I’m telling you right now, I love Twitter.
I like having my news sources all combined into one streamlined place. I like funny people. I like simplicity and minimalism. Twitter gives me all of that.
I also like Pinterest. I like pictures. I like keeping track of things. I like curating good ideas. Again, I like simplicity. Pinterest gives me all of that.
I like Instagram. I do some photography, so…of course.
Throw in Facebook, Google+, Snapchat, Tumblr, Reddit, and the many other social media sites, as well as blogs and email and texting, and you can see the potential problem: Keeping up on your social media life could get in the way of, well, real life.
Let me now add to the mix a recent landmark address by Elder David A. Bednar. Last Tuesday, Elder Bednar was the keynote speaker at BYU Education Week, but his address seemed to be aimed at every member of the church. And in that talk, he issued a challenge. Well, better-said, he issued an apostolic invitation if there ever was one. After explaining the history of the church’s use of technology to hasten the work of salvation, and after giving a few exciting examples of how the church has used social media to spread the gospel, he shared this:
My beloved brothers and sisters, what has been accomplished thus far in this dispensation communicating gospel messages through social media channels is a good beginning—but only a small trickle. I now extend to you the invitation to help transform the trickle into a flood. Beginning at this place on this day, I exhort you to sweep the earth with messages filled with righteousness and truth—messages that are authentic, edifying, and praiseworthy—and literally to sweep the earth as with a flood. (David A. Bednar, “To Sweep the Earth as With a Flood”, August 19, 2014)
So here we Mormons are. We don’t want to let social media control our lives and rob us of real-life experiences, and at the same time, we want to be part of the flood of righteousness and truth. I, for one, want to be found heeding the invitation of the modern day Apostle.
To that end, here is what I’ve done to keep social media in its place: A tool to hasten the work, and platform to connect with others, and an information source that is under my control.
1. I try to stay current on how to use social media. I took a little time (some time ago) to figure out Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If they are instruments to hasten the Lord’s work, I feel an obligation to understand them.
2. I keep a balance in what I post and who/what I follow. What I mean is, I follow more than LDS.org and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and I post about more subject than just religion. For example, on Twitter I follow the US Men’s Soccer Team, NPR News, Mormon.org, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, the Pope, a number of old students, my children, Ellen DeGeneres, The Art of Manliness, FamilySearch, The Economist, RadioLab, and LDS.org…to name only a few. In fact, I follow
248 249 entities. Some of these feeds are religious in nature and many are not.
3. With all of the following comes the risk of being almost paralyzed my the amount of information and “news” at my fingertips. One of the most important things I’ve done is to TURN OFF “notifications”. You know that little red indicator that comes up on your phone that tells you that YOU ARE MISSING SOMETHING SUPER EXCITING AND YOU SHOULD STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING AND CHECK IT OUT!? I don’t have any of those. I tell my phone what to do. It does’t tell me…
4. I limit the times and places where/when I check social media. Obviously, I don’t check social media when I’m driving. We have a rule about phones/iPads at the dinner table. When I’m working on some project, I leave my phone in the house. Do I miss a few calls or texts? Yes, every time. I love it. When I’m preparing a lesson, I place my phone out of sight.
5. I try to think of some way in which I’ve seen evidence of Heavenly Father’s love in my life and then I look for the most appropriate way to share that. I don’t think I’ve posted something gospel-related every single day. But I have sought opportunities to share what I know about the Savior and His Gospel regularly and consistently for years.
Let me end this with a good concluding thought by Elder Bednar:
We need not become social media experts or fanatics. And we do not need to spend inordinate amounts of time creating and disseminating elaborate messages. As Elder M. Russell Ballard recently taught, digital technologies should be our servants and not our masters (see M. Russell Ballard, “Be Still, and Know That I Am God” [Church Educational System devotional, May 4, 2014]; broadcasts.lds.org).
According to our desires and circumstances, each of us can contribute consistently to the growing flood of truth and righteousness. We should press forward using the Lord’s pattern of “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little” (2 Nephi 28:30). (Bednar, “To Sweep the Earth as With a Flood”)
As always, we can be balanced and sane in the way in which we participate in this aspect of the Lord’s work. And in so doing, we’ll be more effective.