Life 2.0

Tonight I had a fascinating conversation with my friend David and his lovely wife about the complexities of social media. How necessary is it? How much is too much? What good can be accomplished through it? Do we damage our humanity when the majority of our interactions occur digitally?



This satirical film hints at some implications of society's growing dependence on social media. The advantages of social media and rapidly developing technology are apparent, but there are two sides to every coin.  The effect of social media on one's spirituality interests me more than any other aspect of the phenomenon. This topic is extremely relevant in our world, and I find myself grappling with it almost daily (See Digital Delight | downgrading).

I've started a list of questions to help gauge my use of all kinds of media, particularly the social kind. I'm sharing this list to help articulate my own position. As I continue to search for balance in life, I hope these questions will help guide my decisions in the seemingly insignificant moments that define my path toward eternal life.
  • When I have a spare moment, would I rather send a text, check my email, or surf the web than notice the landscape, talk to a stranger, or listen for the Holy Ghost?
  • Does my mind dwell more on the phone in my pocket than on having a prayer in my heart?
  • Can I make it through scripture study without checking my email or responding to a text?
  • Is my mind in class when I'm in class, at work when I'm at work, with God when I'm praying, and in the moment when I'm speaking with people?
  • Have I taken time today to ponder?
  • When was the last time I saw (in person) 90% of the people I interact with regularly through media?
  • Have I touched someone's life today?
  • Am I embarrassed to see someone I have recently chatted with online because of something we discussed that I wouldn't have told them in person?
  • Am I easily bored? Do I find delight in quiet moments, or am I antsy and nervous when there is nothing to do?
  • Do I feel close to God? Do I feel His love throughout the day?
As I think about answers to these questions, I see that the most dangerous problem related to media is the loss of a truly active connection to Heavenly Father through the Holy Ghost. "For this reason it is vitally important to recognize the risks of digital detachment. Being constantly 'plugged in' can drown out the quiet whisperings and subtle impressions of the Holy Spirit, breaking our personal connection with God and making it difficult, if not impossible, to receive personal revelation." (Digital Detachment and Personal Revelation). 

The overuse of media poses a much more subtle threat to our spiritual progress than traditional "sin" because of its ability to overtake our lives quietly and quickly. We've all experienced it--one YouTube video leads to another. Have you ever looked at a stranger's pictures on Facebook for no good reason? Pretty soon, if we're not careful, we can entertain ourselves right off the straight and narrow path, having done no good, having performed no service, having given no thought to building the Kingdom of God.

Comments

  1. I agree that we should be cautious that our use of media does not impede our spirituality, and I appreciate very much the questions you’ve shared that help you (and all of us) gauge appropriate use of media resources. Were I to make a personal list of my own, I think I would also explore the flip-side of the coin and include a question or two addressing the degree to which my media usage is proactive and beneficial, to myself and to others. One question might be, “To what degree is my media usage improving meaningful relationships in my life?” For instance, I’m able to communicate with friends and family who are physically very distant using means that simply were not available for past generations, and I think that’s a wonderful opportunity. However, is this what I’m actually doing, or am I, as you have said, merely entertaining myself and becoming distracted?
    Also, I think there is a great opportunity through media to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. This should in no way replace the responsibility and privilege it is to be able to share this message in person, in real-time, and without the use of technology. I think this is generally much more meaningful and effective. However, we see the Church accomplishing great things with its websites, radio program, and youtube channel. I think that we can also contribute to the work in this way. So a second question I would consider might be, “To what degree is my media usage building the Kingdom of God?”
    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having fun and using media for entertainment purposes, in moderation. But asking ourselves now and again whether the way we use media is generally helping our progress might be beneficial, in addition to pondering whether we are staying clear from its negative influences.

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  2. Thank you for your insightful comments! For me, the exciting part is working to find the balance between making good use of technology's advantages and maintaining spiritual growth.

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  3. I think that it is too easy to get the "connection" we want or a sense of fulfillment from technology. Therefore we substitute tech for spiritual things.

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  4. Technology is awesome. I embrace it and struggle with it every day. I think to some degree I feel the same way about the abundance of technology today as my grandparents felt about computers a couple of decades ago. They made the choice to not embrace the technology, but I do out of necessity. They did not want to take the time to use the technology. I do not want to take the time to learn all the possible technology that may or may not improve my life. Right now I am trying to learn social media marketing while today’s college students learn the same thing in school. Technology is a big part of our lives.

    There is so much technology. Droid phones, the newest processor, Itouch, facebook and more. I do not get a Droid phone because I do not have time to figure out all the apps. They may be beneficial but my time is limited. Out of necessity, someday a phone with a ton of apps may be useful to me. I just want my phone to make a call and text. I didn’t discover the advantage of texting until about a year ago. The advantage for me is I get answers form clients without the chit chat and I have record of the text. I was forced into using text because so many others were using it. I then discovered the benefit to me. In contrast, as a Scout leader I see the young men & young women standing next to each other texting each other. My parents use to complain about all the time I spent on the phone as a youth. Now my wife complains that my son will communicate with his friends via text and not verbally. He doesn’t even have a phone; he figured out how to text using my iTouch. My iTouch does that? I now take my iTough to Church and my scriptures get left home more & more. Purists don’t like this. I still read the “books” at home. Not only can I read scriptures, songs, lesson manuals and more on my iTough, I can take electronic notes concerning my Scouts. I have not even touched on entertainment technology our youth seem to be so consumed with. We/they are a generation of people that want to be entertained. That is an entirely separate post!

    An example of slowly adopting technology is taking place with me right now. I use Outlook for email. I am switching form POP to IMAP so my email syncs between Gmail & Outlook. I have several emails & have tons of folders so this is no easy task. By the time I get some issues resolved just with my Gmail account, I will have spent at least 16 hours on this issue. I think waiting on technology helps me be forced into using only the technology that directly benefits me.

    As with anything moderation is the key. I only watch maybe an hour of TV each evening during the week. On the weekends it is more if the Utes are playing or I need some relaxing time. My son would play video games or watch TV all day if we let him. I can tell the difference between his friends who spend a lot of time in front of the TV and my son. I want to embrace technology so that it works for me. However, I do not want to let it consume my life.

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