Each issue carries an
Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
Wired Up and
of the Media
(A summary of this month's Youth Update)
If Jesus were an anchorperson on the
evening news, he would tell the truth about our world in all its
beauty and all its suffering. Jesus would use the mediaresponsibly.
All of us need to do the same. The question is: How?
1. Media Basics. Every form of media means
to communicate. Sometimes it strives to inform, raises consciousness
and engages debate. Sometimes it entertains.
Providing "news" is often the work of agencies
who bring the news to the attention of TV and radio outlets. The
perennial issues of love, justice and death seem to inspire the
best music, movies and print. The Internet reveals both the strength
and the flaws of media in microcosm. It has opened the world, providing
information, communication channels and entertainment. At the same
time, it has made pornography more accessible than ever before.
Media choices require a conscience.
2. Teen Survey. Four teenagers, ages
14-17, estimated their use of print, TV, music and radio, Internet
and movies. They tried to remember the many ways media can be used
almost unthinkinglywatching videos or listening to the radio
while working on something else. The highest estimate was 46 hours
total per week.
Then the teens tracked their actual media
use in a log, recording it as they used each medium. The lowest
actual use was 54 hours total. The teen who estimated 46 hours actually
spent 56 hours in all. (The complete results of this survey are
available on the last page of the print edition of this month's
3. Media Influence. Media is the gathering
force in this day and age. Movies, TV and music are the rallying
points for get-togethers and the topics of conversation. What happens
as a result?
The influence exerted over the viewer
or listener (known as the target market) is subtle, disguised and
hidden, but planned with care. Your needs, your wants, your feelings
are primary. Media appeals to your fears as well. All these appeals
are made more effective by repetition and promising rewards.
4. Is Media a Monster? Is all media to
be mistrusted? Is media itself some great evil? No.
You have to sort it all outjust as
you sort out other influences in your life. Media is created by
people. You know you are capable of both good and evil, right and
wrong. So are the people who create media.
St. Paul offers some advice: "Whatever
is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence
and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things"
True, excellent movies, songs and publications
are created all the time. Many teens, though, don't listen very
closely to lyrics and don't think much about the underlying message
of what they see and hear.
You can choose to be influenced by positive,
life-giving thoughtsor not.
5. Think Sacramental. The Catholic faith
is filled with sacraments. These sacraments involve outward symbols.
We believe God touches us through the physical: touch, sight, taste,
smell and hearing.
The Catholic mind is able to discern how
God is present in our cultureeven in media. What in the culture
speaks of God to us and turns us toward God? To the Catholic mind,
the possibilities are endless. The Catholic mind has also been a
creative force in the media and all creative and performing arts.
Whatever the media creates, whatever it becomes, will be your responsibility.
Teenagers from St. Mary Parish in Hillsboro,
Ohio, previewed the complete manuscript of this edition and asked
these questions. If you would like to preview a future edition in
Youth Update's private online chat room, contact CarolAnn@franciscanmedia.org.
Media pressures us to be the same, to fall
in line, I think. Lots of teens find it very hard to be different
in any way. Any advice?
You're right about media pressuring everyone
to be the same. Compliance is an important element in any
ad. Do this, wear, this, buy this and you'll be accepted.
Since this is a built-in desire, it's a powerful hook, difficult
for teens and adults alike to resist. I've found that accepting
myself, liking myself and growing more comfortable with who
I am lessens the pressure to follow the crowd. I also find
that getting to the real, deep-down reason for a choicenot
easy, not painlesshelps. If it's "because it would be
cool and make me look cool," that's most likely compliance
with the crowd.
What makes you think we don't listen to the
words of the music we like?
In the 25 years I've worked with teenagers,
I've often asked them about words to music. Frequently, they
will answer by saying, "I don't pay much attention to the
words but the music rocks!" I heard this in 1979. I hear it
in 1999. Of course, there will always be those to whom words
matter. May their number increase.
Is it Christian to listen to some of the
popular music that's more violent?
That's a tough call, except in the most extreme
cases. Listening to music is not a Christian or non-Christian
action any more than brushing your teeth or playing basketball.
Anytime we expose ourselves to violent or dehumanizing imagery,
we are damaging ourselves. It's also important not to judge
others. You can't measure someone else's Christianity only
by his or her music choices.