be when I was actually showing up for it.
I had more energy and patience for spending time on the floor with my daughter.
I was able to be more attentive to my husband and improve the state of my marriage.
I had more time and space do the things I love.
My “creative juices” flowed more easily.
I grew my online ministry.
I got into a better routine of taking care of the house.
I realized how I needed to be taking better care of myself.
Most importantly, my eyes were opened and able to see more of what God was doing in my life. He had been there all along, but I was too busy checking out to really notice how he was wanting to speak to me.
For the first time in a long time, I was no longer numb. I was present and engaged and able to be the woman God was calling me to be. And this is what I hope for you, too.
If you are a mama of little ones, I don’t want you to think that there isn’t a place for media in your life. I get that there’s a need for entertainment and a way to pass the time, especially in those early, early days of caring for a newborn. I remember just how much of my time was spent breastfeeding on the couch or holding a sleeping baby when I first became a mom. I remember how necessary that time of rest and relaxation was for me.
But if you can relate at all to the things I’m sharing, then maybe it’s time for you to assess where you’re at when it comes to media consumption. Maybe you, like me, need to stop trying to check out from your life and need to instead check back into your life.
I believe that when we take the necessary steps in setting boundaries and building healthy media consumption habits, our numbness and apathy is replaced with passion and purpose. This is where we find the greatest satisfaction. Because true joy is not found in any form of entertainment or escape; it’s found in the Lord and when we finally step into the good plans he has for us.