WHAT'S INFLUENCING YOU?

INTRODUCTION

Life is about making decisions. We decide daily about things like morality (should we cheat or take the honest route at school), sexuality (should we sleep with the person we are dating), and economics (what job should we look for). These decisions determine the course of our lives, and ultimately the place where we spend eternity, for the greatest decision is to decide to follow Christ or Satan.

We all like to think that we are unique and that we are entirely original - that we make decisions that are not guided by any outside influence. But this is not the case as the apostle Paul shows in Romans 7:15: "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." What is it that makes us do things that we don't want to do. The obvious answer is sin. Sin makes us want to be independent of God and do what we want to do when we want to do it. But is it not possible that there are influences in our lives that cause us to do the things we do? The question is: "What influences the decisions that we make in the '90s?"

There was a time when the greatest influences on teenagers was people (parents, teachers, peers, ministers and youth leaders), but during recent years the influences have changed:

Once we were most influenced by our network of relationships, but now it's the electronic media - Television, film, music, advertising & the printed media. "The whirlpool of information fathered by electric media far surpasses any possible influence Mom and Dad can now bring to bear. Character no longer is shaped by only two earnest, fumbling experts. Now, all the world's a stage. Electric circuitry has overthrown the regime of time and space and pours upon us continually the concerns of all other men. It has reconstructed dialogue on a global scale" (Marshall McLuhan). Clearly, character is no longer primarily influenced by relationships, but by images and the lives of other people that we watch, read about, or hear about. Let's look at some of the influences that surround us today, things that affect our decision making.

1. TELEVISION

In 1950 there were fewer than 5 million television sets in the world. Today there are more than 184 million sets in the US alone. The average household has television on just over 7 hours a day. Every day in the world 250 000 television sets are produced - this is one for every child born every day. By the time teenagers finish high school, they'll have spent more hours in front of their television set (15 000) than sitting in a class room (11 000).

Is it possible that the soap operas, sit-coms and cartoons we watch have no affect on us? Does the sleeping around on the soaps, the portrayal of broken homes, divorce and remarriage on sitcoms, or the occult symbols and ideas in kids cartoons just entertain without effecting us? Surely not!

Why do we buy the brand of toothpaste, washing powder or tires that we do? It is often a response to the influence of television ads. We choose the toothpaste with the red stripes because, "it has it all in one, mom!" We choose that washing powder because, "it is recommended by every manufacturer of fully automatic washing machines!" We buy that brand of tires because, "they are the only ones with an all hazard guarantee." It is television that has taught us that Coke is It, that everything keeps going right for Toyota, and that you can rely on Defy. Do we still need to ask
whether television has an influence on us?

How has this television onslaught actually influenced us?

Television promotes asocial behavior - we focus on it and not relationships

Television promotes a subtle myth - life should be easy, we can have all we want. In act TV promotes or reflects a life that is more fantasy than reality!

Television affects our choices - of products to us, of moral decisions we make.

Television avoids tough love that makes relationships work - The "falling in love" and "breaking up" stages