I’ve been a little upset lately and it’s not because Taylor Swift and Calvin Harris have broken up. (That was pretty unexpected though.)
It’s got to do with Johnny Depp. As you might have guessed, I’m a fan. My affection for the American actor began in 2003 when he starred as Captain Jack Sparrow in Disney’s swashbuckler film, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. By now, you must have read of his acrimonious divorce from his wife Amber Heard—it’s been said that she filed the divorce just days after his mother died. And yesterday, I read that his recently released movie, Alice Through the Looking Glass, had flopped at the weekend box office amid bad press and bad reviews.
I don’t blame you if none of these ring a bell. Celebrity gossip is not everyone’s cup of tea—none of my colleagues seemed even remotely interested about Depp’s predicament when I told them about it.
Unfortunately for me, keeping abreast of entertainment news ranks among one of the top time-wasting activities in my life. Others include scrolling through my Facebook and Instagram newsfeeds, shopping online, and watching online video clips. I get easily hooked on talent competitions (such as reality television singing competition “The Voice”), variety shows and once in a blue moon, Korean dramas—like the recent K-drama hit, DOTS. In fact, I was supposed to start on this piece last night, but ended up watching an episode of China’s spinoff to popular South Korean variety show Running Man on YouTube because I saw Song Joong-ki’s face on the freeze-frame. Yikes.
I’d like to think, however, that I’m no longer as addicted as I was in the past. For instance, I don’t always end up wasting every single evening on entertainment-related stuff . . . just once or twice a week these days. And a large part of the reason is because it recently dawned on me that entertainment was making me FAT, not in the physical sense—although it’s probably true that being glued to my screens all day makes for a pretty sedentary lifestyle—but I was becoming foolish, accepting, and tempted (FAT).
There was a time when I was spending most of my evenings glued to the TV or computer screen. Almost every evening after work looked like this: Have my dinner, wash the dishes (or hang the clothes), take a bath, then slouch in the couch for the next two hours before I hit the sack.
It was a mindless routine, one that robbed my brain of any stimulation and rendered me an unthinking lazy bum. Instead of heeding the call to make “the most of every opportunity” (Ephesians 5:16), I had foolishly squandered precious time that could have been used to do things that would help me grow in my relationship with God and others.
I knew things were getting out of hand when there were times I almost couldn’t help but while away time on something frivolous and inconsequential instead of using the time to do something else—like prepare for a Bible study session I was supposed to lead that weekend or read one of my many books that has been collecting dust in the corner.
By the end of the night, I would be so overwhelmed by guilt that I would almost always be found mumbling a prayer, asking God for forgiveness. But the damage had already been done and it showed the next morning when I couldn’t focus on the task at hand—my thoughts and emotions still hovering on what I had just watched the night before.
Before I delve into this point, I must acknowledge that there are a couple of upsides to being an entertainment junkie. (Yes, you heard that right.) For one, it’s a fantastic conversation starter. My knowledge of what’s been trending and who’s the latest talk of the town has made me fairly popular among my peers—or so I’d like to think. Two, it has been an extremely effective means of helping me connect with the youth in my church and drawing modern day parallels to certain Bible lessons.
But I’m sad to admit that my media over-consumption has also significantly impacted my reasoning ability and convictions. Most of the time, I am just sitting back and accepting whatever is shown on the TV screen rather than questioning and filtering. Every manner of thinking and way of living can become acceptable if it’s framed as normal. I remember watching an American drama where the protagonist was involved in a three-way relationship. By the end of the episode, I almost believed that was perfectly commonplace and found myself sympathizing with the main character.
Like it or not, we’re no longer surprised by unholy practices and we’ve become immune to the overt celebration of sinfulness. I realized I had stopped questioning trends, practices and found it hard to articulate why something was wrong apart from the convenient excuse, “The Bible says so.” I was not attuned with the Christian perspective because I had spent all my time soaking in the rubbish the media was propagating.
As much as we know that the entertainment industry always portrays a hyped-up reality, whether it’s in the glitz and glamor of living the high life or the idealized notions of love and relationships, we can’t help but compare what we see in the media with our own lives—and feel a little jealous in the process.
“I wonder what life would be like if I were to live like that” or “If only I were as good-looking, talented, or well-off as X, that would be nice” have been some of the thoughts that have crept into my mind. At times, I would even feel a little upset with God for endowing me with less gifts and talents than others, but I would be quick to dismiss that thought, annoyed with myself for falling into the trap of comparison and dissatisfaction.
It’s a cycle that repeats itself whenever I stumble on news or shows that celebrate looks, wealth, talents, or the like. So I’ve figured the solution is fairly simple: avoid any show or activity that fosters dissatisfaction. Disclaimer: This is not a call to completely shun any form of entertainment and burn your TV sets, computers, or mobile devices—but to be wise. Each one of us gets tempted by different things and should examine what makes our hearts wander.
These days, I try to watch (pun intended) my consumption and ask myself these questions: Is what I’m consuming helping me grow in my appreciation for God and others? Or is it making me foolish, accepting and tempted?
Personally, Philippians 4:8 has helped me determine what should be on my media diet: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
I want to stop being FAT.