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10 Tips for Fine Tuning Your Media Antennas

February 21, AD2013 10 Comments

\"Anabelle

“What’s it really like to practice law?” I once asked a close family friend, a female corporate lawyer, before I filed my law school application.

“It’s not like on TV,” she said, “when you see all these big dramatic courtroom moments, where you’re spotlighted enunciating your theatrical speech and the scene ends with the smell of victory and resounding audience applause.”

Well maybe not your career, my twenty one year old self thought smugly. Mine will be spectacular. John-Grisham-best-seller-to-blockbuster-spectacular.

A decade later, I found myself asked the same question, and laughing as I repeated her answer, “It’s not like TV at all!”

Let’s face it:  for most of us regular Catholic folks, our lives are not reflective of Hollywood movies, soap operas, or even the so-called reality TV shows. No one I know has amnesia. I’m not someone’s long lost relative heiress. My true love didn’t rescue me from the mob while trying to save New York in a red spandex costume. Our living room is decorated with cheerio crumbs instead of Pottery Barn’s white sofas. My momma friends socialize sipping chowder in a deli without canned laughter accompanying us. My “confessional” does not involve a camera or a million viewers. I’m just a regular blogger who will never make any top ten list. And the most exciting thing that ever happened in a courtroom was that I forgot to two-hole-punch a document, sending a Judge into a tizzy.

So why is it that we subconsciously or intentionally view our lives and our reality through the lenses of a media screen? Fitting a square peg through a round hole can undermine our Catholic teachings, endanger our virtues, and skew our God –given reality.

I’m not advocating that we cut off entertainment completely. (I escape by writing Catholic novels and rented some seasons of 24 partly because my husband looks like he could have been a branch of Keifer–Donald Sutherland’s family tree.) Rather, I think it would be wise to thoughtfully consider the programs we watch, the books we read, the movies we support, the music we play and if necessary, to let go of the media whose content is inconsistent with our soul’s best interest.

“It would be a matter of prudence to safeguard the purity and sanctity of our souls to the best that we can control it,” my confessor once told me. Baltimore Catechism’s take on this is: “to avoid near occasions of sin.”

Obviously, my struggles and experiences vary from yours but I offer my guide questions (which include the 7 deadly sins) as a starting point for some Lenten reflections:

  1. Is the newspaper I read objectively truthful to our Catholic teachings or patently biased to the ways of the world?
  2. Am I becoming more aggressive/angry/depressed (as opposed to staying informed) when I read /watch certain political opinion?
  3. Do certain shows subtly present an immoral or illicit lifestyle as the norm, or as humorous rather than harmful to society so that it affects my tolerance of sin?
  4. Do the books I read titillate my imagination or do the disturbing graphic scenes leave my mouth tasting like it just gargled vinegar?
  5. Do the ads and commercials make me constantly want things that are beyond my means or my needs?
  6. Am I introducing inappropriate programs to the children in my home? Is my excessive use of media tantamount to sloth?
  7. Do I make an effort to study the movie ratings and reviews, which warn me of potentially lustful and violent scenes?   (Granted, their ratings are not always accurate but at least you can do a due diligence research.)
  8. Do the songs preach explicitly tacky or subliminally pornographic messages?
  9. Is the need to impress through social media ballooning up my pride or fostering envy?
  10. Are the magazines/articles I read feeding my gluttony?

Bottomline litmus test:  Are the things  I read, watch, or listen to  nurturing my spiritual/prayer life?

Ten is a good number to stop. I’m sure you can add or subtract to that or fine-tune your media examination of conscience and manage your solutions as your situation calls for it. That is, so long as you keep Catholic Stand on your reading list.

© Anabelle Hazard. All Rights Reserved.

Filed in: Art • Tags: , ,

About the Author:

Anabelle Hazard is a practicing Catholic, non-practicing attorney, happy homeschooler, penniless novelist (of Catholic novels “Sand and Water” & “Fireflies Dance”), and long-winded blogger at Written By the Finger of God.

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  • Jeff McLeod

    Anabelle, this is marvelous.

    I love your recognition of information hoarding as intemperance, indeed, your recognition of all of these as vices. Not just by analogy. They are specific, real vices.

    St. Thomas Aquinas talked about the intellectual virtue of studiositas and its corresponding vice of curiositas (ST II-II, q. 166). Your essay is very much in the spirit of what St. Thomas has to say on these matters.

    For those who might not know, you can in fact unplug from cable and satellite television. You can still get media over antennae and other sources, but you exercise greater control. I don’t know one person who misses cable television after unplugging.

    Thank you for this essay!

    • http://www.anabellehazard.blogspot.com Anabelle Hazard

      Thank you Jeff. I’m going to look up St. Thomas Summa. I just saw that at the library before I read your comment and now wish I grabbed it.

  • Mary Nicewarner

    Great article, Anabelle. The TV is on very rarely in my household because, let’s face it, there’s not much on TV that leads us to greater holiness. I won’t even comment on the songs today. Your guide questions are right on the mark!

  • http://thecloisteredheart.org Nancy Shuman

    What a wonderful article. I found the list of questions spot-on – thank you so much for giving us such a good guide.

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  • James Athol Steel

    I like this list. If we follow this line we end up with so much more time to do stuff that really matters, instead. Thanks Annabelle

  • http://madeleineandco.etsy.com Jennifer Campbell

    As usual, you are spot on.
    In the past couple of years, I find myself leaning more and more toward a minimalist frame of mind- I sometimes forget that media can also be a form of clutter, even on our souls.
    I’m looking forward to our satellite contract running out in April…

  • Bruce Willman

    Well said. A good supplement for examination of conscience. Along the theme of your article I suggest checking a website: Rembering Fr. Willie Doyle. Also through that site or just google: Bishop Hedley on Reading.

  • http://captivetheheart.blogspot.com Stephanie

    This is fantastic, Anabelle! Having a discerning eye for what I take in, particularly literature, is something I struggle with. I never want to be afraid of confronting real issues, so I don’t want to be over-scrupulous, but neither do I want to let the fact that I consider my conscience decently well-formed (only by grace) to make me too lax about what makes a piece point to the good, the true, and the beautiful, rather than gratuitous about things like sexuality or violence. Thanks for this!