Escaping Screen Addiction: Discovering Hope in Christ

Ishnita Nayantara Keskar   |   November 2, 2023 

It has taken me quite a long time to admit that I consume too much video content. This problem has been difficult to diagnose for these three reasons:

  • It seems harmless (“How could watching a few movies be so bad?”).
  • I am not in front of the screen all the time (there are phases when watching happens . . . in binge mode).
  • My problem is socially acceptable (at times even encouraged).

I chose to share this post because I recognise that this may be a massive, undetected issue for many people today.

The Problem

Moving out of home, owning a laptop, and having unbridled access to the internet played a significant role in my increased hours on a screen. The laptop was a game-changer because that’s when screens became personal (most of us born in the 80s and 90s would remember that binge-watching was not possible with the TV sitting in the living room, and the majority choosing the show). Having material to watch seemed like another marvel. From rented video cassettes, to DVDs, to downloadable movies on pen drives, and now to a dozen steaming platforms - the journey the content takes to get to our screens has shortened tremendously.

With my first job came the new challenges of a counselling professional, emotional exhaustion with poor supervision, and arduous travel. I quickly found out that a screen was a great way to unwind. Watching the lives of others, their issues, and their problems, became almost therapeutic. It helped me to disconnect from my world and watch lives from a safe distance.

Occasionally, it served as an escape from my reality and created a hide-out from friction in my relationships, struggles of work, and stress. I could enjoy the good emotions vicariously and distance myself from the negative ones. I did not have to carry it all around. However, I also ended up using screen time like a band-aid over hurts and scars. Some of this I should have taken to God, instead of to a screen.

The Struggle

In my teenage years (when TV was in the living room, and good programmes were timed), I used to run with my broken heart and tears to my Bible and my diary. It was soothing. Even through my half-baked understanding of Him, God would reach out to me through His Word. The time between my distraught emotions and my Bible has increased over the years. The hurdles I now must cross to get to that Book are now a smartphone, a laptop, the temptation to sit and stare at a screen, and the lure of consuming ‘comfort food.’

The pervasiveness of the media in our phones and laptops has significantly added to the temptations. It was far easier to resist when one had to borrow movies on pen drives. With a click of a button now, it's hard to say no to binge-watching. The platforms are endless and you are just a payment away. While I have enjoyed many informative, creative, and beautiful movies and shows, the list of the ones that were trash is unfortunately longer.

The world around me convinced me that entertainment was a great way to take a break from all the hard work. I believed them and followed them with a bag of chips! Since I wasn’t the only one in my social circles, I convinced myself it was fine.

It is the Spirit of the Lord that has revealed my shifting lack of integrity because of my desire to be entertained. The binge-watching has stolen so much from me and I have stolen from other things to satisfy the urge. I have pilfered time from my work, studies, sleep, cooking, household responsibilities, and even as a mother and wife. In return, I have been robbed of my love for reading, photography, taking walks, writing and so many other things I enjoyed. A big robbery leaves you startled but a small leakage gives you an illusion that everything is intact, till you realize the house is almost empty.

At first, it does not seem like much, but when you look over a decade, you realize how much it has amounted to! Proverbs 6:30-31 is a tough reminder that a thief comes to steal and satisfy his hunger when he is starving but it costs him the riches of his house.

Watching a movie involves body and mind and the price for that theft is far more than just time or competence. The biggest theft is the loss of intimacy with God. When my tired and weary body and mind needed the comfort of my Creator, I chose to comfort myself with content that instead left my soul parched. Our heavenly Father wants to satisfy us with a feast, yet we choose to remain happy with the toilet water the world offers.

The Cure

There is much guilt for the time I have lost and wasted, but the quiet gentle Spirit reminds me in my struggle that if I repent and run to God, there is no condemnation for me (Romans 8:1). I can lay down my guilt and struggle at the feet of Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to renew my mind. Yes, renew my mind!

With massive consumption of various content, I became complacent about its varying appropriateness for me. The subliminal ideas of illicit intimacy, self-sufficiency, constant shredding of morality, and content devoid of God and holiness were not renewing my mind! Most content seduces us in subtle ways to embrace shifts in culture and belief systems and conform to the patterns of this world.

Jesus’s invitation to lay our weary minds and bodies at his feet is the real answer. Screen time for movies and TV series, restless scrolling, and binge-watching provide only fleeting satisfaction. Entertainment cannot fulfill our soul's deepest longings.

"The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I came that they may have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10).

Abundant life is found in God's grace, Christ's love, and the communion of the Holy Spirit. It is centered on worshiping God in Spirit and truth and yielding the fruit of the Spirit. This insight clarifies my entertainment choices: if it's not life-giving, it's stealing, killing, and destroying, even if it's not obvious.

As Susanna Wesley said,

“Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, takes off your relish for spiritual things, whatever increases the authority of the body over the mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may seem in itself.”

The Hope

Saying “No” is the hardest, especially when I have my eyes set on myself. Yet, God has been so kind. I have currently been able to shut down all subscriptions and on occasions, he even sends interruptions in the form of doorbells or phone calls when I fail to resist. In this process, I am re-discovering the power of the Holy Spirit that enables me to exercise self-control and be willing to walk away. I am finding my way back to writing, cooking and occasionally painting with my children. Most of all, I am learning to turn away from my screens and instead turn my restless heart to God for pleasure, peace, joy, and renewal.

“You will make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:1).

 

Photo by Rodion Kutsaiev on Unsplash

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Ishnita Nayantara Keskar

Ishnita Nayantara Keskar is a mother of two and currently lives with her husband and children in Bhopal. She is pursuing her PhD in the Psychology of Education from Jawaharlal University, Delhi. She loves writing, travelling, driving and watching movies.

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2 comments on “Escaping Screen Addiction: Discovering Hope in Christ”

  1. What a timely reminder and encouragement to me! I would not say I am addicted, but certainly there are better things I can do when I want to relax or unwind such as reading or painting instead of staring at a screen. I am a hypocrite when I tell my children not to have devices as their only hobby or entertainment, when that's exactly what I'm doing.

    Thank you for sharing.

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