Mass media matters

Mergers, convergence, broad band. The media is swirling with change as stakeholders and shareholders compete for our attention. Newspaper circulation is down, and so are broadcast TV audiences. Internet usage is up, and guys in particular have quit watching TV to listen to CDs and play video games.

Meanwhile people are sleeping less and working more. And no one can predict what the media landscape will look like in ten years. Or even five. Advertisers are perplexed but persistent. Newspaper editors and broadcast executives are just scared.

How do you feel?

It’s would be easy to take a passive approach to all this. Just let the media happen to you, what ever happens to the media. But you can shape the media, and you can shape them in three ways.

h3. Shape its form

First, _you can help shape the form of the media and the contexts in which it operates._ The media world, like yours, is framed by regulations and laws. These frameworks are constantly being changed and challenged by lawmakers and bureaucrats. Everybody has a plan to fix things.

But then again, everyone has a vote too. How will you use yours? Right now people are trying to figure out how to route your phone calls and cable service over the internet. And corporations and consumer groups are fighting over regulations and fees while record companies and film studios are taking teenagers to court.

So, pay attention. Read those articles buried in your magazine or around the edges of your online news sources. Be aware and thoughtful. Ask questions. These issues will ultimately determine what you pay for and how you pay for it. Write letters, sign petitions, and vote. It does matter.

h3. Shape its content

But _you can also shape the content of the media._ Choose the good stuff. Spend your money on media that matter. Every time you buy a product or purchase a ticket or buy a DVD or video game you are voting for quality or for schlock.

Of course we usually buy what we like. And, unfortunately, sometimes we like schlock. So how do we recognize the good stuff? The good stuff reflects purpose and craftsmanship. Learn to recognize it and appreciate it and “vote” for it. This isn’t as simple as counting the cuss words. It involves understanding the themes and values which reflect the violent clash in our culture between worldviews.

There are dozens of worldviews. Maybe hundreds. But understand your own. As Christians, we believe God is at work in the world, revealing Himself and reconciling us to Himself through his Son. Evil is real, and must be understood and stood against. There is joy to be had. And hope.

Celebrate such messages, especially when they don’t come in a sermon. And create them too.

People often wonder if the media shape us or if we shape the media. The answer is yes. Both are true, but we seldom accept the responsibility for either. While media shape your attitudes and behavior, you can shape the media by making messages of your own. Or by buying them. Or not.

So start a band or produce a movie or publish a blog. Try not to make it a “Christian” one. Try to make it a good one. Redemption and hope will flow out of you.

And don’t buy junk. Don’t buy those things which diminish you or blaspheme your God. Don’t buy them. And don’t abide them, either. Sometimes we should walk out of a theater, even if we did pay six bucks.

h3. Shape its effect

And that is of course the third way you shape the media. _You shape the way it shapes you._

It shapes the world you live in. Not just the world out there, but the world in which you personally live with your roommates or your siblings or your spouse or your children. Do you spend enough time building relationships or nurturing your faith? Jesus said the whole of God’s expectation for us is that we would love God and love our neighbor.

The question of how much time we should spend with the media is the wrong question. The real question is how much time should we spend with each other, and with God. Once we answer that question, there will be plenty of time left for quality entertainment.

The most important thing about a movie, for example, may be the conversation we have about it with people we love. What was the director trying to do? How well did she do it? Was it worth doing? These are questions about values.

The media is all about values. Nothing is pure entertainment. And nothing is pure information. When media makers choose what goes in and what stays out that decision is based on values. All communication involves some persuasive intent.

What are you being persuaded to do? Or care about? What do you take more seriously or less seriously because of the media choices you make? What do you laugh about or cry about? Who are you? Who do you want to be? Why? The media to which you attend suggests answers to all these questions. And more.

But the media is not an evil thing. It’s merely a channel of persuasive messages, some of which are good and some of which are bad.

But your heart? Well, that is an evil thing. Our nature is to rebel against authority and to place ourselves at the center of the universe. We are fallen, sinful creatures in need of grace and dependent on God’s mercy.

So guard your heart. Don’t let your media choices bring out the worst in you.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

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