The time we spend with media of one sort or another every day continues to grow the more and more we depend on our digital devices to keep us organized, in touch with others, on the right road, informed, or entertained. As people who take our faith seriously and would say, if asked, that God is the center of our lives, how does our practice of the faith and our use of media technologies connect and intertwine? Do they? Or is faith one part of our lives and media another?
When Sister Rose Pacatte and Sister Gretchen Hailer were writing the book, Media Mindfulness some years ago, the publisher wanted to call it, “Media Awareness.” Sister Rose disagreed. To help convince the publisher of her point of view, Sister Rose went from her office in the Pauline Center for Media Studies on the second floor of the Daughters of St. Paul building in Culver City, CA, downstairs to Pauline Books & Media (the Catholic bookstore) on the first floor. There she polled the patrons about how the words ‘awareness’ and ‘mindfulness’ sounded to them and what the connotations were for each word. People told her that ‘awareness’ is active rather than passive but it didn’t imply responsibility. ‘Mindfulness,’ on the other hand contained the sense of awareness but also added the element of responsibility, that being mindful was way of responding. With the results of the poll in, Sister Rose convinced the publisher to call the book, Media Mindfulness.
As people of faith, we want to embrace the concept of ‘mindfulness’ in regards to media and digital technology. Media messages come at us from every corner. Before watching a YouTube video on how to kill the weeds in the patio cracks, we see an advertisement. Product placement in movies and TV shows sell us products as we watch a story unfold. Games shows are “brought to you by” one company or another.
Media messages contain ideas and values that may or may not be values that we hold as followers of Christ. How do we wade through all these messages and let our values as Christians drive the media choices we make? By being mindful of the media we encounter and letting our faith come into play as we watch, listen, read, or post.
This article, the first of six, introduces the inquiry-based strategy called Media Mindfulness. This strategy gives us a way to ask questions of the media and decide what to do with a media message in light of our faith. This strategy is helpful for all people of faith, but especially for parents and catechists who help children live as faithful disciples in today’s world.
The strategy was born from the ancient practice of Lectio Divina and the process called theological reflection. Each of these has their own starting point. Lectio Divina starts with a Scripture passage and theological reflection begins with life experience. The Scripture or experience is reflected upon in the light of the Holy Spirit and we ask ourselves, “what is God saying to me through this?” The last step asks us to make some kind of resolution to follow: how can I put what I’ve learned from my reflection into practice?
The Media Mindfulness strategy follows the same format but uses a different starting point. The starting point is any media text— a film, television show, popular song, magazine article, book, advertisement, podcast, tweet, Snapchat video, Facebook post – whatever. Then we ask questions:
- What is going on?
- What is really going on?
- What difference does it make?
- What difference can I make?
For you visual learners, here’s the graphic. Thank you to St. Mary’s Press for permission to reproduce the Media Mindfulness Wheel here.
By using this strategy, kids (as well as grown-ups) learn not to take media messages at face value. Each question gets deeper and deeper into the media text and its meaning and then asks us to be mindful, to take responsibility for our choices in regards to media and let the media we choose to experience help us grow to be the best followers of Jesus that we can be.
Stay tuned for the next articles in the series which will go into depth about each question of the Media Mindfulness strategy.