What they don’t tell you when you sign up for a $8.99 Netflix plan is it will consume your life. They don’t tell you you’ll start S1:E1 of Parks and Rec and by the end of the month find yourself at S7:E13. They don’t tell you you’ll spend so much time watching these shows that the characters will start to feel closer to you than your own friends and family. And they most certainly don’t tell you you’ll begin living vicariously through these people and slowly lose the need to live your own life.
It is something I believe our entire culture has let take over. And it’s not just Netflix. It’s TV, movies, books, social media – all of us have found our own form of escapism from the harsh realities of our life. Because watching Jim prank Dwight on The Office is much easier than allowing the truth of how much our lives can really suck to sink in. So, we don’t dwell on what’s going on in our personal lives, and just keep living one episode at a time.
The problem with this is none of us are dealing with our lives or learning how to spend time truly alone. As a result, the second we have a moment to ourselves — when we decide 7 episodes of Friends is enough for one night and turn off our phones — we realize our lives don’t nearly measure up to the smiling happy faces on social media, or the crazy eventfulness the TV characters live out. This creates an epidemic of loneliness, and the only cure is to start saving $8.99 a month.
The Learning Curve
Growing up my dad always hated to let us watch TV. He’d lock us all out of the house and we’d play outside until the sunset. My sister and I would always be slightly grumpy at first to be forced outside, but eventually, we were having so much fun we’d forgotten all about the TV set inside.
I have such an appreciation for this now because of course, I have no memories of my time spent in front of the TV. It’s the kickball games, bike rides, and games we played on the trampoline that I remember.
At the time I didn’t understand what the big deal was with watching too much TV. It wasn’t until middle school when a teacher described the idea of all of your time being put into boxes that I really began to see the impact it made on my time.
She asked how many boxes would be filled with the time we spent watching TV and playing video games compared to how many boxes would be filled with the time we’ve spent with God.
This was such a convicting message for me. I pictured thousands of boxes and filing cabinets with pages and pages of wasted time. With maybe one small little box of the time I spent praying before bed and meals.
I wish I could say that from that point on I never got caught up in the trappings of worldly things that steal your attention away from God again. But truthfully, it has happened time and time again.
In high school I spent all of my free time buried in books. My family would always get onto me because every weekend at our family get-togethers I would try to stay in the corner with a good book. My uncle was always the one to come over and make me join the card game, telling me I would regret it if I spent all my time reading.
He was right. I look back now and regret every second I spent reading some silly storyline that I could’ve spent with my family. We only get so much time here on earth, and I get so tired of looking back and feeling like I’m wasting that time.
Escaping from Escapism
It can be really hard to stop the endless cycle of escapism. I think the main reason behind this is because we use these different outlets to go numb to everything bringing us pain.
I always prefer to be numb to pain rather than dealing with it directly. Like last year in an incident while cooking my hand was burnt with oil. I put a bag of ice on it and stubbornly refused to let anyone help me or put anything on it. It wasn’t until it had blistered, grown infected, and slightly green that I allowed my mom to put some burn cream on it. It burned just as badly as I had feared it would, but it instantly healed it.
I think we do this same thing in real life. We fear the pain of directly facing our wounds. So we allow them to fester and use quick-fixes to stay numb.
If only we would bring them to God. Sometimes just telling Him we have a problem and praying about it is enough to offer peace. He is the healing antidote, all we have to do is bring Him what causes us pain.
But it’s so easy to forget this and try to find a way to fix it on our own. Recently I was upset and all week I refused to deal with my feelings. I kept my schedule busy, filled all of my free time with other things, until the end of the week I was at my breaking point.
I poured it all out to God and instantly it was like a weight off my shoulders. I was so mad at myself for waiting so long and couldn’t figure out why I didn’t just do that in the first place.
God is the only true cure. And sometimes I think the only way to consistently run to Him in place of other things, is to cut those other things out of our life. So maybe that does mean you need to cancel your Netflix plan, delete TikTok, or throw away your video games.
Whatever it is that is stealing away your time with God and the outside world; cut it off. I’m not saying these are sinful things, because in proportion they can be really good. If you’ve already completed all your work for the day, spent time with God in the word, and want to watch an episode of your favorite show there is nothing wrong with that.
But if you’re spending more time watching that show than you are with God, or if you’re finding that you don’t have time to do the other things you love like walking through the park, painting a pretty picture, or completing your work on time, then it may be time to let it go. Life is too short to waste it, so make the decision today to live your life to the fullest.