By Sara Knutson
We’re reading a lot of junk food these days.
Not all online content is junk food, of course, and not all online reading constitutes a bad habit. After all, a little web browsing can help people unwind after work or keep up with the news while waiting for the bus.
At issue is the online reading that’s delicious in the moment and guilt-inducing afterward. It looks harmless, but the rabbit hole of “related” articles and provocatively-titled blog posts can trap us for hours in stories we know are worthless but click on anyway.
Online junk food is certainly encouraged by the cutthroat competition of online publishing. The battle for page views has spawned more and more Upworthy-esque headlines, where subpar stories masquerade as must-reads.
But it’s not just the click-bait that’s to blame. I suspect we read most junk food not for the content but because it’s an escape tactic from better, harder tasks. I have my worst junk food binges when I’m trying to delay a demanding work project or busy day—more satisfying, but also more difficult, uses of time.
For most people, junk food-fueled online reading is a minor, if annoying, issue. But it’s helpful to recognize that the core of the issue isn’t really about Youtube or Buzzfeed. It’s about the universal temptation to delay instead of do in contrast to a Gospel which calls us to do without delay.
Jesus’s call in the Gospels was immediate, so much so that James and John left their father with the fishing boat so they could follow him without delay. Imagine if they had asked Jesus to wait while they finished perusing their friends’ Instagram posts! Yet on a small scale we do the same thing when we indulge our junk food habit in lieu of taking action.
We will never not want to avoid the hard tasks of life. But we can at least go on a diet of sorts. We can rededicate ourselves to the practice of doing without delay in small areas of our lives, in hopes that it will carry over to the larger and more critical areas.
And someday, maybe, we’ll be able to put the Skittles down for good.