The Tyranny of Distraction

How full is your DVR? I’m always fighting with mine. If I ever get below 50%, I get so excited. But, two weeks later, it’s right back to warning me that it might be too full. 

“Are you sure you want to record this?” it asks me. “Maybe you should get some shows off me and come back?” it says, with a wink.

Who are you to shame me for my addiction, DVR? You, who are my primary enabler? You, who keep enticing me with your easy search functions and your ability to record and store every viewing whim? You, who know full well that I’ve watched eight episodes of “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” in the last two days? Perhaps you should stop being so convenient?

But who can blame me? I’ve heard people say there’s nothing good on, but those people are crazy! Television used to be the filmmaker’s ghetto, where people went if they couldn’t make it in the cinema. But that’s just not the case today.

Sure, for every good show there are ten terrible shows. But if all you ever did was watch the really good stuff, you could still occupy every waking moment. So, quit judging me. My overflowing DVR is completely reasonable.

Seriously, quit looking at me like that.


While everything I just said is absolutely true, I’m really just trying to make excuses for myself. My DVR is just another way for me to stall.

When I am catching up on my shows and speeding through the commercials, I am definitely not connecting with my neighbors. Sure, I might be collecting data that I can share around the water cooler. “Did you see last night’s episode of ‘The Walking Dead?’” is a good conversation starter, but what difference does it make if my DVR has drained all of the margin from my schedule? How can I be Jesus to my neighbors if all of my free time is spent bingeing on TV?

And you have stall tactics, too. Oh, they might be different, but you have them.

Can you say smart phone?

Sherry Turkle writes this in her book Reclaiming Conversation.

“Remember the power of your phone. . . . It’s a psychologically potent device that changes not just what you do but who you are. Don’t automatically walk into every situation with a device in hand: When going to our phones is an option, we find it hard to turn back to each other, even when efficiency or politeness would suggest we do just that. The mere presence of a phone signals that your attention is divided, even if you don’t intend it to be. It will limit the conversation in many ways: how you’ll listen, what will be discussed, the degree of connection you’ll feel. Rich conversations have difficulty competing with even a silent phone. To clear a path for conversation . . . put away your phone.”

So what do we do?

As the saying goes, “Awareness is the first step to transformation.”

It’s never too late to ask, What’s your binge? Aren’t your friends and neighbors more important than that?  What is really important?

We cannot even begin to consider sharing our faith with others if we don’t connect with them and we won’t be able to connect with them if we can’t “manage to manage” the tyranny of distraction in our lives.

So, choose.
Put the remote down. Put your phone down.
Get up.
Get out.

Congratulations. You’ve just put yourself “out there!” And that’s where you and I have to be to walk the way of Jesus.

~Ed Taylor

Ed originally wrote these thoughts down in the spring of 2016 for our partner ministry, Q Place. A lover of Jesus and his neighbors, Ed and his wife, Kim, planted a church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, where Ed continually put himself “out there” and gave of himself selflessly as a pastor, musician, friend to the homeless, lover of souls, companion, father, husband, and son. This past fall, the Lord chose to take him home. We miss him. But are grateful for his words, and how they still remind us to walk the way of Jesus.