Media Moderation: Analyzing your online world
by Dr. Dave Currie
Notifications nudge us every minute. Each beep, squawk, buzz and vibration on our device beckons us to return to our new world. It’s the big world of ‘out there’ – not the one ‘right here’. It’s a sort of alternate reality that is absorbing more and more of our real-life moments. We call it ‘social media’ – but it really doesn’t seem all that social.
Electronic engagement continues to grip us with mounting entanglement. And it seems the younger the consumer, the greater the grasp. Like most things, digital use is not harmful in small or balanced doses. Problem. Are we drawing any lines? Are we even having any relevant discussions in our families? I fear not. What appears to be happening digitally to too many people is that this very compulsive and powerful connection need – especially in youth – is rivalling the control that drugs have on a ‘dark alley’ addict. There’s a whole new wave of discussion desperately needed about “digital addiction”. What about you? Your marriage? Your family? Is your world in need of some media moderation?
I suspect that most people downplay the time they are spending on their devices. Many talk with confidence – even bravado – that their electronics don’t control their lives. Oh, really. We weren’t sure. So, we at DFR, did an interesting study on people’s perception of their device use. Led by the creative digital research of Chris Enns of Lemon Productions, we surveyed the people in our networks as the Apple corporation added their new app called “Screen Time”.
What’s Screen Time? In the fall of 2018, Apple released an update to their operating system – iOS 12 – on iPhones and iPads, that added this new feature called Screen Time. The feature builds a report for the user about everything – how much time you are on the phone each day, what apps you’re using, how long you’re using the apps, how often you’re picking up your device, and what apps send you the most notifications. You can track your use and set time limits on apps or categories of apps to prevent you from wasting your whole day on your device.
We sent out our survey asking participants to answer the questions before they update their phones with the latest Apple software containing Screen Time. Here are the questions we asked:
• How long do you think you’re on your device per day?
• What app do you think you use the most per day?
• How much time do you estimate you spend on that app per day?
• Which app do you think sends you the most notifications per day?
• How often do you think you pick up your phone per day?
The results are pretty convincing. Stay tuned as the complete data was still being compiled and analyzed when this article was published. We’ll roll out a full report of the survey and an analysis with implications on our website www.DoingFamilyRight.com. The short version is simple…people completely underestimated the amount of time they are spending on their phones and how many times they pick them up in a day.
No surprise. Look around. You’ve seen it in restaurants with a Mom, Dad and two young teens all with heads down while they wait for their food. No talking. Watch people on public transportation – faces locked in their devices. No chatter, no interaction. Only silence. Observe couples on dates – devices in hand – often engaging digitally with those in their other world while missing the magic of the moment of the person they are with.
Lest we think that the problem is only out there with other people…I’ll get personal. There is an entertaining app called “Wordscapes”- a vocabulary stretching game combining word searching and crossword. Donalyn and I enjoy it and it’s great brain exercise. Warning…built like any other online game, it is very addicting. So much so that I averaged 31 minutes per day this past week as measured by Screen Time. Ouch… I am embarrassed. So, I went into the Screen Time app while writing this and set my daily limit on Wordscapes at 15 minutes. That’s a start. What about you?
What else might really be wise for us to do to balance our relationships with our device preoccupation? I will give you are number of great suggestions below. But first, understand my world. I spend my life helping people maximize their most important relationships: Marriage – Family – God. I interpret culture and its effects on relationships. I am concerned that the social media trend is robbing us of genuine “one anotherness”. Real connection and personal care are easily replaced by superficial association and mere awareness of others. Let’s look in the “Book”.
Use wise biblical principles to guide you toward media moderation:
Squandering our time vs redeeming our time
We only have so many days. North America ranks first in terms of life expectancy with 77 years for men and 81 years for women. Do the math. That’s just under 30,000 days of life. It is true that our days are numbered. Problem – only God knows the number. Scripture is clear that we need to “Teach me to number my days to gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). We are told to redeem the time which means making the most of every opportunity (Ephesians 5:16, Colossians 4:5). Be careful with what is so precious.
Questionable use of time vs constructive and beneficial use of time
While a Christian has a freedom in Christ, it isn’t a freedom that is without restraint. One’s life still needs to honour the Lord and the choices we make cannot bring harm to others. This is not just about not wasting time it goes far beyond. It’s about being productive, practical and positive. We see this in 1 Corinthians 10:23, 24 – “I have the right to do anything, you say—but not everything is beneficial. I have the right to do anything —but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” May your device use reflect that.
My life being mastered vs god-honouring self-control
Being mastered is being controlled, influenced, obsessed, captivated or hooked. As people of faith, our freedom in the choice of activities, whether on line or in person needs to be guided by the concept that nothing other than the Lord is mastering me. We see this challenge in 1 Corinthians 6:12 – “I have the right to do anything, you say—but not everything is beneficial. I have the right to do anything—but I will not be mastered by anything.” Remember, self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Ephesians 5:23).
Compromising activities on line vs doing only what honours the lord
What you do online or on your phone matters to God. He needs to be Lord of your device in every way – the sites you visit, the words you type, the jokes you pass on, the images you share and the influence you have. Sin is sin whether online or in person. Remember: the secrets you keep are no secret to Him. Walk in the Light of the Lord in all you do in your social media and online activity, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible – and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is” (Ephesians 5:8-17).
Take practical steps for your best media moderation move:
Deviceless Dating: Yes, you actually agree to either leave your phones in the car or turn them off at least an hour at a time. Donalyn used to ask, “who’s coming with us?” She was referring to any number of the 100’s of life connections, clients, contacts and colleagues that I have that could call at any given moment and “join us” on our date. Point taken. Shut it down and be in the moment.
Digital Diets: To diet means indulge less. Try an evening a week with no social media or online activity. And I am only saying 1 day a week. See what you feel like after your compulsions stop. Sense what your level of use is doing to you. Another option is to take the weekend off or take a week or two break from Instagram or Facebook.
Device Curfew: Agree on a time each day to shut down your connection outside the home. After that, simply be present with those you love. Mom and Dad, this is great for you too. You have such little time together. Create more connection time to strengthen your relationship. For sure don’t let the teens have theirs in their rooms. Have a charging station in a central location. Homework done first before they get back on their phones.
Monitor Your Use: Bravely use Screen Time or its android equivalent to track your device use. Once you get past your embarrassment as to how you spend your time, use it to set limits. Even if you click the button that says ignore your limit, you will know that you are off the more moderate track.
Make Meal Time No Media Zone: Eating dinner together has historically been the best time to try to keep the family connected and the relationships warm. Talk, laugh and listen to connect. Ask good questions – not just the interrogation ones. Be present with face to face interaction. Consider other ‘No Online Zones’ like while travelling in cars, at restaurants, in church, in school and while on vacation (for most of the day).
Set Digital Guidelines:As parents, it’s wise to discuss your priorities, values and boundaries for cell phones and other electronic devices. WE have a ton of resources on our websites to guide you to some solid critical thinking. Be intentional. Talk through what is best and wise. Let moderation and balance be something that is the norm in your family. And most of all, live as an example to your children.
Face Time vs Screen Time:First off, I am not using Facetime referring to Apple’s version of video calling. This FACE TIME is actually referring to real people talking and connecting in each other’s presence. This SCREEN TIME here is not the built-in device use app. It’s referring to any focus on any screen of any device. Point: Encourage your family to each balance – 50-50 – face time with screen time.
Video Game Veto:You don’t want to know how many parents come to me in huge dismay over a 20-something son who doesn’t work, go to school, engage with friends but plays video games and the like ALL DAY LONG. Get your plan. Balance their life. Set limits now when the kids are younger. Steer toward healthy activities, pastimes and hobbies that enrich their life and likelihood of future success.
Take My BIBLE Challenge:It’s simple. Read your Bible tomorrow the same amount of time as you were engaged with your favourite app today. We know that only one of these sources lasts forever and is powerful and active and will accomplish the purpose God intended it to (won’t return void).
Share your Faith Online:Share verses, prayers, words of encouragement, anchoring truths, challenges, and even warnings to bring God’s best into the lives of those you love. Do it through texts, emails, phone calls, phone messages, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest or whatever latest app you enjoy. Share powerful songs. Suggest great podcasts. Link to key inspiring sermons. I have seriously used all of the above digital mediums to touch and bless the lives of others. Take steps to redeem your online world.
This is not a prohibition of enjoying your phone or ban on social media, it’s a challenge to analyze your online activity. Measure time involved and the short and long-term impact on you and those in your world. Bravely ask what God thinks of it all. I would love to hear from you on what practical steps you have taken to keep a digital balance.