Free Yourself From Netflix
Digital entertainment is everywhere. Are you sucked in? Is this distraction robbing you of precious time, productivity and experiences? You can free your mind from this digital addiction: The first step is to see it for what it is. This industry did not exist 50 years ago; yet today, two generations cannot imagine a lifestyle that doesn’t include streaming movies, summer blockbusters, social networks, and pocket supercomputers.
According to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics “American Time Use Survey,” the most popular leisure activity in the United States is watching television. The average American over the age of 15 spent about three hours watching tv yesterday. Thanks to the recent explosion of online media streaming, if that same average person is under the age of 24, there’s a strong possibility they spent an additional three hours streaming shows or movies online—six hours total. The second most popular leisure activity—socializing with real live humans—came in at an average 43 minutes a day.
According to calculations by Nielsen, a leading global information and measurement company that monitors consumer behavior, in 2014 there were about 294 million Americans watching over 115 million television sets. And even in a market as saturated as this, online media streaming is gaining ground.
Netflix, the biggest name in digital streaming, added another 7 million subscribers in the first three quarters of 2015. The company has over 69 million subscribers worldwide, but because of account sharing, the number of people who actually use Netflix is much higher. Add to this the millions who use other streaming services like Hulu and Amazon Prime.
Developing Thumb-Eye Coordination
But our digital entertainment obsession goes far beyond tv and movies. After growing nearly 10 percent a year for the last six years, the video game industry raked in $22.4 billion in 2014. An Entertainment Software Association study found that the average U.S. household has some sort of gaming device, that 51 percent of households have a dedicated gaming console (e.g. Xbox, Playstation, Wii), and that most of the households with a dedicated gaming console actually have two of them.
Video games aren’t simply a teenage phenomenon: The average age of someone who considers himself a “gamer” is 35 years old, and that average gamer has been playing for about 13 years.
Five video games are sold every second, according to the latest figures. Almost half of the games produced every year are given an E rating—deemed appropriate for all age groups. Just 14 percent are rated M for Mature. Yet four of the five top-selling games for 2013 were Assassin’s Creed iv: Black Flag, Battlefield 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts, and Grand Theft Auto v—all rated Mature (“Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language”). The top seller, Grand Theft Auto v, was the biggest release of all time. Not just among games: It was the most profitable entertainment media release ever in the world. It raked in $1 billion in consumer sales in its first three days on the market.
For the non-traditional gamers with no dedicated gaming console, there’s a glut of smartphone gaming apps. Candy Crush Saga generates over $900,000 in earnings per day. Gameplay on mobile devices earned more than $17 billion in 2014, and expects to make over $22 billion this year.
The tech is evolving rapidly. We call the computers in our pockets phones, but they have more computing ability than what it took to put mankind on the moon. We wear watches that send texts and e-mails, scan and deposit checks with our tablets, buy coffee with an app on our phones, and edit homemade movies on laptops that weigh less than a book.
There are so many ways people simply absorb visual stimulation while physically doing absolutely nothing. New-age tech and the digital entertainment explosion have helped create a lifestyle where sitting and staring at a screen can be considered a hobby.
Fitting In or Standing Out?
Have you sunk into the lifestyle of digital distraction? This is how most people are spending their extra time. Are you part of that majority?
In Ephesians 5:15-16, the Apostle Paul exhorted those who follow God to “walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” The original Greek could be rendered “live your life diligently, not foolishly, but with the wisdom and skill of a craftsman. Buy up the limited and precious amount of time you have, because the age you live in is full of hardships and evil.” God inspired His apostle to correct His people on their time management. How you spend your hours is how you spend your life. Do you use your time with the skill of a craftsman? Or do you rub your bleary eyes at midnight and wonder where all the time went?
Glancing through news headlines for a few minutes is enough to make a thinking person concerned about the future of the world and our future individually. Does your spiritual urgency translate to how you physically spend your time? Are you buying up the extra hours, making the most of them? Or are you wasting your life on digital illusions?
Everyone has the same amount of time to use every day. Often, your job or your school dictates how you spend the majority of your daily hours. But what you choose to do with your remaining hours matters—perhaps a lot more than you think. God doesn’t command you to do nothing but work and eat and sleep. He wants you to live an abundant, joyful life and enjoy the fruits of your labor. That’s exactly why He wants you to use digital entertainment in an extremely wise and limited way.
Resist the easy path. Don’t be average. Don’t invest your life in a digital fantasy world. Challenge yourself, develop your skills. This is an evil age, and to experience the enjoyment, meaning and purpose for which you were created, you have to switch off the screen and redeem the time.